World Cup and World Championships broadcaster Freecaster is set to launch its own downhill race series in 2012, in the biggest shake-up to downhill racing in years.

Freecaster will no longer cover elite racing for the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), after a rift over royalties. The UCI is rumoured to be asking for €130,000 from Freecaster for the right to broadcast. That’s triple the previous asking price, according to Freecaster CEO Ray Dulieu.

Gee Atherton riding Fort William WC in 2010

Gee Atherton hits a rock garden at Fort William

But in a strange twist, the UCI has now invited Dulieu’s new DH1 series into the UCI fold.

“I spoke to the UCI this morning [Tuesday] and now the UCI want to add DH1 to the racing calendar,” Dulieu told mbr. “That means the riders will not be ostracised, no retaliation.”

Teams, riders, sponsors and resorts around the globe are keen to get involved with DH1, Dulieu says.

Perhaps that’s no surprise — the UCI would surely rather have a potentially successful DH1 inside its wrapper than outside.

Downhill details
There are plans to include six races in the series, with the final to take place at the gravity festival Crankworx, in Colorado.

Maribor is asking for a May date,” Dulieu says. “That would be a good start. I don’t want to start too early because the teams are upset they have to travel to South Africa. This is where we differ form the UCI, we want to work closer with the teams. This makes it more viable financially.”

Potential host countries will also include France, Germany, Austria, the UK and Canada.

Danny Hart: 2011 UCI Downhill world champion

Danny Hart practices for that whip, at the World Championships

Incredibly, there will also be a chance for amateur riders to race alongside the pros, although you’ll have to be pretty quick to make it. The race format will start with an amateur race on the Saturday, with a small final on Sunday morning. Then those top amateurs will compete on Sunday with the ceded pros.

There’s no XC or 4X in the offing, but Dulieu says downhill is well suited to live coverage.

And things will be run differently to Word Cups, Dulieu explains: “The UCI let the riders go on the course every two minutes. But if it’s a three-minute track you lose a minute of coverage on each rider. We want to match the start time to the time it takes to ride the course.”

So does this mean an all-out war between the UCI World Cups and DH1? Not according to Dulieu: “We don’t want to directly compete, but we couldn’t afford to drop it.”

Separately, the UCI has appointed Rockyroadsnetwork.com as title sponsor for the Mountain Bike World Cup.