Pinkbike Poll - What Matters Most: World Cup or World Champs?

Sep 14, 2018
by Mike Levy  
Well, that was a hell of a season. On the downhill side, we had some of the tightest racing in the history of the sport, at least in the men's field. We also have a new World Cup overall winner in Amaury Pierron who, while he had some success previously, really came into his own in 2018. The new generation is here, it seems, and they're fast as hell. And what's left to say about Rachel Atherton? She returned from some injuries to add to her World Cup tally (is it 1,000 wins yet?) and yet another World Champs title. Legendary domination, really.

The cross-country crew made it an exciting year, too, with Nino having his work cut out for him, and battle after battle in the women's field that culminated in an incredible final lap upset by Kate Courtney in Lenzerheide. Wild times. Cross-country racing is strong and, thanks to some great live coverage, and it's more electrifying than ever before.


Image by Piotr Staron
That's gotta feel good. Kate Courtney slipped away from Annika Langvad on the final lap and took America's first elite cross-country gold medal in seventeen years.


If you follow racing, and I mean really follow racing, you no doubt have an opinion when it comes to what's more important: A season-long World Cup series that takes into account consistency over the year, different venues and courses, and some strategy... Or the one-day, all or nothing World Champs where racers must deal with a special kind of pressure.

So, if you were a top-flight racer who needs to pick one to focus on, would you care more about the World Cup overall title, or would representing your country at the one-day World Championships sit at the top of your priority list?


What would matter more to you: The World Cup overall title or winning World Champs?

If you were a top racer, would you care more about winning the World Cup overall title, or would you put more weight on being a World Champion?



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91 Comments

  • + 148
 STRAVA KOM!
  • + 22
 This one ^^ especially when you are competing against e bikes going uphill!!
  • + 1
 @slickwilly1: right on bruda.
  • - 3
 As long as spandex is used who cares.
  • + 5
 They should have a World Cup for most negative props in the PB comments.
  • + 5
 @kubaner: waki would win because people don’t get him ahaha
  • + 65
 I never understood why one random race per year was designated "World Champs" and everyone places so much importance on it despite the fact that it really isn't any different than any individual World Cup race. It's not like in golf for example, where the top pros might skip some of the smaller tournaments but then everyone attends The Masters. In world cup MTB everyone shows up to every race anyways.
  • - 63
flag PhattyMatt (Sep 14, 2018 at 12:20) (Below Threshold)
 Clearly you haven't raced which explains your lack of understanding.
  • + 11
 I think it’s more about the competition between countries. Taking the teams out of it and letting the racers race among their fellow countrymen under the same flag.
  • - 1
 As a part time golfer/mtbr I agree. I would add that Hardline would be a major....
  • + 25
 Ever heard of the Olympics?
  • + 11
 As a spectator I just enjoyed that special race at the end of the season. Good finish.
  • + 32
 Would you rather podium (not win) every World Cup race, win the overall, but know that there's always at least someone faster than you at each race?

Or would you rather win World Champs and know that you're faster than the fastest racers in the world who are all giving it everything they've got?
  • + 6
 @Rubberelli: For specific sports the Olympics is a big deal, for other's it isn't. Does anyone care who won the gold medal for golf at the olympics? What about road biking? What about basketball? What about soccer? For Track & Field it might be the #1 thing but I don't think the same necessarily logic applies to MTB (or most sports for that matter).

And another thought - I cheer for Canadians in both the regular World Cup and also the "World Champs". I would be just as happy if a Canadian won a world cup race as I would if a Canadian won World Champs.
  • + 20
 Actually, I would say that the field of racers is weaker in World Champs vs. World Cup since each country has some sort of quota. Prime example = Gee Atherton not racing World Champs this year.
  • - 2
 @bull-dozer: While the overall field is definitely weaker at World Champs, the normal Top 20 from World Cup are still at World Champs, which is where the vast majority of World Cup victories comes from. The glaring exception to this is this year with Gee out and Maes in.
  • - 3
 @MTBrent: Win world champs. Being world champion is more prestegious than winning the world cup overall
  • + 0
 @bull-dozer: Every World Cup racer has to show up at every World Cup if he/she wants to win the Overall, there are simply too few races per year to do otherwise. Golfers, on the other hand, don't need to do that because there is basically a tournament every single weekend of the year. You can easily skip what you want and not lose out.
  • + 5
 @MTBrent: I'd prefer winning a single regular season DH stop so I know I'm the fastest racer in the world on that day, against the rest of the fastest racers. There are plenty of really fast riders who cannot compete in world champs and some who do race but have never set foot on a DH-level track before.

When it comes to racing, reg. season is way more important but when it comes to watching, World Champs hands down is the best.
  • + 6
 @drjonnywonderboy: Why? Winning world champs means you won 1 race that is it! Winning the world cup overall means you can win races in several different race courses and shows you are stronger then everyone else over the whole season! Everyone talks about Nico Vouilloz's 10 World Championship titles (still less than Anne Caroline Chausson's 12) but I find his 5 World Cup overalls WAY more impressive! He did it all before he turned 26 too!
  • + 3
 @SintraFreeride: But it's not necessarily true that you can win the Overall by winning races. It's totally possible to take the Overall title yet not win a single race (or conversely win the most races yet not win the Overall), whereas you cannot be World Champion without winning.

