How one race in Italy might decide the WorldTour futures of several teams

EF Education-EasyPost and Cofidis score some breathing room in the relegation battle with some hot results in Italy.

Photo: Getty Images

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Thursday’s one-day race Coppa Sabatini in Italy is usually a late-season afterthought for most major riders and teams.

Sandwiched between the Vuelta a España and road world championships, the race typically attracts a mix of WorldTour teams and low-tier squads without much fanfare beyond the ardent Tuscan fans.

Things are different in the closing days of 2022, and this year’s Coppa Sabatini revealed how teams desperate to chase UCI points to stave off WorldTour relegation are racing to save their respective futures.

Ranked as a 1.Pro race on the UCI calendar, the winner Thursday walked away with 200 UCI points, which is more than finishing in the top-10 at the Tour de France or winning a grand tour stage.

With at least six teams on the relegation bubble as the 2022 calendar winds down, every point counts.

And that dynamic played out in dramatic fashion Thursday.

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The hilly circuit course produced a natural selection, and relegation teams Cofidis and EF Education-EasyPost made the cull.

Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) won out of a five-rider group in the hilly circuit course in Peccioli in Tuscany. That was good for Martínez’s fourth win of 2022, and the 38th victory for the UK team this season.

All eyes were on the dynamics of the leading group, however, and how it would play out with the ongoing WorldTour relegation battle unfolding across the peloton.

Two riders from EF Education-EasyPost and another from Cofidis — both teams facing possible relegation at the end of the season — were in the five-riding winning move.

EF Education-EasyPost finished second with Odd Christian Eiking and fourth with Esteban Chaves, along with Andrea Piccolo in 10th, netting the U.S.-registered team valued points.

Cofidis rider Guillaume Martin kicked to third, also giving the French team some much-needed points as well.

The value of every point can be reflected in how the relatively minor one-day race in Italy can have so much impact as the UCI is sticking to its plan to award the next round of 18 WorldTour licenses from 2023 to 2025.

On Thursday, Cofidis bounced from 18th to 17th on the relegation ranking, leaving BikeExchange-Jayco in the final “safe” spot among the top-ranked 18 teams.

EF Education-EasyPost nudged up one spot from 16th to 15th, now ahead of Arkéa-Samsic as the French ProTeam continues to struggle to gain late-season points after losing Nairo Quintana’s haul during the Tour de France in the wake of his tramadol case.

The difference between 15th and 18th on the relegation table remains very close, with less than 300 points separating EF Education-EasyPost and BikeExchange-Jayco.

Lotto-Soudal, now ranked 19th, is about 650 points behind the 18th-ranked team.

Every point counts as teams go down to the wire chasing results across Europe in the waning days of the 2022 racing season.

Thursday’s battle will replay in every race from here until the end of the 2022 season at the Tour of Langkawi.

A trio of one-day races this weekend in Belgium will certainly shake up the bottom half of the team rankings all over again.

It’s winner takes-all, with the top-18 ranked teams qualifying for WorldTour licenses from 2023-2025.

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