Relegation ‘bubble’ teams racing for pride at Le Tour de Langkawi

Just a month ago, Langkawi was hyped as a final desperate battleground for teams on the edge of losing WorldTour status.

Photo: Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

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Le Tour de Langkawi is back after a COVID cancelation last year, but the 26th edition of the Asian race is not quite having its moment in the sun as some were expecting.

As the last race on the UCI 2022 calendar to earn points, Langkawi was hyped as a final desperate struggle for teams on the relegation “bubble.” Teams were keeping their marquee riders on form in case they had to race for points in far-flung Malaysia to secure WorldTour licenses next year.

With a half-dozen teams fighting for relegation/promotion salvation, the season-closer at Langkawi was shaping up to be a duel to end to guarantee a “safe” spot among the top-18-ranked teams

Yet going into Tuesday’s first stage, the relegation battle is all but over.

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Lotto-Soudal and Israel Premier Tech both look likely to fall short of what’s called the “sporting criteria” measured by the accumulation of a three years of UCI points.

Even a big week in Malaysia cannot save Lotto-Soudal, which is more than 1,000 points behind 18th-ranked Arkéa-Samsic.

Six WorldTour and four ProTeam squads still made the trek to Malaysia for the race from October 11-18 for what will be the final days of racing on the UCI calendar in 2022.

Gleb Syritsa, a stagiaire on Astana Qazaqstan, won Tuesday’s opening stage.

With the European calendar closing this weekend with the Veneto Classic in Italy and the GP de Nations in France, and the Japan Cup on October 16 in the final UCI-level one-day race, the closing two stages of Langkawi will be the last chance to earn points.

Four of the “bubble” teams showed up, including Lotto-Soudal, EF Education-EasyPost, Movistar, and Cofidis.

With Lotto Soudal looking out, the three other teams are assured of hitting the points criteria, so there won’t be the same sense of desperation and intensity across the racing this week as there might have been.

The final team ranking is still up for grabs. Movistar ran up the ranking nicely over the past few weeks and could end the season ranked as high as 11th. Cofidis and EF are separated by less than 300 points in 14th and 16th places, respectively.

Arkéa-Samsic and BikeExchange-Jayco are ranked 18th and 17th, respectively, but neither is racing in Langkawi this week. Cofidis in 14th and Arkéa-Samsic in 18th are separated by less than 400 points.

There’s still a question of pride. Even if a team is inside the top-18, no one likes to be last.

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