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Elite and under 23 women's cross country races separated for World Cup

The start

The start (Image credit: Tour of Japan)

Under 23 women will get their own completely separate cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Val di Sole, Italy, this weekend. The decision should ease the congestion out on the course that had resulted from running both categories at the same time as has been done in the other World Cups this season.

Prior to the 2011 season, the under 23 men and women raced with the elite men and women (respectively), but in the interest of helping young riders transition from the junior to elite ranks, they were offered a separate race this season. Top under 23 riders were still given the option to race with the elite category instead of the under 23 category, allowing for the fact that some racers mature sooner than others.

Throughout the season the elite and under 23 men have raced at separate times, sometimes on the same day, sometimes not, but the 2011 World Cup finale in Italy will mark the first time that the under 23 women will have the course to themselves. In other rounds, they would start just a few minutes after the elite women.

That near simultaneous start was causing chaos on the course. While lapped elite women were pulled as the elite leaders caught them, the lapped under 23 women were left in the race until they were caught by the under 23 women's leader. With the shorter courses, more under 23 women were getting lapped sooner and often in places were passing by the elite women was difficult.  It was also confusing for spectators to figure out who was in which race.

"Following feedback from teams and riders we have been able to adjust the schedule on Saturday to allow the Under 23 women to have their own separate race," read an official communique from the UCI on Wednesday.

At Val di Sole, the under 23 women had been set to compete at 11:47 am on Saturday just after the elite women at 11:45 am. Instead, the races for the under 23 men, elite women and elite men have all been moved up by one-half hour, so that the under 23 women can have enough time for their own race at 4:00 pm that same day.

The new format should work out better considering the large size of the fields on the UCI's preliminary start lists for this weekend. It also addresses the concerns about traffic congestion on course voiced by many elite and under 23 women.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the final World Cup in Val di Sole.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.