Cyclo-cross racers from North America gained some relief after the UCI modified its rules for the discipline's rankings system, taking into account the numerous races that have been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The UCI published the special provisions for the cyclo-cross season on Thursday that allow points scored in the 2019-2020 season in races that have been cancelled this year to be counted toward the ranking.
The new rule states: "The UCI Cyclo-cross ranking published as from 17 November 2020 will include the UCI points from events of the 2019-2020 season if the same event is cancelled from the 2020-2021 UCI calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such points will thus remain and not be deducted until the end of the 2020-2021 season."
The UCI cyclo-cross rankings are critical because riders are lined up on the starting grid in order of their rank, which is in turn based upon the results of a 12-month rolling calendar. Because all of the UCI races in the US and Canada have been cancelled, North Americans heading to Europe for the shortened calendar and World Championships faced ever-decreasing rankings before Thursday's news.
"There's a lot of us on all sides of the sport who are pleased to see these measures that seek to provide some sense of normalcy in this crazy year. The impact on both competitors and race organizers cannot be minimized and it’s important to give credit to the UCI for crafting special considerations for both," said Brook Watts, member of the UCI Cyclo-cross Commision and race director for Fayetteville 2022, where UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships will next be hosted in the US.
"In particular, I’m grateful that the revised UCI cyclo-cross ranking system takes into account the points from cancelled events like our Pan-American Championships."
Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld manager Stu Thorne told Cyclingnews last week that the rankings were a big concern among the North American racers.
"The points thing has come up a fair amount. It's started as soon as the races in the US were getting cancelled," Thorne said. "It heated up a bit more as riders started sliding down the rankings. They [UCI] shouldn't ignore it. It's an unfortunate situation for a bunch of riders. Hopefully they come up with an equitable solution."
Pan-American champion Maghalie Rochette ended the 2019-2020 season ranked third overall but before the modified rules would have been ranked 15th or lower for the first World Cup on November 29 in Tabor, Czech Republic.
In the new system, Rochette is currently in fourth and American Rebecca Fahringer in seventh, with former US champion Katie Compton on the second row in ninth and current champion Clara Honsinger in 15th.
Rochette expressed her relief on Twitter, writing, "Thank you @UCI_cycling for coming up with a fair solution for all riders of all countries. You've done so much to make cyclocross more international in the last few years and I believe that this is a fair solution to continue in the same direction."
For the World Championships in 2021, the eight riders on the first row of the start grid will be the top eight on the current season's World Cup standings. For U23 men and women, the first row will be the top eight U23 riders in the World Cup standings, making the five remaining rounds in the series increasingly important for both elite and U23 riders.
The World Cup calendar was reduced from 14 events to just five for the elite men and women and U23 men, with the 19-22 women combined with the elites. There are four rounds with races for junior men and women in Tabor, Namur, Dendermonde and Overijse. The Dutch round in Hulst on January 3 is for elites only.
For 2021-2022, the UCI announced it would reset all points to zero except those gained in the 2021 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.
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