Women’s WorldTour points fight: AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step climbs to promotion spot as others stall

Zaaf continues to impress in its debut season as a UCI squad, but rumors emerge of financial issues at the squad with teams not being paid.

Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

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After missing out in 2022, AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step has hit the ground running this season and put itself into a promotion slot just three months into the season.

The team’s new signings continue to bring a raft of strong results to earn the team 1,000 points already this season, just over 300 points shy of their total haul last year.

Justine Ghekiere backed up her Setmana Ciclista Valenciana overall win with eighth place at the last weekend’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda. Meanwhile, Lotta Henttala showed her performance at that race was not a one-off and she scored top-10 finishes at the Ronde van Drenthe and Nokere Koerse.

The Belgian squad now sits 16th in the combined UCI standings from 2022 and 2023. Though it is not currently in the top 15, the ninth-ranked squad UAE Development Team is not eligible for a WorldTour license under the UCI’s rules.

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The team is likely to drop further down the rankings as the season goes on, but as long as it remains in the top 15, the team in 16th will qualify for promotion provided it can meet the four other criteria — which includes the team’s finances.

AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step is not the only Continental squad still very much in the running for a WorldTour license in 2024.

Ceratizit-WNT missed out to Fenix-Deceuninck for a top-tier license, but the German-registered squad started the year in a promotion spot and is making sure that it stays there. After Arianna Fidanza got the team off to a winning start in Almería in January, Cédrine Kerbaol scored the team’s second and third wins of the year with a stage victory and the overall title at the inaugural Tour de Normandie Féminin.

Lifeplus-Wahoo also continues to hold onto its promotion spot despite a turbulent winter. The team hasn’t had the same impact as its fellow leading Continental teams so far this season, but it will pose a big challenge to the current WorldTour squads scrabbling to keep their place in the top tier.

Further down the standings, new team Zaaf continues to make an impression on the peloton and climb the rankings after scoring some 1339.5 points already this season. While it’s currently only sitting in 25th in the combined rankings, thanks to having no points score for 2022, the team looks likely to continue climbing the standings as the year progresses.

However, that depends on how long the team can survive after rumors of financial strife within the team emerged over the weekend. When the team was launched late last year, it announced that it would have a budget of around 4 million Euros with the team’s riders due to get the minimum salary level set for WorldTour squads.

French journalist Charles Marsault reported Sunday that the team had not been paying its riders their salary and that riders were looking for a way out. Spanish journalist Raúl Banqueri posted additional details, stating that the team’s previous incarnation in 2022, which was not UCI registered, had also failed to pay riders during the season — none of the riders that raced with the squad in 2022 remained in the 2023 roster.

VeloNews has been unable to confirm these allegations but has repeatedly tried to contact the team with no response.

If the true extent of the financial issues is confirmed, the team may not make it through to the end of the season.

The race for WorldTour survival

While several Continental teams are solidifying their chances of promotion into the WorldTour, there are still three current top-tier squads racing to keep their place in it.

Human Powered Health, Israel-Premier Tech Roland, and Uno-X all joined the WorldTour in 2022 but struggled to keep up and all three finished well outside the top 15 places. With no relegation system in place for the end of last season, the teams had a second chance to make the cut and keep their spot for 2024.

Israel-Premier Tech Roland — or Roland Cogeas Edelweiss as it was known in 2022 — was ranked the top of those three teams, finishing the year in 18th overall. However, it has had a very slow start to this year and now looks as the team most likely to be relegated at the end of this season.

The Swiss-registered squad has amassed just 375 points so far this season, less than half of the other two at-risk WorldTour teams. After starting up in 18th, the team has dropped to 20th, and looks like it is only going to drop down further if it can’t churn out some better results.

Tamara Dronova and Claire Steels have been the team’s top performers so far but the team needs more than this duo if it has any hope of staying at the top.

Human Powered Health, which was the bottom-ranked of the three teams at the end of last year, had a blistering start to the season, taking a major haul of points in the opening four weeks of their season.

However, the team has slowed somewhat in the second half of February into March, something that hasn’t been helped by a series of smaller races getting canceled due to poor weather conditions. The team has a busy series of WorldTour racing on the horizon across the end of March and through April, where it will hope to add a few more points to its tally.

Uno-X had a slower start to the season, only making its season debut in February, but it is quickly making up ground. The team has notched up several top 10s and podium places, thanks to Anouska Koster, Susanne Andersen, and Maria Giulia Confalioneri.

The team’s recent run of form has seen it close the gap to Human Powered Health to just over 100 points. It’s highly possible that one of these two teams could be relegated at the end of the year — if not both — and it’s going to be a hard-fought contest for survival.

The 2022-2023 Women’s WorldTour rankings

Ranking Team 2022 points 2023 points Total
1 Trek-Segafredo 11,277.65 3537 14,814.65
2 SD Worx 11,629.01 2989.6 14,618.61
3 FDJ Suez 9,838.33 2260 12,098.33
4 Team DSM 10,671.33 887 11,558.33
5 Movistar 9,378.98 1842 11,220.98
6 Canyon-SRAM 7,111.67 1324 8,435.67
7 UAE Team ADQ 6,027.00 1762 7,789.00
8 Jayco-AlUla 5,298.69 1011 6,309.69
9 Valcar-Travel & Service/UAE Development* 5,975.00 166.65 6,141.65
10 Jumbo-Visma 4,815.36 582 5,397.36
11 EF Education-TIBCO-SVB 3,016.01 1232 4,248.01
12 Fenix-Deceuninck 2,884.33 664 3,548.33
13 Ceratizit-WNT 2,401.33 814 3,215.33
14 Liv Racing TeqFind 2,575.00 410 2,985.00
15 Lifeplus-Wahoo 2,327.00 290 2,617.00
16 AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step 1,360.00 1000 2,360.00
17 Parkhotel Valkenburg 2,157.00 144.85 2,301.80
18 Human Powered Health 914.00 1163 2,077.00
19 Uno-X Pro Cycling 995.66 976 1,971.66
20 Israel-Premier Tech Roland 1,380.80 375 1,755.80
21 Team Coop-Hitech Products 1,247.00 386 1,633.00
22 Atom Deweloper Posciellux.Pl Wroclaw 1,564.00 64 1,628.00
23 Canyon-SRAM Generation* 978.00 438.32 1,416.32
24 St Michel-Auber 93 1,000.33 398 1,398.33
25 ZAAF Cycling 0.00 1339.5 1,339.50
26 Cofidis 860.00 465 1,325.00
27 Tashhkent City Women 1,052.00 270.15 1,322.15

Bold = Current WorldTour team, * = Development squad

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