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Lotto Soudal all but doomed to WorldTour relegation as Arkéa-Samsic moves out of reach

French squad secures a slate of UCI points to bury Lotto Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech into likely relegation.

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A busy weekend of racing all-but booked Arkéa-Samsic into next year’s WorldTour and left Lotto-Soudal doomed to relegation.

A slate of top-10s at Paris-Tours and Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen scored the French team a stack more UCI points and winched it further into the WorldTour window as this year’s crucial promotion-relegation season comes to a close.

Arkéa-Samsic is now 1,200 points clear of Lotto-Soudal across the three-year points ranking, and essentially beyond reach from the bewildered Belgian crew, which looks set to join the long-relegated Israel Premier Tech in cycling’s second division in 2023.

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The news blows into the background the recent controversy over Arkéa-Samsic captain Nairo Quintana, whose tramadol positive and CAS appeal spiralled into a hasty departure from the team last week.

Three top-1os at Paris Tours, fifth-place at Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen, as well as 12th place at Il Lombardia handed Arkéa-Samsic a slate late-season points haul that helped reverse its losses from the removal of Quintana’s Tour de France result, and effectively put Lotto down a league.

“We had perhaps one of the best teams on paper at the start,” Arkéa-Samsic sport director Arnaud Gérard said after Paris-Tours.

“For a Paris-Tours at the end of the season, it’s a good result but we could have hoped for more.”

Arkéa-Samsic played a canny game all season as it looked for finance-securing, sponsor-pleasing WorldTour status for 2023 and beyond.

The French team skipped the Giro d’Italia, and flooded talent into lower-tier races in the bid to hoover points rather than gamble in some of the season’s biggest showdowns.

The team’s three top-10s from Paris Tours alone earned it 125 points, a deeper reward than a grand tour victory and the equivalent to third in a 1.Pro race.

Lotto-Soudal similarly spread its bets thin through the close of the season, and will keep swinging until the UCI closes its doors on 2022. It scored two top-10s at Sunday’s Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen and is set to send squads to all five remaining races of the year.

However, its 1,200-point deficit would need an “act of God” to eliminate as riders look to jump to the safety of new squads and top management makes an exit.

Arkéa-Samsic wins the promotion battle, loses its leaders

Quintana won’t race for Arkéa-Samsic in 2023 and leaves the team without a grand tour leader. (Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

The upcoming Tour de Langkawi marks the beginning of the end of the 2022 season and the close of this three-year race for WorldTour status.

Lotto-Soudal and Israel Premier Tech look doomed as the lowest-laying top-tier teams, but will still be assured a swathe of WorldTour racing through the wildcard system.

Alpecin-Deceuninck breezed into eighth in the rankings and is guaranteed WorldTour status after reaping victories from Mathieu van der Poel and its stable of sprinters all season long. Van der Poel, Philipsen and his Belgian team will be assured more big wins in 2023, even after the exit of Tim Merlier.

2023 won’t be so easy for Arkéa-Samsic however.

Quintana was the team’s best bet for top-tier victories, and the exit of second-in-command Connor Swift leaves more of a gap. Nacer Bouhanni and Warren Barguil are the team’s remaining top contenders.

Other Colombians on Arkéa-Samsic, including Winner Anacona, Dayer Quintana, and Miguel Floréz, are expected to leave the team. The incoming Clément Champoussin will fill some of the void, but Arkéa looks set to have saddles to fill.

The French team vowed to emphasize its Breton roots in 2023 after the Quintana debacle with a slate of rider renewals to shore up the ship for the coming top-tier season.

Arkéa-Samsic will be bracing for a tough time in 2023, but as far as budgets and stability is concerned, maybe better in the WorldTour than not.

Lotto-Soudal and Israel Premier Tech would likely say the same.