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Counterpoint: World Cup Dual Slalom Isn't The Answer

Nov 5, 2021
by Mike Kazimer  
Spinning Circles column Mike Kazimer


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.

Mitch was on a mission and nothing could stop him.
Sea Otter slalom is a good time, but there's no need to add more elite slalom races to the schedule.

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.

bigquotesCut a course into a grassy field, build a bonfire, and let the late night shenanigans begin.

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.





Editor's note: if you're a fan of dual slalom, check out the Crankworx Rotorua live broadcast at 9:30 PM PST today.



78 Comments

  • 107 1
 Counter counterpoint: there should be way more dual slalom races that UCI has nothing to do with.
  • 64 4
 Counter counter counterpoint: Bring back 4x
  • 27 2
 @me2menow: 100% agree. 4x is was a great spectator sport.
  • 38 0
 Point: There should be way more races the UCI has nothing to do with.
  • 2 0
 @me2menow: yes. Please yes.
  • 1 1
 @dchill: some courses were. Some were embarrassing.
  • 2 0
 This is the way
  • 2 12
flag tbubier (Nov 5, 2021 at 18:04) (Below Threshold)
 @me2menow: 4x is nonsense. I'll see my way out.
  • 3 0
 @me2menow: why not both? I wouldn't mind seeing a full series of head-to-head gravity racing. I miss 90s NORBA.
  • 8 0
 Counterpoint: F*ck the UCI
  • 1 0
 @me2menow: amen brother.
  • 46 0
 Can't Mike and Matt just fight this out in the comment section like all of us punters do?
  • 28 0
 Or fight it on a dual slalom course... and film it.
  • 18 4
 If we are looking for another race format what about down country racing? Enduro-ish, but some of the stages are climbs. Make the course cater to trail bikes. Make the climbs hard enough to punish someone on an enduro bike. Meanwhile make the descent hard enough to punish someone on an xc bike. Not anymore of a broadcast sport than enduro, but maybe something.

Or is that maybe a good race format for ebikes? Technical climbs and descent stages. One battery and limit capacity so they have to manage the effort.
  • 3 3
 Enduro xc racing would be my dream to race. I am faster on the descents with an xc bike compared to a big bike... I'm confused too
  • 3 0
 It's called xc racing, you'll always make up more time going fast uphill when they are timed. There is not endurance sport that is won on the downhill.
  • 2 1
 @NorCalNomad: i was thinking more like stage racing rather than a continuous loop. Maybe it would still be won on the climb, but im sure athletes would adapt and train and the times would level out.
  • 4 0
 Super D anyone?

