Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale set to focus on points race in 2024 in eye to take pressure off WorldTour relegation

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Oliver Naesen

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team, facing the risk of relegation from the World Tour, are grappling with tactical challenges and the pressure to accumulate crucial points in the upcoming season. Oliver Naesen, in a conversation with Sporza, revealed the team’s intense focus on gaining points, acknowledging a shortfall in the previous year. He highlighted the weekly emphasis on the need to improve and the significance of points. Last season there was an intense battle to score enough points to ensure teams stayed in the WorldTour, the first time that relegation actually took place after previous team closures and rule changes. Now 1 year into the next 3-year cycle, there are teams already starting to look over their shoulder.

Stan Dewulf, Naesen’s teammate, expressed a more critical view, underlining the importance of points for maintaining their World Tour status and ensuring participation in prestigious races like the Tour de France. Dewulf detailed a shift in tactics, particularly in World Tour classics, where the team plans not to rely on a single rider but aims to finish with two riders in the final for optimal points. In sprints, their strategy centres around supporting top sprinter Sam Bennett for maximum point gains.

However, Dewulf raised concerns about this strategy, questioning its alignment with the essence of cycling, which fundamentally revolves around winning. He pondered the dilemma of whether to secure a sure but lower placement for points or to take tactical risks that could result in a farther finish. These tactical decisions, he emphasised, might sometimes contradict the true spirit of cycling.

Decathlon AG2R is determined to avoid relegation to ProTeam status after 2025. Finishing 17th on the UCI ranking in 2024 has placed them in a precarious position. With two years left to secure their spot among the top eighteen teams, Dewulf and Naesen spoke about the need for a tactical rethink to ensure the team’s survival and success in the highest echelons of the sport.

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