By Rob Jones
The UCI Mountain Bike Commission, headed by President Daniel Baal, held an hour long briefing conference this morning to discuss numerous changes that will be implemented for the sport of mountain biking, starting in 2006. The briefing was wide ranging, covering everything from the World Cup, to new ranking systems, Olympic qualification and age categories.
2006 World Cup
The UCI has been working with 23 Degrees Sports Management (Martin Whitely) and Gestev (Canadian organizers of World Cups and world championships) to outsource the management of the World Cup, but doesn't feel the arranegement has been a success.
"The World Cup is the high point of the mountain bike season, but we regret that there have been no sponsors or TV program for the last two seasons," said Baal. "In 2004 we talked to the organization (23 Degrees and Gestev) about outsourcing management of the World Cup for 2006. For this year they had the possibility (of taking charge of the World Cup), and worked for one year. They did not have success. Despite a lot of effort and energy, there were not sufficient guarantees to start the agreement for 2006. Unfortunately, the marketplace and the economic conditions do not show the (required) interest in this program.
The UCI has another solution. “We will continue to manage the World Cup in conjunction with organizers," said Baal. "There will be six events in each specialty (cross-country, marathon, downhill, 4-cross). The schedule will be announced at the latest by October 1st. We have to face the economic realities."
Subsequent to the briefing, Cyclingnews spoke with Gestav co-owner Patrice Drouin who said his management team have had only 7 months (not 1 year) to work on the series and that they do have a 2006 distribution agreement in place - which will cover distribution to 100 countries – but it is not yet signed.
Drouin said that the agreement is "very close" to being signed, and once that happens, sponsorship will fall into place. He says he had meetings with the UCI yesterday, and believes there is still the possibility of an agreement falling into place for October 1st.
His group had selected eight venues (which they supplied to the UCI); six will now be selected for the 2006 season. The program proposed began the season with an event either in California or "the Caribbean", and one of those events is still quite likely to be the opening event.
New categories and ranking system:
The UCI will make a large number of changes to categories and the way points are awarded. The main changes are:
There are four separate formats for the sport: Olympic cross-country (traditional cross-country), marathon, downhill and 4-cross.
Only cross-country will be used to determine Olympic quotas, which need to be approved by the IOC. This removes the situation we saw in mountain biking prior to the 2004 Athens Olympics when some countries leapt up the rankings by scooping up marathon world championship points. National quotas will be determined by nation rankings, and these will be calculated by adding together the individual rankings of the top three Elite riders in each of the men's and women's categories. For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2006 and 2007 results will be used to determine quotas. For the 2012 London Olympics, 2008/2009/2010/2011 will be used. This will force nations to support the World Cup in order to qualify for the Olympics.
The points scale will be changed (not yet announced).
There will be an Espoir (U23, aged 19-22) category for the world and continental championships. The UCI will also encourage national federations to incorporate this modification into their categories. Separate Espoir events will be encouraged for other events, but in the absence of a separate category, Espoirs will compete with Elites.
Junior rankings will be added for the World Cup Downhill, and there will be only one category: age 17 and over. This is similar to 4-cross. There will be separate points tabulated, and a Leader's Jersey will be awarded to the top Junior. The Marathon World Cup will have only the 19 and over category. The world, continental and national championships will retain separate categories and jerseys.
Riders will no longer be required to have one UCI point in order to be able to enter downhill events.
The new UCI rankings will be reset to zero on January 1 each year. The overall rankings from the previous year will determine start position for the first World Cup of the season.
The UCI registered trade teams will continue to receive "advantages", including team names on results, listing in the team rankings and free entry (no fee) for World Cups:
- For cross-country top-20 ranked riders who belong to UCI teams
- For cross-country every rider on top-10 ranked men's team and every rider on top-5 ranked women's team
- For marathon top-10 men and women in individual ranking who belong to UCI team
- For marathon every rider on top-10 ranked men's team and every rider on top-5 ranked women's team
- For downhill top-20 ranked riders who belong to UCI teams
- For downhill every rider on top-10 ranked men's team and every rider on top-5 ranked women's team
- For 4-cross top-10 ranked riders who belong to UCI teams
- For 4-cross every rider on top-5 ranked men's team and every rider on top-3 ranked women's team
Teams will continue to have contractual obligations and have to pay a 1000 Euro registration fee. Teams are limited to a maximum of 10 riders per format and per team.
Medical monitoring will be mandatory for the top 100 UCI ranked men and top 20 women in the cross-country. In marathon it will be the top 20 men and top 10 women from the final World Cup standings of the previous season. The rankings used will be the final rankings at the end of the previous year. National federations will be responsible for the monitoring.