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Update: World Cup racing returns this September

UCI announced seven-stop adjusted 2020 calendar for XCO and Downhill

Emily Batty Vallnord World Cup

Update: The world is beginning to re-open from coronavirus-related lockdown, but not fast enough to save the Val di Sole World Cup in 2020. Today, the UCI canceled the Italian World Cup downhill and cross country round at the request of event organizers.

Val di Sole was originally re-scheduled for September 11-13, 2020. The event’s cancellation comes after Health authorities in the province of Trentino released new regulations related to COVID-19. These regulations forbid any international sporting events in the province until October 15, 2020. [Updated June 3, 2020]

For a while, it looked like there might be no World Cup racing in 2020. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) had been slowly cancelling or postponing races due to the coronavirus outbreak, but no new dates had been announced. A road World Tour calendar was announced, but still no news on mountain bike events. It looked like the season might just slip away

That all changed today. The UCI released a seven-stop 2020 calendar for XCO and downhill racing. The series is entirely contained within Europe.

At this time, the resumption of racing is still dependant on improvements in the global health situation.

“Our calendars remain dependent on the international health situation,” says UCI President David Lappartient, “but we are moving in the right direction.” The statement from the UCI added that “the health of the athletes and all parties concerned remain the overriding priority, and that all necessary measures will be taken in this regard.”

Finn Iles Leogang World Cup
Finn Iles racing the 2019 World Cup in Leogang, Austria. Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool.

Combined World Championships and other questions

The new 2020 mountain bike calendar looks a little different than planned and even different than other years. It is more compact, running from September to the first of November. There will be six rounds, plus world championships. Three of these will be “double rounds,” combining two race weekends into one. One double weekend for cross country racers, two for downhill.

One big change is to world championships. Leogang, Austria was originally scheduled to host downhill world championships. With the cancellation of XCO worlds in Albstadt, Germany, the Austrian venue will now see downhill, XCO, XCO relay, eMTB and Red Bull UCI Pump Track world championships. The combined world championships will run from 5 to 11 of October.

Catharine Pendrel
2016 Olympic bronze medallist Catharine Pendrel racing 2019 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne. Photograph by Nick Iwanyshyn.

Double Weekends and Olympic Qualifiers

There are still plenty of unknowns, and some new, unique challenges to go with the new format. Double weekends are the biggest unanswered question. Nove Mesto, Czech Republic will host the one XCO double weekend. Maribor, Slovenia and Lousa, Portugal are both hosting double downhill weekends.

It is not yet clear how these will work. Will they be run on separate tracks? Or the same track?

For cross country, position on the start grid has been, for the past two years, determined by an XCC short track race. This would see athletes racing four times in four days.

For downhill racers, a spot in a World Cup final is determined by a qualification run the previous day. Again, this would see riders putting in four race runs – two qualification and two finals – in four days. Usually, qualification is preceded by a day of track walk and a day of practice. If two different tracks are used in one weekend, these schedules would overlap.

There is another factor to consider for cross country athletes. Two of the XCO race weekends will count towards 2021 Olympic selection. The UCI has not yet stated which two rounds will count for Tokyo qualifying. Results from those weekends will, though, be added to the ranking as of 3 March 2020. That is the date which the UCI has already retroactively halted the accumulation of UCI points before racing was completely cancelled.

Jolanda Neff and Pauline Ferrand Prevot sprinting to the line at 2019 World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy.  Photo: Bartek Wolinski/Red Bull Content Pool.

2020 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Calendar

5-6 September: Lenzerheide, Switzerland (XCO/DHI)

12-13 September: Val di Sole, Italy (XCO/DHI)

19-20 September: Les Gets, France (XCO/DHI)

29 September-4 October: Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic (XCO) – two rounds

5-11 October: 2020 mountain bike world championships – Leogang, Austria (XCO, DH, XCR, Pump Track)

15-18 October: Maribor, Slovenia (DHI) – two rounds

29 October-1st November: Lousa, Portugal (DHI) – two rounds