UCI points battle already shaping 2023 racing calendar

Belgian outfit Lotto Dstny will skip the Giro d'Italia for the first time in 20 years as it plots to optimize UCI points haul.

Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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The 2023 season hasn’t even started yet, but teams are already being forced to make calendar decisions based on the UCI points system that shapes the WorldTour team selection.

Officials from Lotto Dstny (formerly Lotto Soudal) confirm the Belgian team will miss the Giro d’Italia for the first time in more than 20 years because it needs to chase points to try to work its way back into the WorldTour.

“During the Giro there are many smaller stage races and one-day races in which we can collect points,” sports manager Kurt Van de Wouwer told Sporza. “That is important to automatically get a wild card for the Tour and the other top races the following season.”

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The long-running Belgian squad was knocked out of the WorldTour as part of the UCI’s controversial points system that helped decide which teams earned WorldTour licenses for 2023-25.

Lotto Dstny and Israel Premier Tech were both relegated out of the WorldTour after missing out on enough UCI points across the 2020-22 racing seasons.

Arkéa Samsic and Alpecin Deceuninck both moved up based on the points ranking that many complained was inconsistent, unfair, and not reflective of a team’s relative strength or worth.

Because it’s no longer in the WorldTour and will not receive automatic starting slots in all the major races, Lotto Dstny is being forced to make decisions.

The team finished as the top Professional Continental team in the second-tier rankings, meaning it did have a spot in the Giro, but other considerations are forcing the team to bypass the season’s first grand tour.

Instead of racing the Giro, the team will instead chase points at smaller but more point-heavy races as well as keep its top riders fresh for the Tour de France in July.

“We have removed the Giro from our program and there are two reasons for that,” Van de Wouwer said.

“In the first place, we want to get the Tour team as fresh as possible at the start of the Tour, because that is the most important race of the year. We want Caleb Ewan, for example, to travel to the grand départ as fresh as possible.”

“In addition, there are also many smaller stage races and one-day races during the Giro in which we can collect a lot of points.”

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Van de Wouwer said the points will count not only in three years when the next round of WorldTour licenses are divvied up, but for the end-of-season rankings that also determine which teams can race where.

The top two Pro-Conti teams at least are guaranteed spots at the following year’s Tour.

“Those points are important, because we have to be among the best two Pro-Continental teams at the end of the season to be sure of participation in the Tour and the other WorldTour races in 2024,” he said.

Israel Premier Tech is also waiting to see how its 2023 calendar will shape up.

Despite making threats of legal action against the UCI if his team was relegated out of the WorldTour, it appears team owner Sylvan Adams has opted not to file a lawsuit.

In a media note last week, team management said it formally “acknowledged” its new spot in cycling’s second tier, and vowed to keep fighting to win races.

“We are disappointed, considering the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which hit our team very hard,” a team press note said. “We are determined to return to the WorldTour, and will continue to race with the motivation and resilience that saw the team win two stages at this year’s Tour de France.”

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