Mass start downhill with climbing and depending on course a 5" ish bike was perfect
  • 2 0
 Come race the Ashley enduro in Oregon next year! Winners are usually on a downcountry or trail bike and full face helmets aren't required. A few climbs in the course give smaller bikes an advantage, although I still had fun on my spire.
  • 1 0
 I meant Ashland Mountain Challenge. Stupid auto correct...
  • 1 0
 Yup, you're describing a stage race, like the BC Bike Race, Tans Cascadia, etc. Mass start, enough distance and climbing that even 140 mm travel will put you at a disadvantage, but technical enough that a thoroughbred XC bike will kill your time on the descents. It would be nice though to have a race format that caters well to the downcountry bike, but could be done in a weekend instead of 7 days.
  • 7 0
 I think it should make a comeback, but in the format of a timed trial event, like how they have ski slalom set up for the world cup/olympics instead of a dual slalom tournament-style format. That would make riders push a little bit harder IMO, because they would have the mindset of just going as fast as possible. In the dual slalom format, when someone gets way out in front, they push a little bit to hold their lead, and the other guy seems to pull back a little bit. I also think that it would need better coverage, but what in the MTB universe doesn't, right?
  • 7 0
 Dual salom works pretty well for festivals where it’s all about the rider! Dual is super fun to get a taste of head to head racing with out having to worry about what the other riders are doing!
The race format works great for festivals like the Malvern classic and sea otter! It’s one of the hardest and most drawn out race format to watch though. Just to watch the top 8 battle you have to watch 16 heats to find out who wins, and you only know has won if you can see a timing screen! Bring in 4x the tracks don’t need to be any where near as man made as Phil and team made them going back when the uci were hosting them! They could be come a lot less man made with a lot more natural features made from the hill! Bringing back the raw mountain bike style that has been lost over the years! This format is also easy to follow the person our front is the person that’s winning. Keep dual dead! You want a spectator sport. You want mountain bikes to be come more main stream. 4x is the simplest form of mountain bike racing to watch and follow.
  • 3 0
 can't upvote enough
  • 15 5
 If they're going to bring something back it should be 4X, not dual slalom.
  • 5 1
 1000% this. Passing the field on a wall-ride? …epic crashes and unexpected wins?! 4X is the best of bmx and slalom and park/freeride combined. Imagine current slope/slalom course builders having the opportunity to design a new series of courses with all the good oldschool features, but designed for the current group of mid travel trail bikes that lots of folks use for slalom these days anyways: bigger rock-gardens, a few sendy jumps, some loose duff corners/off-cambers, maybe the equivalent of a joker lap, like extra technical shortcut option, etc
  • 3 0
 @Tarka: I remember seeing 4x style racing in Xgames as a kid. I realize how old I just made me.
  • 7 0
 DS is fun to watch in person where between heats there's others to talk to and other distractions going on, but watching a stream of crankworx ds gets pretty repetitive. too much dead time between races.
  • 5 0
 The arguement Dan makes can also apply equally to Downhill Racing.....you don't need pro level DH to ride down a rocky trail in the woods. What Dan may be too young to remember, is way back in the 'good ol' days', bike racers used to ride XC, DH, and Dual Slalom all in ONE WEEKEND of racing. Dual Slalom was reserved for the last day when racers were winding down, hanging out with a few beers, and it was the perfect ending to a crazy weekend. Why organizers for racing don't do these types of 'all inclusive' race weekends probably boils down to greed, so don't blame dual slalom for being dual slalom - it's awesome, and fun to watch - especially with a backpack full of pilsner
  • 1 0
 And all on the same bike
  • 6 1
 It looks like 4x is the people’s choice. May be we should allow hockey style fighting too, after the inevitable block pass leads to hurt feelings.

