Breakdown: What exactly is happening with the UCI’s new (and very confusing) promotion/relegation system and how are things going for the 2023 season. Which teams are moving up, which are falling, and is it all bad news? Maybe not.

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Lotto and Israel, two losers – But are they?

The 2022 professional cycling season comes to an end this week, with the results of the UCI’s new promotion/demotion system. This, along with the somewhat strange and unfair rules of the system itself, has created a lot of chatter about who gets demoted from the WorldTour, and most importantly, what that actually means (spoiler: it’s complicated).

A little background on how we got here: Back in 2019, professional cycling’s governing body, the UCI, apparently tired of the perennially bad teams sitting on top 18 teams (the World Tour), decided to implement a three-year long promotion/relegation system, which will count every UCI point scored by professional teams between 2020 and 2022. That tally would allow them to designate the top 18 teams in that ranking as World Tour teams for the next three seasons (2023-2025) and demote them to underperforming. In theory, this meant that consistently bad teams would be relegated to the second division, while teams that were successful would be promoted to the sport’s top division.

Israel-Premier Tech is out of the WorldTour, even with a multiple-tour winner

While this may be a good system, the really weird way the UCI distributes points (ie lower level regional races give a lot of points and grand tours give a small amount of UCI points) and the lack of a viable second of the division has generated a huge number of (somewhat deserved) complaints, protests and potential legal challenges from teams facing relegation.

Lotto Soudal (as of 2023) has moved to ProTeam

How things stand at the end of the 2022 season

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​With several races and UCI points still to come in 2022, we already have a clear idea of ​​the implications of this first round of promotion/demotion, as the gap between promoted and demoted teams is large enough to prevent further a shuffle in the standings.

As we can see in the graphic below, the current WorldTour teams that are being relegated are Lotto-Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech, while the teams that are currently second division teams (aka ProTeams) that are being promoted , is Alpecin-Deceuninck (formerly Alpecin-Fenix). and Arkéa-Samsic.

Departure 22

What exactly does that mean?

Some fans may look at the graph above, see that Lotto and Israel have been relegated, and assume that the consequences for both teams are the same and that both teams will not be at the top level WorldTour races in 2023. While the assumption is logical, it couldn’t be further from a much more complex truth.

To fully understand the implications of relegation, we first need to look at the UCI points standings for the 2022 season alone.

UCI Ranking 2022


As we can see above, Jumbo-Visma, at least in terms of UCI points, was the most successful team of 2022, while Astana was by far the worst (I will break down this ranking in more detail in the coming weeks).

But most relevant to the promotion/relegation debate are Lotto-Soudal at 15th, TotalEnergies at 17th and Israel-Premier Tech at 19th.

This is important because due to the complex race selection rules in pro cycling, in addition to the 18 WorldTour teams and three wildcard team selections (another topic for another day), every major race must invite at least two of the top second division teams teams from the previous season (stage races invite the top two and one-day races invite the top three).

2023 wildcard image

WorldTour stage races (eg Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España)
Lotto-Soudal – 6759 points
TotalEnergies – 6022 points

Israel-Premier Tech – 4806 points
Uno-X – 2772.63 points

WorldTour one-day races (eg Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders)

Lotto-Soudal – 6759 points
TotalEnergies – 6022 points
Israel-Premier Tech – 4806 points

Uno-X – 2772.63 points

Tobias Halland Johannesen
Fewer WorldTour races for Uno-X?

What does that mean

As we see above, the implications of this are that while Lotto-Soudal and TotalEnergies will technically be outside the WorldTour and in the second division, they will still receive automatic invitations to every major race. Conversely, while Israel-Premier Tech will receive invitations to the one-day races, they will not be invited to the stage races. This is important because the most important race in cycling is the Tour de France, and if a team cannot get an invitation, it cannot offer a convincing case to potential sponsors and top riders.

In theory, Israel-Premier Tech is still eligible for grand tour invitations, but they are distributed through the old networks and as such almost exclusively go to second division teams based in the home country of the grand tour. This means that as the team is based outside of Europe and is missing major French stars such as Julian Alaphilippe, they will have an uphill (or expensive) fight for an invitation to the Tour de France.

While most contracts in cycling give riders and sponsors an automatic exit if a team is unable to stay in the World Tour, there is little or no incentive to enforce these clauses if the team still has an automatic path to the cash cow that is the Tour de France. But on the other hand, failure to get an invitation to the Tour de France is usually fatal for a team, as without leading sponsors and riders, the team has little to offer. In addition,

A hidden plus for Lotto-Soudal

An interesting wrinkle here is that the top second division teams have an advantage over the WorldTour teams as they receive invitations to these races but are not required to attend, meaning they can opt out of the grand tours to save rider and financial resources .

More sprint opportunities for Ewan?

Lotto will be able to choose and save money

Although they have to perform well enough each year to finish in the top two teams of the second division and avoid the three-year security of WorldTour teams, the task is incredibly doable as they have the advantage of selecting their events, which means they can drop the bigger races where they have little chance of scoring points and instead send strong teams to enough lower level races to easily score enough UCI points to stay ahead of almost every other second division team (which in turn , will also make it easier for them to enter the WorldTour in 2026 than lower-level WorldTour teams).

State of play in the 2023 season

So, in short, the WorldTour for the next three seasons will feature the following 18 teams, with Lotto and TotalEnergies able to join whatever events they wish for the 2023 season, and Israel-Premier Tech taking part in the major one-day events.

Of course, all of this could be disrupted if one of the 18 WorldTour teams loses a sponsor and is unable to fund their team, causing one of the second division teams to be promoted to take a spot, or the number of automatic invites increased (both would have the same effect , as permission to invite all of Lotto, Total and Israel to some major event).

UCI World Tour 2023-2025
1) Jambo-Wisma
2) QuickStep
3) Ineos
4) UAE
5) Bora-Hansgrohe
6) Bahrain
7) FDJ
8) Alpetsin-Dekuninck
9) Hiking
10) Intermarché-Wanty
11) AG2R
12) Movistar
13) Astana
14) Kafidis
15) DSM
16) EF
17) BikeExchange
18) Archaea-Samsik

Automatic invitation of Carte Blanche 2023 teams
19) Lato-Sudal
20) TotalEnergies

Teams with automatic invite for one day only in 2023
21) Israel-Premier Tech

Vuelta 22
One-day invitations for a Grand Tour team are not ideal

# Spencer Martin is the author of the Bicycle Analysis Newsletter Outside the peloton which breaks down the nuances of each race and answers common questions related to team and rider performance. Register now to get full access to all available content and race breakdowns. #

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