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UCI makes sweeping changes to World Cup racing

DH semifinals, junior coverage, enduro World Cup and so much more are coming in 2023

Photo by: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

There are sweeping changes coming to World Cup racing in 2023. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) seems keen on using its new partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) to expand mountain bike racing and coverage, starting with Friday’s announcement.

A few highlights stick out in the broad announcement. There is the inclusion of enduro, cross country marathon and e-enduro in World Cup racing. Downhill racing gets a new semifinal, a qualification run for junior women and, finally, live coverage for the junior racing. There’s a new under-23 event for XCC racing. There’s so much more, though, so dive in for a closer look at the changes.

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Jackson Goldstone had a sensational junior career that went entirely unbroadcast on Red Bull TV. Photo: Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Downhill gets semifinal and junior broadcast

There are major changes for downhill in 2023, starting with the introduction of a third race run between qualification and finals. This semifinal run will include 60 elite men and 15 elite women, based on results in qualifying. It will sounds like there will be some form of broadcast coverage for this additional round, though it is not clear what form that will take.

The top 30 men and 10 women qualify for finals. UCI states that “The goal is to broadcast each of the 40 runs in their entirety live on WBD platforms.”

Junior women will also have a qualifying run for the first time, instead of a seeding run. That means that only the top 10 junior women will race finals where, in 2022, there were frequently 15 or more.

Finally, and this has been a long time coming, junior men’s and women’s downhill races will be broadcast live.

Jesse Melamed races EWS Whsitler
Jesse Melamed will get to try convert his EWS title to a World Cup win. Photo: Chris Pilling / Crankworx

Enduro joins the World Cup and changes race format

Most importantly, enduro shifts from the Enduro World Series banner to a UCI World Cup race (and new acronym, EDR). E-enduro follows as well, though participation in the EWS-E and World Cup eMTB series remain minimal after years of effort from both organizers.

UCI is also restructuring the organization of enduro events. All World Cup events will be single day events, whereas 2022 EWS commonly used a two-day format with a Pro Stage on Saturdays. There’s no word if the popular EWS100 and EWS50 open participation events will remain.

There are also big changes within race day. And they sound … confusing. In 2022, start order for Sunday’s racing was determined by placing in Saturday’s Pro Stage. With the move to a single-day format, that’s not possible. But UCI still wants the day’s top riders to start last. Now, stage results will come with points over the course of the day. Those points will be used to determine start order for the last timed stage of the day, with the highest-scoring rider at that point starting last.

Carter Woods
Carter Woods won XCO World Cups but there was no u23 XCC option until now. Photo: Andy Vathis

Cross country expands categories

There are smaller, but significant changes to the cross country race series. First, cross country marathon (XCM) racing will now be added to the World Cup series. Without the calendar announcement, it is hard to tell what exactly this will look like.

Second, an under-23 race is being added to the short track event (XCC) for 2023. Only elite XCC men’s and women’s were held up to 2022.

Full UCI Press Release

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) are pleased to announce that the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will be further extended from 2023 with the introduction of enduro and E-enduro to the calendar. This follows the recent announcement of the addition of cross-country marathon (XCM) to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

The existing Enduro World Series (EWS) is elevated to UCI World Cup status and will feature alongside cross-country Olympic (XCO), cross-country short track (XCC) downhill (DHI) and XCM. All enduro events on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will be one-day events.

Enduro (EDR) racing comprises several timed Special Stages – predominantly downhill – and Liaison Stages to reach the start of each Special Stage. On each Special Stage, riders start individually at regular intervals, with all their recorded times added up to decide the winner. To reach the start of each of the Special Stages, riders cover Liaison Stages either by bike or with mechanical assistance (chair lifts, trucks etc). Liaison Stages are not timed but riders must reach the start of the following Special Stage within an allocated time.

New at each round of enduro racing at the 2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will be a points system for each timed Special Stage. An overall classification according to points won will decide the order of riders for the last Special Stage, with the rider who has accumulated most points setting off last.

E-Enduro (E-EDR) follows the same principle but the courses will be slightly different, including challenging technical climbs suited to the attributes of an enduro E-mountain bike.

The integration of enduro and E-enduro into the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup is another development for the discipline since the UCI’s partnership with ESO Sports and Discovery Sports Events, two of WBD’s specialist sport organisations. The integration of XCM into the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup programme and the introduction of Under 23 categories for the XCC were announced in September.

Another enhancement to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup from 2023 will be increased screen time for the Elite downhill competitions thanks to the introduction, at each downhill round, of a semifinal between the qualification and final. Featuring the top 60 Elite Men and top 15 Elite Women from qualifying, the downhill semifinal will see men outside the top 30 and women outside the top 10 enjoy broadcast coverage for the first time.

Forty Elite riders (30 men and 10 women) will qualify for the final, where the goal is to broadcast each of the 40 runs in their entirety live on WBD platforms.

In addition, thanks to the increased participation of Junior Women, a qualifying run will be introduced for this category, with the fastest 10 proceeding to the final. The Men Junior and Women Junior competitions will also be broadcast for the first time.

The amendments to the UCI Regulations for mountain bike which will come into force on 1st January 2023 can be consulted on the UCI website.

The full calendar of the 2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will be published next week.

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.”

Chris Ball, CEO of ESO Sports, added: “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 semifinal 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.”