The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale, the sport’s governing body) has acted on reccomendations from the Mountain Bike Commission, to make next years World Cup XC events faster, larger and better to watch.
The men’s races have been shortened by 15 minutes a race, to reduce the overall length of the day’s racing programme. Women’s races will not be shortened, which effectively means they’ll be the same length as the mens. They are also dropping the maximum field size rule, allowing fields of truly epic proprtions to surge forth majestically in crowd pleasing fashion on the first lap. However numbers of also-rans will be controlled by a “devil take the hindmost” rule, in which any rider who falls 80% behind the leaders lap time, will be pulled out of the running.
To create more of a weekend event for spectators – and sort out the starting order for racers – the UCI are also introducing the option of a single lap time trial on the Saturday. This brings mountain biking in line with motor racing events where qualifying for the front row is a vital part of race strategy and means anyone coming to see the event on Saturday will see real racing. Cumulative championship points and a dedicated Time Trial Leaders jersey will also be awarded.
The UCI are also making every round result count towards the Championship, unlike this year where riders were allowed to drop one result. Not only does this increase pressure on rider consistency, but it also discourages riders from abandoning in the face of a mechanical or other problem.
Finally they’ve also noticed the massive popularity of citizen races (such as 1999 at Newnham) or “festival” events such as this weekend’s Roc D’Azur (with 13,000 entrants) and will “discuss the new strategies being taken to enhance the program of the World Cup with more citizen and support events, with the aim of creating Festival style events in the next 2 years, incorporating many elements of both competition and recreational offroad cycling.” So, if you’ve always fancied tucking your jeans into your trainers, leaving your map holder at home and lining up against Miguel Martinez and his pro pals, then keep an eye on forthcoming World cup developments.
After all the bitching and chuntering about Pro level racing dying and losing it’s grasp of reality / sense of entertainment, it looks like the UCI have taken notice and are going to do something about it. The 1998 and 1999, Newnham events were absolutely great weekends, combining the best parts of a big national “have a go race” and the chance to see the exotic animals in the pro zoo and we certainly welcome the chance of more events like that in the future.