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Lotto-Soudal looks doomed to relegation with just weeks left in WorldTour battle

Going into this week's racing, less than 200 UCI points separate the bottom four teams in the 'safe zone' among the WorldTour rankings.

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Lotto-Soudal is edging closer to relegation in the closing weeks of 2022 in the three-year battle to secure its WorldTour future and a spot among the top-18 ranked teams.

A crash involving sprinter Arnaud De Lie in Sunday’s Famenne Ardenne Classic and an ongoing illness for Caleb Ewan means the team is missing out on points the Belgian outfit cannot afford to lose.

Lotto-Soudal — which saw the departure of general manager John Lelangue last week — is stuck in 19th place, more than 1,000 points behind 18th-ranked Arkéa-Samsic, with less than three weeks left to race in 2022.

The top-18-ranked teams from 2020-22 will meet the “sporting” criteria to qualify for the next round of WorldTour licenses for the next three years.

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Lotto-Soudal and Israel Premier Tech, lagging even further behind, both seem likely to lose out in the WorldTour game of musical chairs based on UCI points tallied during the past three racing season.

And to add insult to injury, at least for Lotto-Soudal, is that relegation rival Cofidis won twice Sunday. The French team won the Famenne Ardenne Classic with Axel Zingle in Belgium, and the Tour de Vendée in France with Bryan Coquard.

Down to the wire with four teams on the bubble

Caleb Ewan, shown here last month, said he will stay with Lotto-Soudal even if it loses WorldTour status. (Photo by Mark Van Hecke/Getty Images)

Lotto-Soudal isn’t going down without a fight.

The Belgian team is scheduled to race just about every UCI-ranked race left on the October calendar. The team’s schedule includes 13 one-day races and the Tour de Langkawi stage race.

The Malaysian stage race is seeing a top-flight start list, with four “relegation” teams taking the long trip, including EF Education-EasyPost, Movistar, and BikeExchange-Jayco.

Also read: How BikeExchange is threading needle in WorldTour points hunt

According to Raúl Banqueri, a Spanish journalist tracking the WorldTour relegation battle, Lotto-Soudal “need a miracle, such as Ewan and De Lie winning everything they have yet to race, to have a chance.”

There is still a dogfight among at four least four teams at the bottom of the “safe zone.”

Going into this week of racing, less than 200 UCI points separate 15th-ranked BikeExchange-Jayco with 15,846 points to 18th-ranked Arkéa-Samsic with 15,683 points.

None of those teams will be taking any chances, even though finishing among the top-18 will all but assure

Even if Lotto-Soudal is relegated, it will still have invitations to all WorldTour races in 2023 because it will end the rankings as the top-placed team outside the WorldTour.

Riders have a right to exit their contracts if any team loses WorldTour designation, but rival teams are closing their respective rosters. Many of Lotto-Soudal’s top riders, including Ewan and De Lie, said they will stay with the team regardless of the WorldTour status.

The team will race as Lotto-Dstny for the next three years after co-sponsor Soudal is set to take over naming rights at the new-look Soudal-Quick-Step for 2023, home of newly crowned world champion Remco Evenepoel.