Changes to calendar, rankings and more are planned
The International Cycling Union is considering a number of changes to rules for cyclo-cross, with modifications to the calendar and UCI rankings in the works.
Peter Van den Abeele, the UCI's cyclo-cross and mountain bike coordinator, talked with the press in Koksijde during the cyclo-cross World Cup round held in Belgium on Saturday to introduce the ideas, emphasizing that no decisions have been made yet to implement them.
"Nothing has been decided yet but we're informing everybody right now so we can gather feedback to adjust the rules where needed," Van den Abeele said
One of the key issues is the proximity between the MTB and cyclo-cross World Cup calendars. This year just two weeks separated the two, and the UCI has proposed to make modifications to allow riders competing in both series to have a break in between.
"This year the World Cup round in Treviso would have been better been organized during the same weekend of the Giro di Lombardia; it would have attracted more media. In the women's race, world champion Marianne Vos wasn't there because she wanted to take a break and Sven Nys wasn't able to ride at a high level yet after riding the mountain bike season," Van den Abeele said.
The lack of parity between the men's and women's calendars is also being examined, and Van den Abeele said next season the organisers of C1 races will be encouraged to hold races for both. "One year later, during the 2011-2012 season, we want to oblige them to have both races," Van den Abeele said.
Another change under discussion relates to the UCI rankings, which determine a rider's position on the start line. Currently, cyclo-cross riders start with zero points in September, and riders who miss early season races are at a big disadvantage.
A proposed new system would work much like the rankings in tennis, which use a one year rotation. This will allow riders who're not competing at the beginning of the season to keep a decent start position.
The UCI also intends to address a recent debate over the rules which prohibit organisers from manufacturing sand pits. World Champion Niels Albert complained after the rule was introduced, saying that the previous rider liaison to the UCI 'cross commission, Erwin Vervecken, had not informed him of the change.
"We want to make a strict ruling about the sand pits. They have to be top quality and safe," Van den Abeele said. "Some riders complained about the removal of some sand pits and the fact that they hadn't been asked about it. I can say that all riders have been contacted through myself or Erwin Vervecken, who was still in the commission back then; Niels Albert wasn't contacted as he was out of competition at that time."
Van den Abeele added that regulations regarding the height of barricades may be loosened. "The current rule is that they have to be 40cm high and 4 metres away from each other. We want to make those 40cm a maximum which gives the race organizers the chance to lower them," the UCI coordinator said.
"I want to emphasize that Sven Nys, part of the commission, decided not to discuss this matter to clarify that he isn't the one asking for this change." Nys, together with Zdenek Stybar, is one of the few Elite riders who can ride over the hurdles.
Finally, a travel allowance awarded to elite men for each World Cup round, based on their World Cup ranking, may be rolled into the final prize purse instead. "The 30500 euro we're spending on that would be added to the prize money which is currently 12000 euro. The 42500 euro we collect would be used to reward riders massively for their World Cup standings at the end of the season."
Your perspective on whether or not change is good for the sport might depend more on what decade you started racing then is does on what is actually good for bicycle racing. The old school MTB riders who still wear tydie t-shirts, are purest at hard, only know the original three rules, and hate change. While younger hucksters revel when careening down a mountain of scree at Mach-1. Seriously, UCI XCO has moved World Cups towards a generic autobahn crit style lap of 17 -18 minutes with 2-tech pits to accommodate the IOC (i.e., emphasize the human factor and down play the technical component). Rumor has it more change is coming down the pipe. Elite times may be reduced to an infomercial format to suit TV audiences, and death and gore on the proposed super technical descents will keep Latchkey kids them from grabbing the Wii.
Has this helped MTB and is a more tame and standardized format the right direction for Cross?
What is the difference between a road race and cross? My vote is for more… mud, sand, barriers, and Belgian knee warmers please.