By Suzanne Jorge, MTB Editor
In response to the ever-increasing popularity of endurance racing, the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced on Wednesday sweeping changes to the cross country UCI Mountain Bike World Cup format. In 2010, the Olympic-distance cross country will be eliminated and replaced by the marathon-distance cross country, which will return to the spotlight after a year's hiatus. In addition, the UCI will add a few World Cup stage race rounds beginning in 2011.
"We can't help but notice the trend toward racing longer single-day events and more days in a row, and we think these changes will reflect the interests of more mountain bikers, including more potential World Cup competitors," said a spokesperson for the UCI.
"Year after year, the racers have been competing on shorter and shorter World Cup cross country courses. Now they are just a few kilometres per lap," said the UCI spokesperson. "Should this trend keep up, we would have soon seen our cross country racers competing on something more like a pump track."
"With more racers extending their careers into their mid and late 30s, some of the elite men and women have expressed to us how tired they are of racing around and around small circles. It's not real mountain biking," he continued.
The minimum distance of 60km takes mountain biking back closer to its single-lap, old-school roots, and would benefit riders like current world cross country champion Christoph Sauser, who was the 2007 marathon World Champion, and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa. the reigning marathon World Champion.