The UCI and Warner Bros (WBD) have announced significant updates to World Cup mountain biking that will come into effect for the 2023 racing season.
These updates have been long anticipated with apprehension by racers and fans since the UCI announced a partnership with WBD, who replaced Red Bull Media House as the producer and main broadcaster of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
UCI President David Lappartient said: “The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup has been delighting athletes and fans for more than 30 years with multiple rounds being held worldwide throughout the season. I am thrilled that this international series will also include Enduro, E-enduro, and Cross-country marathon from 2023. These formats will add a new dimension to the reinvigorated series that is taking the mountain bike discipline to even greater heights.
“Also thanks to our partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery, the spectacular Downhill racing will benefit from greater exposure that will enchant existing fans and attract new audiences. I cannot wait to witness this new extended UCI Mountain Bike World Cup from 2023.”
World Cup Downhill format changes
The most anticipated news is around the World Cup Downhill, which has received a massive update to the racing format. Previously, racing consisted of timed practice, qualifying, and the fastest 60 men elite and 15 women elite from the qualifying rounds are entered into the finals.
The new format introduces a semi-final round which will see the top 60 elite men and top 15 elite women from the qualifying round race in a semi-final. The top 30 men and top 10 women from the semi-finals qualify for the elite finals. All three rounds will offer points, with much heavier point weighting for the riders who place well in the semis and finals.
How this additional round will affect racing competitiveness is hard to tell right now, though it will certainly add another level of pressure on the top riders who need to do an additional race run.
In terms of coverage, WBD promises increased coverage of the racing and more screen time for the riders. Stating that there will be coverage of the semi-finals as well as broadcasting each of the 40 final runs in their entirety live on WBD platforms. Not only that but WBD has said Men and Women Junior finals will also be broadcast for the first time.
That potentially adds up to a huge amount of Downhill mountain biking coverage and considerably more than the 30 elite men and 10 elite women coverage that Red Bull previously offered.
EWS is dead, long live EDR
The controversy continues as the UCI swallows up the Enduro World Series (EWS) to become the Enduro (EDR) and Enduro-E (EDR-E). The EWS has run as a separate entity since 2013 and has propelled enduro racing from a niche racing format to one of the most popular riding disciplines in mountain biking.
All EDR and EDR-E will follow a similar format to the EWS with riders tackling a number of timed Special Stages and untimed Liaison Stages, taking place over a single day of racing.
The main update the UCI brings to Enduro racing is a points system. While overall results will still be decided on an aggregated time over the day's Special Stages, there will be a points system for each timed Special Stage. The points then decide the order of riders for the last Special Stage, with the rider who has accumulated the most points setting off last.
Neither the UCI nor WBD has given any details as to whether there will be coverage of the EDR and EDR-E racing. That said the changes to the enduro racing format certainly lend themselves to live coverage of the final stage.
The entry requirements for an EDR will remain the same, requiring riders to have a certain number of global ranking points to qualify. There will still be amateur events held before the Pro racing too, with an almost identical format and in the same location as select EDR World Cups, although they will no longer be called the EWS100 or EWS80.
Cross-country Marathon is added to the World Cup Series
For cross-country fans, it's great news as Cross-country Marathon (XCM) has been promoted to a UCI Mountain Bike World Cup from 2023 onwards. It is currently unclear if the XCM events will be held alongside the XCO and XCC or take place as separate events.
It has been confirmed that next year there will be four new venues for XCM events but the locations of these races are still to be announced.
Chris Ball, CEO of ESO Sports, said: “Mountain bike racing has reached an incredible level over the past few years and this evolution of the rule book will allow the sport to change gear again and accelerate towards an exciting new future, celebrating the sport in all its forms. 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.”
If you are interested in reading all the racing updates yourself, all the UCI MTB rule changes are available online. The UCI has now also announced the full calendar of the 2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.