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The ‘Relegation Watch:’ Behind the Headlines

Since the end of last year and certainly during the early part of this year’s pro cycling season, there has been a flurry of interest and attention paid to the UCI’s upcoming system of “relegation/promotion,” named after the common European football league practice. At the end of this year, the top 18 teams – ranked in terms of the most cumulative UCI points over the previous three years (2020 through 2022) – will have the opportunity to apply for a selective three-year WorldTour (WT) license, thus ensuring themselves of participation in all the sport’s biggest races from 2023 through 2025. The UCI’s rationale behind this new process was to provide some measure of economic protection and help increase the value of the top-performing teams. In some ways, the process is a tentative and short-term experiment with the attributes of a franchise or league type of sport – each team that gets...

A 10-Year Look at UCI WorldTour Team Performance

Multiple performance, economic and organizational metrics can be dissected to evaluate the competitive performance of UCI WorldTour cycling teams. The Outer Line published a brief survey of historical team performance two years ago; and this more thorough analysis updates that evaluation with 10 years of men’s WorldTour data, revealing unanticipated insights into the sport and the key drivers of success in managing pro teams. For this new analysis, we primarily analyzed team wins, podiums, and top-10 race placings, as well as the ProCyclingStats annual point totals. (As previously discussed, the UCI has its own point system for ranking and selection processes, but the PCS system is more detailed and user-friendly and is generally considered to be a more precise estimate of performance; in addition, the UCI completely changed its points system a few years ago, making longer-term trend...

Is It Time to Shake Up the Pro Cycling Calendar?

The success of pro cycling’s 2021 calendar has demonstrated the sport’s resilience in a season impacted by COVID-19 hot spots in the spring and the delta variant surge in late summer. Paris–Roubaix’s shift to the fall—and the long-awaited (and overdue) debut of its women’s edition—was a perfect example of how unfortunate circumstances can create new opportunities. But given underperforming viewership numbers across the sport it is worth asking: Are there other kinds of calendar shifts or rearrangements that could shake up cycling in a positive way? The recently formed Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) has provided an instructive example of how pro cycling can modernize its game. The PTO staged the inaugural Collins Cup challenge in Šamorín, Slovakia, on August 28, ushering in an endurance sport version of golf’s Ryder Cup. This new annual event disrupts the traditional...

What’s Next at USA Cycling? A Talk With Brendan Quirk

Long-time cycling industry executive Brendan Quirk was recently named chairman of USA Cycling, replacing Bob Stapleton, who stepped down after seven years in that capacity. Quirk is well known in cycling circles as the co-founder and CEO of Competitive Cyclist, one of the industry’s earliest and most successful e-commerce businesses, which was eventually sold to Backcountry. He later became president of Rapha North America and served as interim CEO of U.S. bike manufacturer Allied Cycles. Most recently, he has been the cycling director for the Runway Group, an initiative geared to driving economic growth and quality of life initiatives in northwest Arkansas. (The latter three organizations are backed by the Walton family, owners of Walmart.) Quirk began his involvement with USA Cycling as a novice racer in 1986. His competitive career stretched from the 1988 national junior road...

What Next for Africa’s Team Qhubeka-Nexthash?

On September 30, unable to find sufficient future sponsorship funds to meet an October filing deadline for the 2022 UCI WorldTour, Qhubeka-NextHash team principal Doug Ryder released his riders from their contractual commitments to the squad. Several were quick to move on to other teams, including top riders Victor Campenaerts back to Lotto-Soudal and Giacomo Nizzolo off to Israel Start-Up Nation. Meanwhile, Ryder continues his struggle to nail down new sponsors and keep the South Africa-based team afloat at the WorldTour level. Ryder spoke with The Outer Line on October 20, laying out the team’s situation and plans. “We have basically been working non-stop since September of 2019 [when title sponsor NTT pulled out] to secure our longer-term future,” says Ryder. “We’ve fought through the challenges of COVID, and we’ve been able to bring some new partners into the team. We didn’t quite...