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Promotion and relegation battle takes over women’s peloton as WorldTeam licenses up for grabs

While most of the top teams are secure, there are at least three teams in a fight for survival in 2023.

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After the drama of the promotion and relegation battle in the men’s peloton at the end of last year, it’s time for the women’s bunch to have its turn in 2023.

Three years after the WorldTeam system was set up for the women’s peloton, the teams at the top will have to fight for their survival.

There are 15 spots available and every single one is technically up for grabs, though there are, realistically, only a few places that could swap hands at the end of this season. In the past three years, licenses have been given out primarily on four non-sporting criteria, but 2024 sees points become the key requirement for getting a WorldTeam license.

Women’s WorldTeam licenses were first given out in 2020 with eight teams getting a ticket to the top. Provided they could keep up with the non-sporting requirements of the WorldTour, such as minimum wage, the teams would be guaranteed a four-year stint in the newly created upper tier.

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The WorldTeam allocation has gradually ticked upwards with Fenix-Deceuninck taking the final spot ahead of this year. A full quota of WorldTeams came a year later than the UCI had hoped, but it sets up an exciting contest for this season.

Unlike the men’s WorldTeam relegation fight, a team’s survival will come down to the points earned over just two seasons. It won’t be until 2026 that the WorldTeam licenses will extend to three years, which will mean three years’ worth of points will count toward the total.

With the halfway point passed in this first contest to stay in the WorldTour, there are some clear splits beginning to happen and those at risk and those that are safe are already evident.

Unless something dramatic happens, the WorldTeams in the current top 10 should be safe. Those teams are Trek-Segafredo, SD Worx, Team DSM, FDJ Suez, Movistar, Canyon-SRAM, UAE Team ADQ, Jayco-AlUla, and Jumbo-Visma.

The world ranking battle is slightly complicated by the presence of development teams in the standings. Valcar-Travel & Service finished the season ranked the eighth-best team but has been taken over by the UAE team and will now race as an official development squad.

At present, women’s cycling is run on two tiers, while the men’s is operated with three. It means that development teams can mix it with the WorldTeams and finish in a place that could see them get promoted, too.

However, the UCI rules require these teams to race on Continental licenses and so they cannot be promoted. So, while the newly rebranded UAE Development Team is possibly going to finish inside the top 15, it cannot get a WorldTeam license.

This frees up at least one more potential WorldTeam license for 2024, good news for those who are scrapping for the lower third of the top-15. Teams on the bubble of demotion include EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, new entry Fenix-Deceuninck, and Liv Racing TeqFind.

However, they’re unlikely to go down unless they have a particularly poor season. All three squads have made some strong signings over the winter, too, which should help them rack up the points needed to keep them at the top.

Work to do

The three teams that are most at risk of losing their licenses at the end of this season are Israel-Premier Tech Roland, Uno-X, and Human Powered Health. All three joined the WorldTour last season and finished outside of the top 15 in the world rankings, closing out the season in 19th, 25th, and 27th in the standings.

Human Powered Health had the disappointing result of being the last Women’s WorldTeam in the world rankings with just 914 points earned across the whole season. Most concerning for the American squad, and the two other languishing teams, there were others that had not only finished higher up but had expressed interest in stepping up.

Ceratizit-WNT and Soudal Quick-Step-AG Insurance both applied for WorldTeam licenses for the 2023 seasons. They would both ultimately miss out to Alpecin-Deceuninck (then called Plantur Pura), but at least Soudal Quick-Step has already indicated its intention to reapply and it’s likely that Ceratizit-WNT will have another go, too.

Others could come on board too so none of Israel-Premier Tech Roland, Uno-X, and Human Powered Health will be able to rest on their laurels if they want to stay at the top.

Uno-X has not raced yet this season, but both Human Powered Health and Israel-Premier Tech Rolland made the trip to Australia this month to try and hoover up points at the Tour Down Under and the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

While Israel-Premier Tech didn’t take much from the Tour Down Under, with just 38 points to add to their tally, Human Powered Health got their fight for survival off to a strong start. New signing Daria Pikulik sprinted to victory on the opening day, while Nina Buijsman and Henrietta Christie scoring top-10 finishes on the following two days.

Christie’s seventh-place finish in the GC earned the biggest haul and helped to catapult Human Powered Health from 27th to 20th in the two-year world rankings. There’s still a lot of the season to go and several places to make up if any of the teams want to keep their WorldTeam licenses, but it’s a particularly strong start from Human Powered Health.

After the one-day Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race this weekend, the first-ever women’s UAE Tour will see a lot more teams racing, but it will be the classics later in February and in March where we get a better idea of who is going good and who has work to put in.

Whatever happens, the fight for promotion and against relegation will be a thread that ties the whole season together.

The 2022-2023 women’s teams world rankings

Ranking Team 2022 points 2023 points Total
1 Trek-Segafredo 11,277.65 606 11,883.65
2 SD Worx 11,629.01 0 11,629.01
3 Team DSM 10,671.33 0 10,671.33
4 FDJ Suez 9,838.33 762 10,600.33
5 Movistar 9,378.98 0 9,378.98
6 Canyon-SRAM 7,111.67 0 7,111.67
7 UAE Team ADQ 6,027.00 30 6,057.00
8 Valcar-Travel & Service/UAE Development* 5,975.00 5 5,980.00
9 Jayco-AlUla 5,298.69 549 5,847.69
10 Jumbo-Visma 4,815.36 0 4,815.36
11 EF Education-TIBCO-SVB 3,016.01 596 3,612.01
12 Fenix-Deceuninck 2,884.33 0 2,884.33
13 Liv Racing TeqFind 2,575.00 0 2,575.00
14 Lifeplus-Wahoo 2,327.00 106 2,433.00
15 Ceratizit-WNT 2,401.33 0 2,401.33
16 Parkhotel Valkenburg 2,157.00 42 2,199.00
17 Atom Deweloper Posciellux.Pl Wroclaw 1,564.00 0 1,564.00
18 Israel-Premier Tech Roland 1,380.80 38 1,418.80
19 Soudal Quick-Step-AG Insurance 1,360.00 34 1,394.00
20 Human Powered Health 914.00 369 1,283.00
21 Team Coop-Hitech Products 1,247.00 24 1,271.00
22 Tashkent City Women 1,052.00 0 1,052.00
23 St Michel-Auber 93 1,000.33 48 1,048.33
24 IBTC 1,004.00 0 1,004.00
25 Canyon-SRAM Generation* 978.00 35 1,013.00
26 Uno-X Pro Cycling 995.66 0 995.66
27 BePink 951.32 31 982.32

Teams in bold = Current WorldTeam license holders. * = WorldTeam development squads