Team Rankings Takeaways: As the professional season gets under way, Spencer Martin takes a look at the team rankings, starting at the bottom of the UCI WorldTour with Astana, Lotto Soudal and Team DSM. Where did they go wrong and what have they changed?
Lotto Soudal looking for a better 2022
With the road racing season slowly approaching, I am going to begin diving into the specific transfer analysis for the team in the 2022 BTP Team NET ratings, starting with today’s Tier 6. For some background, I’ve split the 18 WorldTour teams into six tiers, going from the bottom of the barrel in tier 6 to the top-flight Galacticos in Tier 1. I will be releasing a new tier Tuesdays and Saturdays over the course of the next few weeks before the start of the WorldTour racing season at the UAE Tour in February.
I unveiled the BTP NET rating system last week, but to quickly sum it up, it merely comprises the process of taking each team’s total Pro Cycling Stats points total from the 2021 season and adding/subtracting the number of aggregate points they gained/lost in the transfer market, which shows us how the teams will finish at the end of the 2022 season if every rider has a similar season to the one before.
Changes at DSM, but is it an improvement?
This is very obviously an imperfect projection tool, especially considering that there are many factors that go into a team’s success like the quality of their teamwork and domestiques (who very rarely aim to generate points). However, it does give us a decent projection of a team’s inherent overall roster strength, which does predict success better than one might think. While the nuances of domestique work are very important, the best teams are able to convince point-generating riders to moonlight as team helpers at the biggest races.
And the most important factor to keep in mind while reading this projection is that performances for nearly every veteran rider are already baked into the output. For example, unless Romain Bardet significantly improves upon his pretty-good 2021 season in 2022, he won’t help his DSM team outperform their projected last-place finish.
Top team: Jumbo-Visma
Below are the complete 2022 BTP NET ratings.
2022 Team BTP NET Rankings
1) Team Jumbo-Visma/9572
2) UAE-Team Emirates/8899
3) INEOS Grenadiers/8413
4) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl/7379
5) Bahrain – Victorious/7241
6) BORA – hansgrohe/7125
7) Trek – Segafredo/5371
8) EF Education – Nippo/5263
9) Groupama – FDJ/5174
10) Cofidis, Solutions Crédits/5000
11) Movistar Team/4920
12) AG2R Citroën Team/4696
13) Israel Start-Up Nation/4543
14) Team BikeExchange/3586
15) Intermarché Wanty Gobert/3391
16) Astana – Qazaqstan/3229
17) Lotto Soudal/2907
18) Team DSM/2459
UAE gained the most points
PCS Points Gained/Lost This Offseason
UAE-Team Emirates +1672
EF Education – EasyPost +1470
Team Jumbo-Visma +1431
BORA – Hansgrohe +1374
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits +782
Groupama – FDJ +726
Trek – Segafredo +685
Movistar Team -16
Israel Start-Up Nation -52
Bahrain – Victorious -60
AG2R Citroën Team -120
INEOS Grenadiers -201
Team BikeExchange -331
Intermarché Wanty Gobert -474
Lotto Soudal -749
Team DSM -1120
Astana – Qazaqstan -1436
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl -2201
18) Team DSM
2021 PCS Finish: 18th
Just two years after a fantastic 2020 season that saw them win three stages at the Tour de France, grab a second-overall at the Giro d’Italia and finish 4th overall in the Pro Cycling Stats ranking, the team sits at the bottom of the BTP NET Projections heading into the 2022 season. This is a shocking fall from grace that has been accelerated by nearly all of the team’s result-generating riders jumping ship as soon as they get enough career capital to leave what many say is a micro-managed and overly controlled environment.
The Positives: It might be hard to believe, but the news isn’t all bad for DSM. While they have lost a significant portion of their best-known riders over the last few years (i.e. Marc Hirschi, Michael Storer), many suffered a dip in performance after departing the team, which potentially vindicates Team Principal Iwan Spekenbrink’s ‘my way or the highway’ strategy.
And outside of Michael Storer, the majority of their departing riders were either underperforming or had yet to breakout. For example, while Tiesj Benoot is a high-profile rider, he only has three career pro wins, with the latest coming back in early 2020. Illan Van Wilder might be a hot prospect, but at least this point, he is just that. The 21-year-old has yet to log a single career victory.
Welcome back John Degenkolb
Meanwhile, if we set aside John Degenkolb, all of their incoming riders are talented young prospects. I would normally be inclined to roll my eyes at a team playing the ‘but the future is bright!’ angle, but Spekenbrink has one of the best track records in the sport of developing unknown young talent. With this in mind, it isn’t crazy to think he can do it again and actually turn this off-season into a net positive over time.
