Women’s WorldTour points fight: SD Worx comes alive after slow start to season
Human Powered Health remains tantalizingly close to WorldTour safety zone, but challenge gets harder as season ramps up.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
After a slow start to the season, SD Worx is reasserting itself as the top team in the world with a string of top-tier wins, including Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and a Strade Bianche 1-2.
The Dutch squad, which has been ranked the No. 1 team in the world for the best part of a decade, looked out of sorts in its season debut at the UAE Tour. It did walk away with some solid results, such as Lorena Wiebes’ stage win and Anna Shackley’s fourth place overall, but it didn’t live up to pre-race expectations.
Since returning to Europe, the team has blasted any lingering off-season cobwebs and has blitzed the bunch. Indeed, it’s won every race it has entered since hitting its stride in Europe with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Omloop van het Hageland, and Strade Bianche.
Despite the post-race tensions between Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering, the dominant one-two at Strade Bianche was a major warning shot to the other teams that it’s not yet ready to give up on its place at the top of the rankings.
- Fight for Women’s WorldTour spots already tight as top teams kickstart 2023 season
- AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step enjoys perfect start in fight for 2024 Women’s WorldTour license
- Human Powered Health has blistering start in fight for Women’s WorldTour survival
While SD Worx is certainly on the ascendency, some teams that dominated the opening races of the year have stagnated in recent weeks.
Trek-Segafredo looked untouchable across January and the beginning of February, but it has faltered slightly as the classics have ramped up. It only managed 10th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and barely broke the top 20 at Strade Bianche.
Elisa Longo Borghini being forced to drop out of the Italian race due to illness at the last minute certainly had an impact, but Trek is a strong team and it should have been able to weather that challenge. It’s not all doom and gloom for the American-registered squad and Gaia Realini scored the team a win at the 1.1 Trofeo Oro in Euro a day later.
SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo will be going toe-to-toe this weekend at the Ronde van Drenthe with Wiebes and Elisa Balsamo facing off against each other in a sprint for the first time this season.
FDJ-Suez has also looked on the back foot in recent weeks after dominating the opening races in Australia. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was the only rider to tag onto the Vollering and Kopecky attack at Strade, but she ran out of gas and was dropped before the group caught up with Kristen Faulkner.
Further down the rankings, Movistar is picking up some momentum and enjoyed solid rides across February and into March. However, it’s clear that its big leader Annemiek van Vleuten is not at her peak and its one win so far came at the hands of new signing Floortje Mackaij at the one-day Vuelta CV.
Promotion and relegation fight
Further down the standings, the battle for the final spots in the Women’s WorldTour for 2024 and 2025 rages on. Less than 1,000 points separate Ceratizit-WNT in 13th place from, AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step in 18th, while Fenix-Deceuninck in 12th remains close to the drop off point.
After a blistering start to the season, which saw it jump 10 spots in the combined 2022-23 rankings to 17th, Human Powered Health is having a harder time breaking into the top 15. Having got within 500 points of making that jump, the gap to the safe zone has grown a little bigger in recent weeks.
With margins so fine at this point, the gaps are going to flex in and out like an accordion across the whole season. Making big leaps is also going to be far harder with all of the top 20 now competing across the calendar.
Human Powered Health may be concerned with getting ahead, but it has to watch out for AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step behind. The Belgian squad is closing the gap gradually to the American squad and could cause some trouble in its target of staying in the Women’s WorldTour next season.
AG Insurance is just 43 points behind Human Powered Health, a gap that could flip across a single one-day race. The other license threats Ceratizit-WNT and Lifeplus-Wahoo sits comfortably in the top 15.
While it’s not clear if Lifeplus-Wahoo will apply for a WorldTour license for next season, any team hopeful of gaining promotion or avoiding relegation will want to clear them just in case.
Human Powered Health remains the star performer in the at-risk WorldTour squads, with Israel Premier-Tech and Uno-X Pro Cycling still getting up to speed.
Uno-X has finally started to clock in some good results with its new signings really playing a part. Anouska Koster has been racking up a string of top-10 finishes, while Maria Giulia Confalioneri clocked in the team’s second UCI podium finish ever at Le Samyn des Dames.
Anniina Ahtosalo scored a win at the GP Betesco but as it is classified as a national-level event it won’t earn the team any points for the rankings.
Israel-Premier Tech Roland remains the team most at risk at this time, despite it currently being ahead of Uno-X in the rankings. The Swiss-registered squad has only picked up a small amount of points thus far and is failing to make the most of its starts at smaller races.
While it managed to jump up one place in the standings over the last two weeks, if it can’t start churning out some big results soon, it is going to continue to languish outside of the top 15 at the end of the year.
|Ranking||Team||2022 points||2023 points||Total|
|7||UAE Team ADQ||6,027.00||1464||7,491.00|
|9||Valcar-Travel & Service/UAE Development*||5,975.00||146||6,121.00|
|14||Liv Racing TeqFind||2,575.00||277||2,852.00|
|17||Human Powered Health||914.00||1147||2,061.00|
|18||AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step||1,360.00||658||2,018.00|
|19||Israel-Premier Tech Roland||1,380.80||287||1,667.80|
|20||Team Coop-Hitech Products||1,247.00||381||1,628.00|
|21||Atom Deweloper Posciellux.Pl Wroclaw||1,564.00||38||1,602.00|
|22||Uno-X Pro Cycling||995.66||441||1,436.66|
|24||St Michel-Auber 93||1,000.33||313||1,313.33|
|25||Tashhkent City Women||1,052.00||233||1,285.00|