Movistar looks to Tour de Langkawi as relegation fight builds

The showdown in Guangxi is off, but what about a clash in Langkawi?

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As the months of the cycling season tick down, the crunch point of the three-year battle to avoid relegation from the WorldTour fast approaches.

The last time we caught up with the dogfight to avoid losing a top-tier licence, teams were apparently readying their ‘A-teams’ for a showdown at the Tour of Guangxi. Unfortunately, as fun as that would have been, the Chinese stage race has been cancelled, an international sporting event incompatible with the country’s zero-Covid strategy.

With that decision evaporates a whole load of UCI points, and as the race to avoid the drop tightens teams are assessing their options.

Lotto-Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech still sit in the dreaded two positions below the line of safety, the Inrng keeping everyone updated with their meticulous points counting. This would mean both would lose WorldTour status but Lotto-Soudal would receive Grand Tour wildcard invites (TotalEnergies would receive the other set of Grand Tour invites due to having accrued more points this season).

Where there has been change, however, is in the positions just hovering above the relegation places. Having started the season in 15th, Movistar have dropped to 18th, less than 800 points ahead of Lotto-Soudal. Meanwhile, BikeExchange-Jayco move up to 17th thanks to a string of victories in the last week in Spain for Simon Yates.

“I hope that Movistar does not go down, it would be dramatic for Spain,” UCI President David Lappartient said in an interview with EFE. “The result is going to be very tight, there are seven teams in a handkerchief. But I think that Valverde will give them the points to save themselves.”

With this in mind, Movistar are the latest WorldTour outfit apparently heading to the Tour de Langkawi in October, the last moment of the year to pick up UCI points.

The last time the race was held in 2020 only one top-level team was on the start line, NTT. Now, five WorldTour outfits have so far shown interest – Astana Qazaqstan, Cofidis, EF Education EasyPost and Lotto-Soudal, as well as Movistar. All five of these teams currently lie between 15th and 19th in the three-year points table.

At the other end of the table, Quick-Step AlphaVinyl overtook the Ineos Grenadiers to move up to second place following Remco Evenepoel’s victory at the Clásica San Sebastián. Jumbo-Visma still sit top, more than 2,000 points clear.

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