Dimension Data’s team principal Doug Ryder said it would be “horrific” if the squad lost its UCI WorldTour licence next season, due to not collecting enough points in the WorldTour ranking system during the year.
With 18 teams vying for the 17 spots in next year’s WorldTour, the future of the South African team – home to Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings – is in doubt, as it currently sits bottom of the WorldTour team ranking.
While Tinkoff and IAM Cycling are leaving the sport at the end of 2016, Bora-Hansgrohe and the Bahrain Cycling Team are both aiming to move up a level, and when Lampre secured backing from Chinese sponsors last week it meant there was one too many teams fighting for the 17 places.
The ranking is determined by adding up the individual points of the top five riders in the team on the WorldTour individual ranking. Although Dimension Data has 28 victories this year, only nine of them – including Cavendish’s four Tour de France stage wins – have come in WorldTour races.
Similarly, points are weighted more in favour of general classification victories than stage wins – a rider can be awarded 50 points for finishing 10th at the Tour de France, but only 20 for winning a stage at the race.
Bora has Peter Sagan who leads the individual WorldTour ranking, and would expect to be safe. Similarly Bahrain with Vincenzo Nibali on board would be safe, meaning the 17th spot is likely to be fought out between Dimension Data and Lampre.
Asked how he would feel if Dimension Data was to miss out next year, Ryder told Cycling Weekly they’d be “devastated”.
“It would be horrific,” he continued. “For five years, 2008-2012, we were a Continental team, then three years a Pro Continental team and one year a WorldTour team. We went through the process; we have our own Continental development team – how many teams have Continental development teams - hardly any.
“We are extremely good students of the sport and you’re trying to tell me that we aren’t valid and don’t warrant a place in the WorldTour.”
Ryder denied the team would be looking to sign riders in the next few weeks to gain points and save its WorldTour status.
“There been a lot of talk about it but there’s still four races left in the WorldTour. There’s still lots to happen – no one really knows who’s signing with who and who’s going to end up with what points.”
He also defended his team tactics throughout the season, and said the team encouraged riders to take chances for race wins – not ride defensively for more points.
“Go back to Milan-San Remo – Edvald [Boassan Hagen] attacked with a K to go. Had he decided to sit in the wheels and not attack and go third or fourth we wouldn’t be in this situation – we would have got 70, 80 points,” he said.
“We went for the win or for nothing. If you want to race negatively and differently then you are creating the wrong message – and sending out the wrong message."
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