I for one would like to see Super D make a return. Super D is after all, Enduro with climbs; or as most of us recognize it, riding your ducking bike.
  • 8 0
 Again, CHAINLESS DS FOR THE MASSES
  • 8 0
 Extremely correct take. The DH schedule is really, really bad.
  • 4 0
 "top DH racers shouldn't need to add another event to their already-full plates on a race weekend. " Lol wut? 8 minutes of qualifying and finals runs, plus half a dozen practice runs? Do they think motocross racers have heart attacks from the stress of 2x, 30+2 in one day??
  • 5 0
 Perhaps a live stream of dh qualies would be a good way to bring another event for fans to watch and for lesser know racers to get on the live stream.
  • 3 0
 THE ANSWER IS MAKE MORE RACES. period. you and you and me and them, and everyone just grow their little scenes as much as possible. YOU, WE have to do this. No uci and initially no USAC as well. all the great regionals started as that, REGIONAL. LOCAL, big mountain, Nwcup, SWSERIES, all of them: go organize races, go gather your community, do it with slalom, do it with 4x, do it with DH, and just KEEP PUSHING. grow your side hustle, get sanctioned, produce top level racers in about 10 years, and watch the money come to the racers, the organizers, and the community as it should again.
  • 2 0
 XCC works for XC because it's so similar, just shorter. having a ds event give overall points for dh doesn't make sense. If there's no points then none of the top riders will take part. Maybe having a mini dh race on a 30-40 second portion of the dh track with some points on offer would be better. Especially if the whole of the short course was filmed and streamed unlike the dh race. Or maybe even a shortish tech section where the fastest exit speed wins. I'd watch.
  • 4 0
 You both have good points. There absolutely needs to be more mtb festivals. So much missed potential. And definitely more dh races. We don't get nearly enough.
  • 5 3
 Soooo your wrong Kaz. The UCI supports (is involved in)indoor bicycle dancing and Bicycle soccer (Bikes that nobody will ever buy) People buy dirt jump and slope bikes all the time. (ill agree 1/3 of the people buying DJ bikes probably dont use them to their potential) BUT.....outside of the world indoor championships (and Germany), how many of those bikes have you ever seen?? None!!! DS and 4X should have permanent tracks and a series like BMX! (Fort William) Many use DJ bikes in the cruiser class at their local BMX track. How many people do you know with dancing or soccer bikes? How many do you know with DJ bikes? What say you?!
  • 2 4
 Downvoted without even reading your comment. Any comment that starts with "you're wrong" isn't worth reading.
  • 3 1
 I have ridden DH, tried slalom and 4x, got my ass kicked. But I have to say, when having a event, that is a party. 24 Hour Races are such a blast. Big fire pit, corn on the cob, and just plain bike porn festival. Let the Down Votes Begin.
  • 2 0
 I agree there is more room for DH races in the calendar, but I think double header events are not the best way to go about it. I know this is an unpopular viewpoint, so let me try and justify. They are often in very similar conditions (or even on exactly the same track) so they both don't challenge riders in different conditions and potentially favour riders who prefer a particular type of course. The close chronological proximity of races diminishes their importance to fans. Furthermore, if your goal is to reach a wider audience then I think races should become less Eurocentric.
  • 1 0
 I do prefer DH but from a live spectator perspective it is really easy to both film and allow spectators to watch the whole event in DS. I think if the argument is that "If we get more of anything it should be DH" then my counterpoint would just be why not more of all? Perhaps combining with World Cup DH is no beuno but I would love to see an elite level series separate from that develop to allow riders who shine in that discipline to have a stage to do that on.
  • 5 4
 Dual would deffo appeal to those with BMX backgrounds... As those with BMX backgrounds would enjoy the BMXy style of racing head to head, like they do in BMX races, which those with BMX backgrounds might favor, due to their BMX backgrounds.
  • 2 1
 Slalom doesn't need to be UCI'd.
Definitely need more WC XC and DH races. For example there are 16 Cyclocross WC races this season spread over less than 4 months and two continents.
Counterpoint, WTF is short track XC doing as a separate WC event? XCC is a qualifying event FFS. How can you be WC at qualifying?
I'd like to see XCE make a comeback though. I think with what modern riders can do on modern bike, this could be an excellent event (like pedaling, obstacled pump track)
  • 1 0
 The best part about slalom is that you can see the course from start to finish no matter where you are standing on the course. It is the best spectator event to attend especially at sea otter and also the UCI should have nothing to do with slalom.
  • 4 0
 Im afraid i cant agree with you...!!
  • 5 0
 mike... yuh kiddin
  • 3 1
 This is why I always click on Kazimer's content. Sometimes I wonder if he feels like he's the only sane one in an asylum lol.
  • 5 1
 4x roolz
  • 3 0
 Mountain bike jousting. That's what's up
  • 1 0
 Soooo.... pump track?
  • 3 0
 I don't think I have ever agreed more with an article in my life.
  • 5 1
 4x
  • 4 0
 Bring back 4x!
  • 4 0
 Def need 4x
  • 2 0
 More DH !! Dual slalom is a fun break during the race weekend
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer F1 is actually set for 23 races in 2022.
100% agree though, I think they could double the calender.
  • 2 2
 Same people who want slalom in UCI events geotag trails on Instagram.... thanks for this follow up, other guy looks like a dufus
  • 2 0
 Make DH World Cup races around the world. F the euro World Cup format. .
  • 2 0
 He's right -- DS isn't the answer -- four cross is.
  • 1 0
 I'd take even a couple of extra DH rounds over any amount of DS or 4X.
  • 2 1
 I want multi stage DH racing please tired of 1 and done
  • 1 0
 I wholeheartedly agree with this
  • 1 0
 Opinions are like a$$holes, everyone has one. Cute article.
  • 1 0
 And here I thought Mike was a good guy.
  • 1 0
 Deleted
  • 1 0
 Correct
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