Mathieu van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix squad have jumped to the top of the latest UCI Europe Tour rankings, boosting their chances of winning the ranking and securing automatic invitations to all 2021 WorldTour events, including the Tour de France.
The Belgian team stand top on 3,492 points in the latest iteration of the rankings, published on Thursday, 73 points clear of Arkéa-Samsic. Van der Poel was responsible for much of the gain, which saw the team overturn a 319-point gap to the French squad.
His BinckBank Tour triumph added 450 points to their total, while Gianni Vermeersch, Jonas Rickaert and Tim Merlier earned 64 points at the race. Meanwhile, Petr Vakoč and Louis Vervaeke earned 44 points at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Arkéa-Samsic earned 367 points since the last ranking on September 29, with Warren Barguil picking up 320 points at Flèche and Liège while Dan McLay’s 33 points via two stage wins at the Volta ao Portugal made up the bulk of the remainder of their haul.
Despite the two squads being separated by such a small points gap at this late stage in the season, Alpecin-Fenix are now the overwhelming favourites to top the rankings for 2021.
Only 10 races ranked .1 or above remain on the 2020 European racing calendar, though neither team is present at the two big points-getters – the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta a España. In fact, Arkéa-Samsic will not race any of the remaining WorldTour events, while Alpecin-Fenix will be present at Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne and Paris-Roubaix.
Van der Poel will lead the team at all but De Panne, also taking part in Wednesday’s 1.Pro-ranked Brabantse Pijl. Arkéa-Samsic’s hopes of winning the Europe Tour will largely rest on Warren Barguil on Wednesday and Nacer Bouhanni at Paris-Tours and Scheldeprijs.
Alpecin-Fenix largely have Van der Poel’s 1,290-point haul to thank for their current position, a total he looks likely to boost as a big favourite for the cobbled Classics. Other major hauls have included victories at the Antwerp Port Epic, Brussels Cycling Classic, Dwars door het Hageland and the Belgian Championships road race courtesy of Vermeersch, Merlier, Rickaert and Dries de Bondt – another 625 points towards the total.
Should the team end the season top of the Europe Tour then they will automatically receive invitations to all 2021 WorldTour races without the obligation of having to race all of them, avoiding the necessary budget increases and licence fees that go with WorldTour membership.
As 2019 ranking winners Total Direct Énergie did this season, they will be able to pick and choose their calendar, with the spring Classics and a debut Tour de France for Van der Poel likely to be their focus.
“Mathieu van der Poel is undeniably the great engine, but it would not have been possible on his own either,” team co-manager Philip Roodhoft told Wielerflits. “If we make it, we speak of a real team effort, with Mathieu as the perfect leader.
“Let’s be honest. We are not ready to become a WorldTour right now. We continue to build on our team, strengthen ourselves, and attract another top rider with Jasper Philipsen.
“We don’t have a team to complete three Grand Tours and the entire WorldTour program. This scenario, therefore, is a lot more interesting. But let’s not sell the bear’s skin until it’s shot. We still have a number of races ahead of us.”