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Teams and riders face 'obligations' to compete in Cyclocross World Cups next year

Cyclocross racing may be in the off-season, but a series of changes for the 2024-2025 season have already stirred up some dust. On March 1, the UCI plans to implement “protected event” status for a select group of World Cup cyclocross events and looks to tighten “obligations” for highly-ranked riders to participate. 

Athlete participation, or lack thereof, from last season, was a driving force for the rule changes, which were reviewed during a UCI Management Committee meeting on February 2-4 during the Cyclocross World Championships in Prague. 

The UCI said the review of athlete participation at World Cup races began last November, “with the aim of ensuring balanced athlete participation in the different categories of cyclo-cross events”.

For ‘balanced participation”, a new rule states that riders in the top 20 of the men’s and women’s elite rankings will now “no longer be able to take part in national events”, according to the UCI announcement. 

In order to appeal to those riders, the UCI stated that all World Cup events must reserve the first two rows in elite races for the top-ranked athletes in the series.

For teams, a new rule stipulated that the two classes of cyclocross registered teams were obligated to send a certain number of riders to World Cup events, with UCI Professional Cyclocross teams required to send at least three riders across the men’s and women’s elite categories in all rounds of the World Cup. 

For the smaller designation of squads – UCI Cyclocross teams – they are obliged to send at least one rider in either category to a minimum of five rounds of the series.

Current Cyclocross Pro Teams include the Baloise Trek Lions, Deschacht-Hens-Maes and Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal. The penalty for not meeting the requirement for riders will be the forfeiture of their top-level licence.

A swirl of controversy began last season when Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions), placed third in the World Cup standings at the time, opted to compete in the Superprestige race in Niel, Belgium on a Saturday rather than the World Cup round in Dendermonde, Netherlands on Sunday. 

UCI Chairman David Lappartient harshly criticised the young rider’s decision to focus on his own programme, saying riders should “play the game”.

Lappartient also lashed out that if a national-level race was a preference over a World Cup for riders, then those individuals may not be allowed to start other World Cup races “and therefore won’t ride the World Championships”.

Other riders and team leaders chimed in about the hectic cyclocross calendar, with 14 or 15 World Cup events across Europe and North America in the past three seasons, rather than eight or nine events from the pre-COVID years. 

Other races on the calendar are part of the Superprestige, X2O Trofee and Exact Cross series. Riders now look to limit extensive travel and add rest periods in the build-up to the World Championships. 

“In the past, everyone could participate in every race. But now the calendar is so full that you always have to disappoint some organizations. This time that’s a Superprestige, but in the coming weeks, the riders will likely skip another World Cup,” said Baloise Trek Lions team manager Sven Nys to In de Leiderstrui.

On the organisers’ side for 2024-2025, the UCI will introduce “protected event” status for up to half of the races. This was to eliminate scheduling conflicts for riders, harkening back to the Nys situation where an athlete stayed closer to home and elected not to travel for a World Cup contest.

“This status will be granted to a maximum of 50% of UCI World Cup events and only when the event is of particular importance for the international development of cyclo-cross,” read the statement from the governing body.

“The granting of this status will enable the UCI to refuse registration on the UCI International Calendar of a race that wishes to take place the day before or on the day of a ‘protected event’.

“The introduction of this special status is intended to promote the internationalisation of cyclo-cross and to defend the prevalence of sporting interest when it comes to participation in cyclo-cross events. It also supports the solidarity mechanisms developed thanks to the UCI World Cup, the aim of which is to increase the number of nations taking part in cyclo-cross events.”

A calendar for the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Cup competition is yet to be announced.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
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