The UCI on Thursday released the list of teams that met the initial deadline to apply for men’s and women’s WorldTeam licenses and men’s Pro Continental licenses. Due to the relegation scheme, the Women’s WorldTour sees the most flux, although it’s less than might appear thanks to sponsor changes and teams merging or dropping out entirely. That’s also muted the effect of the relegation battle, as teams that were on the edge are now more comfortably assured of getting a license for next year.
Liv Racing-Teqfind is out of the WorldTour, but that’s because the team merged with Jayco-AlUla and will turn into a development-level feeder team. AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step will likely rise up to the top tier and take Liv’s spot. EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is also gone, and Ceratizit-WNT looks set to replace them. EF will continue in the sport as a brand new team (EF Education-Cannondale) but plans to race at the Continental level to start; the team is assembling a WorldTour-caliber roster and doesn’t anticipate much difficulty getting invites to top events like the Tour de France Femmes.
Ceratizit and AG Insurance will likely join the Women’s WorldTour by virtue of their positions as the best-placed Continental teams in the UCI rankings: 10th and 12th, respectively. There is, intriguingly, a 16th applicant, as Laboral Kutxa Fundacion Euskadi has also applied to step up to the top level. It’s a long shot at best: there are only 15 WWT licenses available for 2024 and Laboral Kutxa was just 25th in the season-ending UCI teams rankings – well behind several Continental-level teams like Parkhotel Valkenberg and Cofidis that did not apply for a WorldTour license – and has not announced any rider signings that would point to a significantly improved team for 2024. The team also applied for a WWT license in 2022 and was unsuccessful.
One curious note is the presence of “Roland,” presumably the team known this year as Israel-Premier Tech-Roland. The top two sponsors are now absent from the application. In a response to an e-mail requesting comment, general manager Ruben Contreras confirmed to Escape Collective that “the team continues in the WWT with Roland’s name” as a Swiss-registered team. Contreras claimed the team will have a “a bigger budget and bigger ambitions for 2024.” The team has not publicized any rider re-signings or transfers, but Contreras said its 2024 roster would be released soon.
On the men’s side, although it was likely a scramble to get the paperwork in place after the merger fell through, both Soudal Quick-Step and Jumbo-Visma made the deadline, meaning all 18 existing men’s WorldTeams have applied to continue for next year. That’s not a huge surprise given that 2023 was the first year of a new three-year term in the relegation cycle.
There aren’t any surprises on the list; the most intriguing note is that Jumbo applied as Blanco Pro Cycling, its formal business name, amid flux on sponsors. Word is that Pon, the holding company that owns bike sponsor Cervélo, is stepping up to a co-title sponsor role with its Lease-a-Bike program, but Richard Plugge, the team’s general manager, has yet to formally confirm that.
There’s more turnover at the Pro Continental level: Human Powered Health goes away entirely, while Bolton Equities-Black Spoke drops to Continental. There’s one new applicant: the TDT-Unibet formation from Bas Tietema.
The UCI announcement is neither beginning nor end to the process; teams that missed the initial deadline can still apply through the end of the process, and each team has to satisfy various criteria around financial and organizational structure, although that scrutiny is far from foolproof. The final decisions on WorldTour and Pro Continental license awards are set to be announced December 12.
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