Chris Kilmurray, coach to riders like Tahnee Seagrave, Greg Callaghan, Greg Williamson and others, chimes in on how he thinks the 2019 UCI MTB rule changes are going to affect next year's racing.2019 MTB rule changes
For all the stick the UCI gets, the past handful of years have mainly seen positive or at least progressive rule changes. At the core of most of these changes is a collaborative process between the UCI’s MTB focused staff and the Elite teams that compete in the World Cup series. While it’s not all been plain sailing and rosy for riders and teams, the rulebook does need to advance, grow and develop with the sport of DH and, by and large, given the bureaucratic tendencies of the UCI, the development of rules & regulations for DH has been, these past few years, somewhat directed by the key stakeholders. 2019 sees some welcome and some surprising changes but overall changes that advance the professionalism of the sport.Course Marking
The 2018 Rulebook had a very arbitrary “you must enter the course where you exit” rule concerning leaving the course. This was brought in in 2016 after issues with interpretation of the then rules which left the definition of “advantage” up to the president of the commissaires panel. In 2018 with a few high profile disqualifications the need for a more ironclad rule on how the courses should be marked and defined was needed as that is what, in the end, governs then need for a disqualification. The changes for 2019 all seem positive, “tape” and “stakes” are now both mentioned for course marking and the importance of the latter for a disqualification has been clarified.Wheel Size
Business up front – party out back? The Mullet bike? I have no idea who lobbied for this change but the general rule of a bike needed front and rear wheels of the same diameter is gone for MTB competition. Again contrary to the opinion of many, the UCI have been very relaxed in applying the road cycling focused rules of Rule Book 1 to off-road disciplines; recognising the need for the sport's rules to reflect its rapid development – but turning a blind eye is a bit different to actively highlight and allowing “frankenbikes”. Maybe like our distant cousin, motocross, we will settle on a slightly bigger front versus rear wheel? DH and enduro now have the option of odd sized wheels, but not XC .. maybe I’m missing something? But either way rule 1.03.018 overrides all else and in theory bans 29ers?Running Order and Protected Status
The 2018 T.V. running order was a mess – but was a change brought on mainly by a few select DH teams. It was a change that resulted in a less than well-worded rule in the rulebook and a quick scramble to sort it before finals at DH WC #1
in Losinj followed by a season-long mess! It was always going to be a “try it and see” change and we clearly saw it didn’t work – so back to a more sensible system. Although the wording is very awkward in the rule amendments, there are not 5 spots for men and 3 for women for non-protected riders to start in their reverse qualifying order for finals. A positive and workable system. The top 3 junior men and women from current standings are now also protected for finals which is a hotly debated change among some team managers.Timed Training
A small but potentially important change for a select few riders. Juniors from the top 10 male and top 3 female WC ranking of 2018 will be allowed timed practice in 2019 at the first race. It may seem small but that timed session can be crucial practice time for riders – so as a first-year Elite on a new track in Maribor it could be a season-changing positive for some.eMTB, Snowbikes and Pumping
I’m not sure what to say here, but I have some pretty strong eOpinions. That aside it seems to me that if the UCI legislate for these events they are more likely to get event organises on their books, so to speak, early. Cycling disciplines are growing, none faster than ebiking. So it makes sense. The standout oddity for me is allowing 20” wheels in MTB pump track competitions… that’s just BMX and they are certainly faster around a pump track than a 24” wheel… right?
The changes to the rulebook are highlighted in red:
Photos: Matt Wragg, Andy Vathis, Paris Gore, Ross Bell, Paul Cram, Dave Trumpore & Hannes Berger.