The rules for calculating team results and rankings in the UCI Downhill World Cup may be changing for 2013. Presently, equal points are used for men's and women's placings, both of which count toward team results and rankings. The possibility of reducing the scale of the women's points has upset female downhillers, who met and protested at the final UCI Downhill World Cup in Hafjell, Norway, last weekend.
The women and some men wore blue armbands during the competition in support of keeping equal points.
There are already some differences between men's and women's downhill in World Cups. For example, 80 men qualify to race the finals while 20 women qualify to race the finals. In a typical World Cup, there are many more men than women in the qualifying round. For example, the recent Hafjell round qualifying results listed 148 men and 29 women.
Unlike in cross country World Cups, in which men's and women's team results and standings are calculated separately, downhill World Cups combine the results of men and women into a single team result for each round. Likewise, downhill World Cup standings also comprise combined men's and women's results.
Upon the request of the UCI, the International Mountain Bike Trade Teams, Technical Support and Race Organisers (IMTTO) recently collected input on the current team points system, and its members were largely in favor of making changes to the team points system.
At the time of this posting, the UCI had not yet responded to Cyclingnews' questions about the proposal to reduce women's points toward downhill World Cup team results or on its plans, if any, to incorporate such proposed changes into the rules for 2013.
A recent post on the GirlMTNbiker Facebook site explained the reaction of some of the women on the circuit: "The UCI wants to reduce the scale of points awarded to girls in the classification of the World Cup. But this poses a problem: if fewer points are distributed to girls, teams will have less interest to engage in girls, whereas today they can earn valuable points for the team standings. Eventually, more and more girls could find themselves without support and without a contract, if the importance of their participation in team rankings was reduced."
"To remedy this problem, a meeting was organized by the women on Thursday night.The girls have decided to protest during this round of Hafjell, wearing blue armbands to show their disagreement. The revolt was unanimous, all the girls wore this cuff today, also picked up by a number of boys who want to also support their teammates and keep a good proportion of girls among the participants of the World Cups."
Women's Hafjell World Cup winner Rachel Atherton was among those sporting the blue armband. She won the downhill individual World Cup overall, and her team GT Factory Racing also won the World Cup overall for 2012.