Human Powered Health inspired by Intermarché-Circus-Wanty as it seeks WorldTour survival
The American squad finished 27th in the world rankings in 2022 but needs to finish in the top 15 if it wants to keep its WorldTeam license.
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Human Powered Health had the unpleasant honor of being the lowest-ranked Women’s WorldTeam in 2022.
However, the team has come out fighting this season as it seeks survival in the top tier of women’s cycling after making its debut as a WorldTeam last year.
Early-season results at the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race have seen the team rack up close to 90 percent of its entire 2022 total — which was a measly 914 points — with more than 800 already in the bank.
“It’s a little bit stressful this year because every single team wants to stay in the WorldTour so every single race and every single point is really important. This year, we will try to take as many points as we can,” Human Powered Health’s climber and GC rider Barbara Malcotti said.
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To keep their WorldTeam license for another two years, Human Powered Health must finish in the top 15 of eligible squads. The team has a massive mountain to climb after finishing 27th in the UCI’s world rankings last year, behind a string of Continental teams — some of which are hoping to steal their place in the WorldTour.
Who gets promoted or relegated will come down to how many points a team has scored across the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
Depending on how things go, Human Powered Health’s is one of just three licenses that could change hands at the end of the season. Israel-Premier Tech Roland and Uno-X are also in a fight for survival, while the likes of Ceratizit-WNT and Soudal Quick-Step-AG Insurance are on the hunt for promotion.
To stay safe, Human Powered Health will likely need a combined total of around 5,000 points. That means they will need a points haul that would have placed them in the top 10 of last year’s rankings.
“It’s something that we are already focused on,” new HPH signing Marjolein van’t Geloof said. “If you compare it to, for example, Wanty [Intermarché-Circus-Wanty], for the men, when they started out last season, everyone thought, ‘oh, they’re going to go down.’ Once they did their season they moved up so much and they had two years before where they were at the bottom. We just need to cancel out one year.
“I think we showed in Australia already, with the amount of points we get there we stepped up to two places already. I think if we keep that momentum going halfway through the season we could already be safe. I think that’s not really going to be the biggest issue also because we have more like people that can finish off the races and get the points.”
At the start of last year, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert (now Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) was languishing in 17th out of 18 men’s WorldTour slots. By the end of the season, they had climbed to 10th, thanks to strong seasons from the likes of Biniam Girmay and Alexander Kristoff.
The team will hope that it doesn’t end up like Lotto-Soudal (now Lotto Dstny), which started the season outside of the crucial top 18 and stayed there — despite a strong run of results from sprinter Arnaud De Lie.
Learning from 2022
The fight to avoid relegation amongst men’s teams is a good preview of what could happen in the women’s WorldTour this season. Human Powered Health is looking to employ some of the tactics that were used in 2022, particularly in the latter part of the season with what one team member called “point farming.”
It means that the team is putting a lot more focus on small races where there is less competition and still a good haul of points to be had.
While both Australian races are on the WorldTour, the current rules mean that teams aren’t required to go. It resulted in a field made up of more Continental squads, allowing Human Powered Health to get a flying head-start in its fight for survival.
“I know some male riders that told me about that and if you need points then you have to try to get points everywhere. You should race a lot and get points in every single race. The men did the same thing and it’s what we need,” Malcotti said.
“At the moment, we will not do as many WorldTour races but it’s probably better for us. At the moment, I’m doing Liège, Amstel, and Flèche but I will race 1.2 or 2.1. races. That is better for me because I can try to take more points there because it’s easier to get good results in low-level races, and not in a WorldTour race.”
In order to aid their fight to remain in the WorldTour, Human Powered Health has bolstered its roster, increasing its size by two riders. Experienced rider Alice Barnes and up-and-coming sprinter Daria Pikulik were snapped up early in the transfer window.
Meanwhile, Van’t Geloof and Jesse Vandenbulcke were signed from Le Col-Wahoo when the British team was left scrambling for a new sponsor when Le Col pulled out in mid-November. Pikulik has already delivered on her promise with a stage win at the Tour Down Under, while Vandenbulcke secured some points with her seventh-place finish at the Women Cycling Pro Costa De Almería.
There will be some pressure on the new signings to help the team climb the rankings, but Barnes says she and her teammates are just hoping to blast each race and the all-important points will follow.
“With the world tour points being really important as well, that’s like motivation to really kick off well, and carry that into the year,” Barnes said.
“We’re aware of it. Obviously, it’s important to remain in the WorldTour. We’re not being stressed about it, because at the end of the day, every time we race, we’re going to do our best and the points will come with that. We can’t focus on it too much, because then it just takes away from the main goal, which is to be winning races. If we do that, the points will be there.”