Spanish national team cannot attract top riders for road worlds due to WorldTour points battle

Report: Spanish cycling federation considering sanctioning riders who refuse to race worlds or not even sending a team to Wollongong.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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JAEN, Spain (VN) — Spain, traditionally one of the strongest elite men’s road teams at any world championships, is having trouble convincing its star riders to race in Australia later this month.

Why? The culprit is the down-to-the-wire battle for UCI points to assure a spot in the WorldTour among the top pro teams.

According to an interview in the Spanish daily MARCA, Spanish national coach said teams want to keep their top riders in Europe to race in late-season events to harvest UCI points, not send them to far-flung Wollongong in the southern hemisphere.

“Of the eight that I have in mind, only two riders are ready to go,” Pascual Momparler told MARCA.

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Those two are Juan Ayuso and Marc Soler, riders from UAE Team Emirates whose WorldTour future is assured as the Emirates-backed team is near the top of the three-year team points ranking.

Two teams fighting for their WorldTour future with plenty of top Spanish riders, Movistar and Cofidis, are not so keen to see their best riders go “off the grid” for up to two weeks for the long travel, racing and recovery required for the world championships just as the points window is closing at the end of October.

Both of those teams are struggling to secure a spot in the WorldTour going into 2023, when the next round of three-year licenses are awarded.

UCI points earned at the worlds also count, but teams would rather see their ace riders racing to win rather than riding in support for one team captain at a one-day race that will chew up at least a week or more with travel.

Spain last won the rainbow jersey with Alejandro Valverde in 2018, but the paper reports that Movistar is not keen to see Valverde or Enric Mas miss out on chasing points at other races by attending the worlds.

According to MARCA, the Spanish cycling federation is considering several options, ranging from sanctioning riders who refuse the call-up to race in national colors or not allow them to race other events if they do not race the worlds. Another option is not to send a team at all.

The paper reported that the Spanish cycling federation held an emergency meeting Friday to speak directly about the problem.

The federation cannot force any team or rider to participate in the worlds, which are contested under national colors, but usually that is the least of its worries.

Spain is traditionally one of the most competitive teams in any worlds, and earning a spot on the elite men’s team is highly desired among the top riders in the peloton.

At least until this year.

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