UCI president David Lappartient has defended the promotion and relegation system cycling's governing body will implement at the end of 2022, in spite of criticism from some WorldTour teams.
Next year's three-term WorldTour licences will be awarded to the team who are in the top-18 of the UCI's rankings based on results over the past three seasons. Currently, Israel-Premier Tech and Lotto-Soudal are at risk of having their top-tier licence revoked come 2023, with both teams sitting in the relegation zone, according to Lanterne Rouge.
Teams have questioned the ranking system though, claiming points are unfairly weighted in favour of some less-prestigious races. Others have also suggested the system be put on pause, with some teams missing important riders through Covid-19.
When asked if there is a possibility the UCI will scrap promotions and relegations at the end of the season, Lappartient dismisses the idea, stating the system will go ahead regardless of the criticism.
“We will certainly implement the promotion relegation at the end of the season," the UCI president told WielerFlits. "We introduced this rule a few years ago when we reformed professional cycling. The teams did not want such a system, while the organisers were in favour of an annual promotion relegation. The compromise we found was the certainty of a three-year WorldTour licence.
“Now we have a ranking over three years. It is therefore possible that you have lost a rider for a period due to Covid-19. But because the points are made over three years, this has no crucial influence on the ranking. The first 18 teams are sure to stay in the WorldTour.
"We now see that between teams 15 and 20 the difference is not too great. That means that a number of teams are indeed under pressure, but this does not mean that it is a bad system. We find a promotion-relegation system in almost all sports. It certainly has its advantages for the competition as well.”
Some WorldTour teams have strongly criticised the promotion and relegation system which will occur at the end of the season due to the impacts of Covid-19, while others have suggested the points system needs overhauling. Matt White, head sports director of BikeExchange-Jayco, for example, told Cycling Weekly last month that 1.1 races having more value than a stage of the Tour de France "doesn't make any sense".
While a Grand Tour stage winner is awarded 120 points UCI, someone who finishes fifth on a stage of a Grand Tour will accrue five UCI points for their team. Comparatively, riders achieve ten points should they finish 12th at a UCI 1.2 race, more commonly raced by Continental and development teams.
WorldTour stage races also offer little points, too, with fourth-place picking up nothing. Meanwhile, a rider finishing 10th in a 1.2 one-day race collects three points, boosting their team up the rankings in the battle for relegation and promotion.
For Lappartient, though, this has represented a positive shift in attitudes of WorldTour teams to so-called smaller races, meaning the standard of competition has improved across the calendar as they battle for essential points at every type of event. However, he does recognise minor alterations could improve the current system.
"At the beginning of April, the Volta Limburg Classic was live on French television on L'Equipe TV. A race that you could not otherwise watch in France. I saw a wonderful race, where top riders, such as Tom Dumoulin, also coloured the final. You also see that WorldTour teams are now selecting good riders for these races because they race for the points.
“Although, it is our job to ensure that no more points can be earned in these races than in the WorldTour. I fear that the scoring of races will be a point of discussion until the last days of my life.
"Nevertheless, we can already conclude that the system works. We may still need to make small improvements, but I think the current ranking gives a good idea of the strength differences between the teams over the past three years.”
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