The Negatives: Even if the team can develop their incoming prospects into stars, at this rate they will simply continue to lose them to more flexible teams. While the team’s structure is the reason for their development success, it also appears to be the reason so many riders have decamped over the years. And even while they have been able to cash out and re-invest the compensation from their mid-contract rider moves so far, this type of talent outflow simply isn’t sustainable. DSM needs to find a middle ground between a strict program and rider welfare, or risk falling out of the WorldTour into second-tier obscurity.
Prediction: Despite the crushing off-season point deficit, the team’s young riders, plus Degenkolb slightly overachieve in 2022, and the team finishes a few places ahead of dead last in the WorldTour team end-of-season rankings.
Full 2022 Roster:
17) Lotto Soudal
2021 PCS WT Finish: 17th
The Belgian team, which used to be a viable intra-country rival to Quick-Step, has fallen on hard times in recent years. This fall from grace was underlined by the news that their co-title sponsor Soudal would be jumping ship to back Quickstep beginning in the 2023 season.
As recently as 2019, the team finished 9th in the PCS team rankings, but severe roster stagnation, inconsistency from the team’s only true star in Caleb Ewan, and the rise of faster/harder/more intense racing that has decreased the chances for in-house breakaway artists like Tim Wellens and Thomas de Gendt have decimated their ability to generate results.
The Negatives: Management hasn’t done much to reverse this trend in 2022. They lose John Degenkolb and Tosh Van der Sande and outside of Victor Campenaerts, fail to add any true desperately-needed firepower.
In theory, Campenaerts, who is coming off a career season in 2021, could continue his rise as a breakaway specialist in 2022 at Lotto, but the team is already heavily-leverage on breakaway chances and has been unable to adapt to the more intense ‘always on’ post-COVID style of racing. Also, this addition only adds to the trend of the team signing strong riders who aren’t able to win often or generate many PCS/UCI points, which could severely penalize them in their relegation battle.
Campenaerts back with Lotto Soudal
The Positives: Campenaerts, who rode for the team in 2018-2019, has successfully transitioned from an also-ran time trialing specialist to a true road racing threat. In 2021, he won a Giro d’Italia road stage, finished 10th in the European Road Race Championships, 20th at the World Road Race Championships.
Prediction: The team attempts to squeak out just enough UCI points by sending star sprinter Caleb Ewan to second and third tier races to avoid relegation, but still isn’t able to beat their predicted 17th place WorldTour finish and is sent down to the second tier for 2023.
Full 2022 Roster:
16) Astana – Qazaqstan
2021 PCS WT Ranking: 11th
It is difficult to look at Astana’s last few months as anything other than catastrophically bad. Their transfer strategy saw them send out over half their 2021 roster, which included almost all of their top riders, and protests and unrest in their home country of Kazakhstan, which was driven in part by government mismanagement of the country’s finances (like spending millions of dollars per year on a cycling team). Making matters worse, the protests forced the country’s Prime Minister, an important domestic champion of the team and friend of Team Principal Alexander Vinokourov to step down.
The Negative: After a respective mid-table 2021 finish, the team has lost nearly all of its top talent in the recent transfer market. The ones that hurt the most are the team’s 2021 point leader, Aleksandr Vlasov, Ion Izagirre, and Alex Aranburu. All three were solid riders capable of producing consistent riders at major races, but the bleeding didn’t stop there. After the dust settled, the outfit had sent a whopping 4,415 PCS points out the door, while only bringing in a mere 2,979.
Another returning rider – Vincenzo Nibali
Troubling for the team is that a significant portion of those incoming points being to 37-year-old Vincenzo Nibali, who hasn’t won a WorldTour race since 2019, and Miguel Ángel López, a talented but infamously inconsistent rider. Both riders have raced for the team in the past, and the fact that Vinokourov’s plan of action was to flip through his old contacts lists in a sport where the top stars are trending younger and younger doesn’t bode well for the team’s strategic direction.
The Positive: Adding stage hunters like David de la Cruz and Joe Dombrowski from UAE at least gives the team a chance to snipe grand tour victories and bringing intriguing talent Simone Velasco up from Gazprom could yield a result or two. Gianni Moscon might be problematic as a person, but the Italian just produced one of the best rides of his career at the recent Paris-Roubaix and could thrive with the newfound racing freedom Astana will provide.
Prediction: Despite their terrible off-season, the team still has enough talent to avoid finishing in the bottom tier of the WorldTour. Nibali may be far from his prime, but his crowded five-Monument and two-Grand Tour 2022 race schedule will produce enough points for the team to finish well above their projected 16th place.
Full 2022 Roster:
# Spencer Martin is the author of the cycling-analysis newsletter Beyond the Peloton that breaks down the nuances of each race and answers big picture questions surrounding team and rider performance. Sign up now to get full access to all the available content and race breakdowns. #