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Joe Dombrowski on cycling reforms: ‘I don’t see it changing in my career’

US climber says riders want to see a change in the UCI points system: 'There are a lot of things that don’t make sense.'

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Joe Dombrowski heads into the winter secure knowing he packs a contract  for 2023 and that his Astana-Qazaqstan team will be safely inside the WorldTour team rankings.

Astana-Qazaqstan didn’t have a great 2022, but its three-year running total is enough to secure the team — and Dombrowski — a spot in the men’s WorldTour when the next round of licenses are awarded.

Dombrowski admitted the team will need to step up in 2023, because the team ranked last in the WorldTour rankings for the 2022 season.

“We are safe because of the prior two seasons, but if we carry on like we did this year into the next years, it’s a problem for us,” Dombrowski said. “Unless you’re Jumbo or Ineos, you’re never really safe.”

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The 2022 racing calendar ends Tuesday with the final stage of Le Tour de Langkawi, but the three-year running points tally among the top-ranked teams is set.

Israel Premier Tech and Lotto-Soudal face relegation out of the WorldTour, while Alpecin-Deceuninck and Arkéa-Samsic earned enough points to see promotion under the UCI’s controversial system.

Like most pros, Dombrowski watched from the sidelines with a mix of concern and consternation as team managers and sport directors sweated it out in the closing months of 2022 in a down-to-the-wire chase for points.

Dombrowski said riders were never directly asked for their collective opinion about the UCI-initiated relegation/promotion system.

“Not as far as I know,” he said. “It’s a lot more in focus now because there are teams that are going to be relegated, unless the UCI changes something. The last go around there was not this stress. I don’t know that it was a focal point the last time around because there wasn’t enough teams to be in the WorldTour.”

Dombrowski pointed out how points are unevenly allocated across the calendar.

He cited how the inaugural edition of the Maryland Cycling Classic, a new UCI-sanctioned one-day race in the United States, earned the winner 200 UCI points, while Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) won 120 points for winning Alpe d’Huez, arguably the most prestigious stage in the Tour de France.

“We all signed on begrudgingly to the system we have now, but there are a lot of things that don’t make sense,” he said. “The way things are weighted is a bit strange, and you see riders and teams, never mind how people race within the race, but to talk about skipping a grand tour to do small races to chase points, to me, it makes sense to have the best riders at the best races, and the points system dilutes that a bit.”

The Virginian joined the WorldTour in 2012 with Team Sky, and then raced for the EF Education-EasyPost franchise as well as UAE Team Emirates before joining Astana-Qazaqstan this season.

“So now there’s this fight, and everyone is a bit anxious about it, so maybe that will open the discussion to modify things a bit,” Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski, 31, says he’s seen it all when it comes to fights between the sport’s major stakeholders, and he said he doesn’t expect to see any significant change with the UCI, race organizers, and teams still at loggerheads.

“It goes back to the whole discussions and we’d have to talk about cycling is arranged,” said Dombrowski, comparing cycling to Formula One. “If we derive all our money from sponsors, the best riders tend to gravitate to the best teams because the best teams have the most money.

“Would it be more interesting if it were more equal? Probably yes, but then we would have to change how we fund the sport. We have a lot of parties, like ASO, teams, and the UCI, who are not cooperative on that.

“I don’t see it changing in my career.”