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UCI president confident WorldTour relegation-promotion system will survive legal challenges

Relegation is 'not nice' but 'it is sport' says David Lappartient.

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WOLLONGONG, Australia (VN) — UCI president David Lappartient is confident the men’s WorldTour relegation-promotion system will stand up to legal challenges.

Up to two teams could be relegated from the WorldTour at the end of this season if they are unable to secure the points needed to survive, while two ProTeams can gain promotion for 2023. At the moment, Israel-Premier Tech and Lotto Soudal are below the danger line while Arkéa-Samsic and Alpecin-Deceuninck look set to go up.

Israel-Premier Tech boss Sylvan Adams has threatened to sue the UCI if his team is relegated from the WorldTour and says that the governing body should invoke “force majeure” to put a stop to this year’s relegation battle in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has blighted the globe since 2020.

Speaking to press the at the world championships in Wollongong, Lappartient said that relegation and promotion was all part of the sporting environment, and he wasn’t concerned about any legal challenges.

“We can be challenged, of course, but we are confident that our system can be confirmed,” Lappartient said. “That’s sport. It’s not nice when you are in relegation, but when you are in football if you are last of the premier league you will go down to the second league. You must accept the result. That’s difficult because we know all the efforts of all the teams. We must also leave the door open for new applicants, for new teams to enter.”

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The current system began in 2020 with the points accumulated over the past three seasons counting toward the overall tally. While teams like Arkéa-Samsic have been eagled-eyed in the fight for points from very early on, some of the WorldTour squads appear to have been caught off-guard.

The fight for points has spilled out into the world championships with some teams refusing to release their riders for national team duties so that they can keep racing them in Europe.

Amidst the recent threats of legal action, there was speculation that the UCI may look to expand the WorldTour to 20 teams in order to avoid it. However, this was swiftly denied in a press release earlier this month as the UCI affirmed that the relegation and promotion system would be enforced at the end of the season.

Lappartient said that the system was needed so that the top tier of the sport didn’t become a closed shop with others locked out of it, despite performances. The UCI president added that it was the best option to provide balance for teams and organizers.

“This system was approved four years ago by the UCI management committee in September 2018. After long discussions, and years of discussions to reach this new system. When I was elected in 2017, I said that we needed to fix this,” Lappartient said. “In one year, we were able to reach this agreement by consensus. It means that it has been approved by unanimity. Of course, the organizers wanted to keep the four wildcards, the teams wanted to have the opportunity for second division teams to qualify based on their ranking.

“We finally figured out the system and we said it will start on January 1, 2020, and after we would take the three-year ranking in order to avoid relegation based only on one year. That was at the request of the teams. The other point was to give some teams the opportunity to qualify and potentially enter into the system and for it not to be a closed system. For this, the organizers wanted automatic promotion and relegation. The teams that wanted to stay like there were and we fixed this by saying that the top 18 will be in the WorldTour, whether they are the existing WorldTour teams or some new applicants. So then, we will have the top 18 in the WorldTour at the end.”