Earlier today the EWS and UCI announced an agreement to work together. We sat down with Chris Ball, the Managing Director of the EWS, to get some answers about what this means for the sport and the series.
Thanks for sitting down with us. First off, what, in a nutshell, is the agreement?
Well, it’s a massive step. For the first time we are working in true partnership in the UCI. They’ll benefit from our expertise, and we’ll benefit from their infrastructure and governance.
Ultimately we remain in control of our series. Our structures will remain the same. We will help the UCI write the rulebook for enduro globally, that they can then apply to the wider National Federations.
All the normal criticisms of the UCI—they aren’t on the ground, they don’t get it, etc.—we’ll be there for that now. We have a seat at the mountain bike commission, helping shape the future of the discipline.
We are voluntarily implementing neutral governance, removing ourselves from potential conflicts and ensuring the sport’s fairness. “Did X rider deserve this penalty?” “What’s the fairest process to determine Y?” That’s the crucial aspect for the sport, and that’s what this agreement is about. Sport, fairness, growth.
Another big aspect of this agreement is that the Trophy of Nations changes for 2019. The 3 best riders from every nation based on EWS rankings form a national team. Then, the weekend after final EWS we host the Trophy of Nations race, where riders transcend trade teams and race for their nation. It’s the combined national team times that decide the win. The winning nation gets the rainbow jersey.
For me this signifies what EWS is all about, and the UCI is excited about bringing individuals together as nations. It’s great for federations to boost support, it’s great for fans, and it’s a huge aspect of this agreement for me.The event is still run by us, but now it’s neutral, officially recognized, and has the prestige of the rainbow jersey.
Is it something you can walk away from if things don’t go the way you hope? Or have you in effect signed the series over to the UCI?
We haven’t signed the EWS series over the UCI, and we can walk away if things don’t work out. We’re not selling the sport—we’re actually paying them.
How did this agreement happen? What was the impetus?
We’ve been talking to the UCI since we started the EWS, and since his election David Lappartient has accelerated things.
I’ve lost track of how many versions of an agreement we’ve had over the years. Going back and forth, us reaching understandings about what they need, trying to understand what responsibilities each party should have, and both of us operating at the level we want to.
I think people always assumed we were against the UCI—I’d left the UCI, things went back and forth on enduro, etc., but that’s never been the case. Our policy has been an open door since the beginning, and we always said that when the partnership could work, we want to make it happen. We’ve always done what we feel is best with the sport, and we always said we’d work with the UCI on mutual terms when it was the right thing for the sport
The initial reaction of many is fear that the EWS will take on the perceived negative traits of the UCI. What would you say to those people?
What do you think of the criticism and concerns?
I view people’s concerns as a huge positive. People are rightly concerned about something they care about. We’re on the same page as everyone who doesn’t want to see a good thing ruined; I’d be more worried if people weren’t concerned.
I love the remote, raw, challenging nature of EWS races. What kind of influence will the UCI have over venues going forward?
None. That remains with the EWS. Why would we mess with a good thing?
I can’t think of an instance where UCI works with a league or series on this level. In DH they control a lot more aspects of the discipline. What’s different about the EWS?
It’s definitely a new model for the UCI, and I think it shows a rapid change in the way they work. In every other discipline the UCI runs the show. So this is a new era for the UCI in that regard.
I think with the UCI of past there have been many challenges and rightful criticisms, but there have now been a few presidents who have helped move things forward.
There will be changes to the sport of enduro, but not in the things people are worried about; the trails, the racing, the people that we work with will remain the same. What will improve is the neutrality, the stability, etc. from avoiding sporting and commercial conflicts.
Doping has been a persistent concern among fans, teams, and riders. With the UCI involved now, how does that play out?
Basically WADA has a set of protocols which are linked to federations and foundations in all sport. Years ago the antidoping wing of the UCI split, for neutrality purposes, into something called CADF (Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation). They are tasked with monitoring all UCI cycling disciplines, and EWS will now be one of them.
Testing costs money, and now the next step is to roll out more testing. The EWS will ramp up the amount of tests we pay for, and over the next 3-5 years we’ll dramatically increase our doping controls.
The CADF is the very cutting edge. Cycling has tested more people and caught more people than most other sports, so we’re happy to have access to them now.
Will this agreement change your coverage? Will we see live streams anytime soon?
This agreement is based purely on sport and doesn’t impact our media coverage. In media we’re looking at lots of avenues to improve and expand our coverage year on year—for example our partnership with Pinkbike.
I’m excited about this agreement because it’s going to help the sport grow, and the larger the sport gets, the more we’re able to do. From doping controls, to media coverage, to everything.
Thanks for talking with us!Chris Ball will be joining us next week for an Ask Me Anything to address questions about their agreement with the UCI and everything else enduro, so get your thinking caps on!