Sorry Matt Wragg
, dual slalom doesn't need to make a comeback, especially not onto the world stage. Elite level slalom is currently on life support, and I'm totally fine if it stays that way forever. And don't even get me started on my thoughts about speed and style competitions...
Now, before Kyle Strait shows up at my doorstep to tell me that I'm an idiot and dual slalom is the best thing ever, I should stress that I do
think slalom is a great activity, one that every mountain biker should try if they have the chance. The thing is, it's not something the UCI needs to be involved in, and the top DH racers shouldn't need to add another event to their already-full plates on a race weekend.
The best slalom races are semi-underground affairs, ones that take place on a rut track hidden in the woods, or in a backyard that happens to have just enough room for some head-to-head racing. Trying to push slalom onto the world stage just isn't worth it, especially since it's been proven time and time again that the races don't attract nearly the same number of fans as an XC or DH race.
Slalom is an event that tends to be more fun for the participants than the spectators. It's entertaining to watch for a few runs, and than it starts to lose its luster as the races drag on due to the bracket style elimination, which means racers need two runs per heat just in case one side of the course is running faster than the other. Compare that to XC or DH racing, where the fastest rider down the hill, or the first person to make it across the finish line after a certain number of laps wins – it doesn't get much easier to understand than that. How About More DH Races Instead?
If the goal is to give fans more chances to watch their favorite athletes compete, why not try to get more DH races put on the calendar? Next year there are eight World Cup DH races, which seems like a decent amount, until you consider the fact that Supercross and Formula 1 both have 17 events on their calendars. Granted, there are more fans and more money in motocross and car racing, but it sure seems like there should be a way to squeeze in at least a couple more World Cup downhill races.
Looking at the 2022 schedule, there's an almost two month gap between the first and the second race, and then there's another nearly month long break from June until July, right when some of the best weather conditions of the year occur. Adding in a double-header or two sure seems like it would be a great way to increase the number of races without incurring too many logistical headaches. It's obviously too late for that to happen in 2022, but it'd be great to see the calendar expand in the future.
Getting back to the great dual slalom debate, rather than dealing with the UCI, I'd love to see the number of mountain bike festivals increase. You know, the kind that are held at a venue that's close to decent trails with plenty of room for camping (actual camping, the kind where you sleep in a tent, not a $100k Sprinter van), preferably one with a stage for live music. That's where dual slalom really belongs – cut a course into a grassy field, build a bonfire, and let the late night shenanigans begin. Slalom, high jump contests, bicycle limbo – they're all perfectly suited to a party atmosphere, with hundreds of excited mountain bikers ready to heckle, spectate, and above all, participate.