There are huge changes in the UCI mountain bike world cup as enduro, e-enduro and cross-country marathon join, and downhill gets a semi-final event
Get ready for one of the biggest shake-ups in the world of mountain bike racing and the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series in… well, pretty much since it began. The Enduro Sports Organisation (ESO) which takes over the logistics of the event from 2023 onwards has announced not only that Enduro finally join the series, but also that major changes to XC Marathon, XC Short Track and Downhill are afoot.
Detail is still relatively scant but is likely to be clarified over the coming weeks, as is the final UCI Mountain Bike World Cup calendar.
It will also be interesting to discover whether, with the news that Enduro is joining the UCI World Cup, whether it will be included in the upcoming 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, which take place in Glasgow and surrounding areas of Scotland in August.
The view from the top
Both UCI President David Lappartient and Chris Ball, CEO of ESO, commented on their excitement at these new developments, and their hopes that it will broaden and deepen the appeal of mountain bike racing to audiences new and established.
“These formats will add a new dimension to the reinvigorated series that is taking the mountain bike discipline to even greater heights,” Lapparetient said.
“Mountain bike racing has reached an incredible level over the past few years and this latest evolution will allow the sport to change gear again and accelerate towards an exciting new future, celebrating the discipline in all its forms,” states Ball.
“With more racing in short track and a new semi-final in downhill, fans will be treated to more action than ever. The awarding of UCI World Cup status for enduro, E-enduro and cross-country marathon will also put a greater spotlight on these incredible mountain bike formats and allow us to both push the front end of racing whilst maintaining amateur participation at many of our events.”
“Along with the UCI, we believe these changes will help broaden the appeal of mountain biking and enhance the race experience for athletes, teams and fans alike.”
Goodbye EWS, hello EDR
It’s been a long time coming with much speculation along the way, but Enduro finally joins the UCI World Cup fold. From 2023, Enduro will be part of the MTB World Cup series, and will officially be known as the UCI Mountain Bike Enduro World Cup, or EDR.
The Enduro format also sees a shift, with all events to be one-day only. Rather than using cumulative time, the EDR sees the introduction of a points-based system, with riders accumulating points on each timed Special Stage. Accumulated points over the stages will determine rider classification and therefore rider order for the last Special Stage of the race day, with the rider with the greatest number of points setting off last.
E-mountain bike enduro, which will be classified as E-EDR, also joins the World Cup circuit and will be run along similar lines to the EDR, but with several changes such as the inclusion of a technical climb or climbs.
Downhill gets a semi final
The UCI Downhill World Cup also gets a significant shake up, including changes to the numbers of qualifying riders, and the introduction of a semi-final event which will be broadcast.
Each downhill round will now see a semi-final event which will run between qualifying runs and the final. The men’s semi final will include the top 60 Elite Men and top 15 Elite Women from qualifying, and will give more riders the opportunity to be featured on a live broadcast.
The Elite final will now feature the top 30 men and the top 10 women, which is again to be broadcast; the “goal is to broadcast each of the 40 runs in their entirety live on WBD [Warner Brothers Discovery, of which ESO is part] platforms,” according to the ESO press release.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out with potentially increased coverage for many riders, although it’s yet to be conveyed whether coverage will be pay-per-view or free.
It also seems like a decrease in opportunities for women in downhill; currently, the top 20 women from qualifying make the final, so this is a significant change. It would be good to know whether there are plans to revisit this if/when the women’s field strengthens and expands, especially with the introduction of a junior women category for downhill.
Good news for Junior racers
Up-and-coming riders from a number of disciplines will also get a boost in the shakeup.
The Cross-country Short Track (XCC) event will now get an U23 (under 23) category.
In Downhill, Junior Women will finally get their own qualifying run, with the fastest 10 junior women proceeding to their final. And, for the first time, both the Women Junior and Men Junior competitions – by which we assume the finals – will be broadcast.
What we don’t know
The press release was relatively short, and we know that more information is going to come out over the coming weeks and days, so it’s not surprising that there are quite a few questions as yet unanswered.
Firstly, we don’t know the whole schedule for the new UCI Mountain Bike World Cup for 2023. Plenty of dates, mostly those around Downhill and Cross Country, have been confirmed, but there are noticeable holes with regards to certain dates and locations, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Enduro will slot into the schedule, not least because historically a number of teams and riders have crossed over between Downhill and Enduro within the season.
Secondly, we don’t have clarification on how we’re actually going to be watching the new UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series. While the ESO organises the logistics of the series, coverage will likely be run or organised via other companies within the Warner Brothers Discovery group. This includes Eurosport, the Playsports Network which encompasses GMBN, EMBN and GCN, Discovery Sports and more.
While Red Bull ran the series, viewers were used to seeing content including videos, recaps and live broadcasts for free via the Red Bull website. At the moment, it isn’t confirmed whether broadcasts and content will be free, pay-per-view, or a combination thereof. It’s also not entirely confirmed whether some of the elements above such as the Downhill semi-finals, which are to be ‘broadcast’ are to be broadcast live, or as a pre-recorded package.
We also don’t know what the changes mean for content creators outside of WBD; for example, for the various teams, brands, riders, privateers and media companies who have traditionally created videos around World Cup events.
One things for sure; it’s an interesting time, and 2023 could be the most newsworthy year yet in the world of mountain bike racing. Watch this space!