While all eyes were on the Individual Time Trial World Championships in Bergen yesterday, away from the cameras the UCI held their 186th congress. At that congress, the current UCI president, Brian Cookson, was ousted from the role by his challenger, David Lappartient, in a landslide defeat - 37 votes to 8
As the governing body all cycling, most importantly for the World Cup and World Championships, the leadership of the UCI has a huge impact on racing at all levels through mountain biking. As such, we took a quick dive into his manifesto
and it seems that as mountain bikers we should be concerned by his election. Nowhere in his headline position statements does he mention mountain biking. In his detailed manifesto, you have to get to page 21 before he actually directly addresses mountain biking - and it only gets three bullet points at that. While his aim to use mountain biking in schools to introduce kids to cycling is laudable, his assertion that the UCI needs to "Develop the "enduro" racing [sic]" should probably make the EWS team a little bit concerned about how they are going to tackle the discipline. When we interviewed Cookson in 2015, he advocated looking for a partnership with the EWS, although it seems to have borne little fruit as yet. There is certainly the possibility that the UCI could place themselves in competition with the EWS, although it is too early to tell how this will play out.
As for the World Cups and World Championships? One of the more prominent pledges is to review the format for the World Championships, and integrate the event for the four Olympic disciplines. Considering that at the forefront of his manifesto he describes road cycling as "the highlight of our sport", it is no stretch to assume that XCO would be a junior partner in this dance and would be pulled along with the whims of the road cyclists. It is worth remembering that the 2016 road Worlds were in Doha, Qatar, it looks likely to lead to some interesting choices of venue from a mountain bike perspective and split XCO off from DH at that level. The better news is that regardless of how Lappartient leads the UCI, the organisation itself is a large, slow-moving bureaucracy, and in the short to medium terms, the people that keep that moving are unlikely to change, so the chances are that we will not see the impact of this election in the next year or two at least.
We will be asking the UCI for the chance to sit down with Lapparitent, much as we did with Cookson
, to find out more about how he sees the future of mountain biking with the UCI.