June 1/11 12:38 pm - 2012 Mountain Bike World Cup Starting to Take Shape
Posted by Editor on 06/1/11
The UCI will not release the planned schedule for the 2012 World Cup for a few more weeks, but we have managed to piece together an idea of what it looks like for next year - remember, none of this is official, and is subject to change.
Since 2012 is an Olympic year, it tends to mess with the schedule a bit. On a positive note, it looks like the UCI has more bids for the World Cup then there are spots, and many are from new locations. Among the options are two from South America (Argentina and Brazil), South Africa (Pietermaritzburg), Canada (Mont Ste Anne), China and Europe (UK (Dalby Forest and/or Fort William), Belgium (Houffalize), Germany (Offenburg), Czech Republic (Nove Mesto Na Morave), Italy (Val di Sole), Switzerland (Champery)). Missing is the United States (there was a California bid, but it dropped out) and Leogang (Austria) because it is doing the world championships. There is still the possibility of a second event in Canada, so the teams won't have to just come over to North America for one event.
Clearly, not all of these events will take place in 2012. Among the more certain options are South Africa, one South American bid, Mont Ste Anne, Germany, Czech Republic, the UK (one or both) and Switzerland. China is unlikely for 2012, but a strong possibility for 2013.
The 2012 season is likely to follow this format:
March 17-18 - Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
April 14-15 - South America
May 12-13 - Europe
May 19-20 - Europe
June 30 - July 1 - Canada
July 28-29 - Europe
August 11-12 - Olympics
August 23 - September 2 - World Championships, Leogang, Austria
September 8-9 - Europe (World Cup Final)
If a second Canada stop happened it would probably be the second weekend in July (7-8).
You might also noticed an extended period for the Worlds, over two weekends. The Leogang organizers have requested and received approval to do this, because the Cross-country and Gravity sites are not at the same location (they are relatively close to each other). The teams and media are not favouring this option because there is a feeling it will reduce coverage, spectators and be more costly.
There is also a good chance that this will be the final season of the 4-Cross. Despite being spectator and television-friendly, it is highly expensive to build the courses (Windham, US, pulled their 4-cross this year), and rider turnouts are less than stellar (especially for the women, with less than ten showing up for most events).
On the other hand, the UCI is making a big push with the Eliminator short track-style event, and it could replace the 4-cross as early as next year. There are still struggles with getting top riders to compete - there is a concern that if you compete on Friday evening and your top rivals don't, you could be at a disadvantage for the cross-country on the Sunday. The first event in the town of Pickering (near Dalby Forest) was an enormous success, with thousands lining the streets. Offenburg wasn't so successful, but mainly because the organizer wanted to drop it and was persuaded by the UCI to keep it, but provided little promotion and did not do it in the town.
Options being discussed to increase participation by top riders and teams include providing incentives (World Cup points, like for the qualifier in the Downhill), mandatory participation for the top 16 to 32 riders in the World Cup standings (plus wildcards from a qualifier time trial) and start positions for the cross-country based on results of the Eliminator. Reactions from the teams and riders we have spoken with about these ideas are mixed (from favourable to highly negative...).
However, the UCI feels that mountain biking is under the gun for Olympic participation, and sees the Eliminator as a possible Olympic event for the future. The IOC, despite all their talk of sporting ideals, is fixated on TV numbers, and BMX did very well in Beijing, while mountain bike was not so strong. There is a very real danger of seeing mountain biking replaced by Freestyle BMX and/or Skateboard (and no, it is not April 1st...), hence the shorter laps and shortened races that we are seeing.
Remember, none of this is confirmed at this point...