Both are incredibly impressive, yet both require different things. Again, that our sport has both in the same year is an awesome thing that other sports simply lack. And that is really sweet that we get to celebrate both avenues to greatness within our sport.
  • + 2
 World Champs is such a unique race for the season. The pressure to win this one race is immense, much more so than a World Cup. Lenzerheide was a perfect example. I remember a couple of years ago racers were saying the rainbow jersey didn’t mean as much as an overall World Cup but I think that’s beginning to swing around. You could see from the emotion of both Loic and Rachel how much it meant to win this year (both in tears at one stage). It’s not just another race, the crowds are bigger, the media presence is bigger and the infrastructure is next level. Being trackside as a photog at both a World Cup and World Champs this year you could clearly see how much bigger Lenzerheide was! I also love the fact that you have racers from all over the world attend (even if they have no chance of medalling), the smile on their faces as they crossed the line was a story in itself! I really think as a racer there is something extra special about representing your country (even if sometimes selectors get it wrong).
  • + 4
 World Cup circiut is about consistency and strategy.

World Champ is full gas, all or nothing, leaving everything on the line. Hence usually why it’s at the end of the season.
  • + 1
 the real reason is that the UCI wants to have as many races and winners as possible because it's good for the economy of the sport. it worked by the fact that we all care about both winners and are now debating which race is more important.
  • + 1
 If I was a pro I'd care most about making a living, so whatever gives that. That aside, the commentators etc seem to get all excited about the DH world champs, to me it's just another race. Even in road racing, where the rainbow stripes have a much longer pedigree, it's a only a one day race and can often only be won by a certain type of rider. Still wearing the stripes would be mega cool.
  • + 1
 You know what golf stands for right?
  • + 31
 I always wonder why World Championship is such a big deal when obviously the most consistently superior World Cup racer is clearly a better demonstration of a racers abilities.

The whole “winning for your country” thing is pointless, as everyone is aware of what country the World Cup overall winner hails from.

Bruni seems like a nice guy, but Pierron clearly deserves all the accolades. Which is why I find World Championship somewhat obnoxious as it only serves to take away from the rider who just crushed an entire World Cup season.

They need to tweak it somehow so that it’s still a big deal, but so that it doesn’t detract from World Cup.
  • + 8
 No tweaking necessary, it completely gets the point across- who is the best at riding bikes over a season vs who is best in an all or nothing scenario. Loic has proven repeatedly that he is best in that situation, it's a completely different mindset than a wc race, honestly may as well be a different sport
  • - 1
 @jjcrawley: Couldn't agree more. Loic has (repeatedly) proven he's the fastest DH rider in the world. Not the most consistent, but the fastest.
  • + 7
 To say that Pierron deserves ALL the accolades completely misses the point of Bruni coming back from injury and then winning two races this year, World Champs included. World Cup Overall is one thing. World Champs is another. That both exist is awesome.
  • + 15
 @MTBrent: you really think Bruni is a faster racer than Gwin the last 3-4 seasons? Not a chance.
  • + 8
 @jjcrawley: no offense but the “all or nothing” thing sounds like marketing more than anything.

I think if you asked Pierron about every World Cup race he’d probably say they were all “all or nothing” races for him. I’d argue that for the top 4-5 finishers that every race is “all or nothing”.

World Champs is exciting and I’m happy to have an extra race to watch, but ultimately I feel like it’s mis-branded.

The BEST rider in the world this year was Amoury Pierron. Therefore the CHAMPION of downhill in the WORLD is Pierron.
  • + 3
 @MTBrent: tf are you on about?
  • + 1
 @MasterSlater: But alpine ski racing has a similar format to mountain biking, and I really don't ever hear people complain about it. This seems to be a talking point mainly in the mountain biking community...

Even Sam Hill has said that it is all or nothing, and more so than a normal WC round. Yes, World Cup racers want to win the World Cup race they are participating in, they hate leaving anything on the table. But the consequences of winning the World Champs race is what makes it even more all or nothing. No points for second place.
  • + 0
 @MasterSlater: how can you say they’re both the same stakes?

Normal WC may be all or nothing for those trying to prove themselves, but for the competitive pool there is strategy and a points race.

Worlds is the last race of the season and doesn’t impact the overall so it truly is an all or nothing.
  • + 20
 If I were to win only one race, world champs it is. However if given the choice I would choose world cup overall title vs world champion.
  • + 10
 World Cup overall win demonstrates your regularity and committment as a racer during the whole season. World Champs is a great highlight to a career and the rainbow stripes is prestigious, but it does not reflect an overall domination like WC wins (as much as I love Bruni).
  • + 12
 Next Pinkbike poll- what is more fun, riding your bike or not riding at all?
  • + 6
 I am more impressed by a consistent performance than an occasional spark of brilliance. Winning once might be mostly luck or circumstance; winning consistently can only be done by someone who is truly at the pinnacle of their sport.

That said, I certainly enjoy the excitement of those stand-out performances.
  • + 2
 How about the multiple world champs winners, they surely demonstrate that in high pressure all or nothing they can turn it on and go faster than everyone else.
  • + 7
 @StevieJB: Lets's look at the men:
Riders with 3 or more world champs medals:
Nico Voiulloz
Greg Minaar
Sam Hill
Gee Atherton
Fabien Barel
Loic Bruni
Steve Peat

Most of whom won multiple UCI overalls as well. Aaron Gwin is the only multiple overall WC winner who isn't on that list. Only Fabien Barel and Loic Bruni didn't win the WC overall at some point.

I guess my point is that mostly we're talking about the same people anyway. Those who have won either world cup overalls or world champs come from a list of about 10 names.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UCI_Mountain_Bike_%26_Trials_World_Championships_%E2%80%93_Men%27s_downhill#Medal_table_by_rider
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UCI_Mountain_Bike_World_Cup#Men_4
  • + 1
 @CaptainBLT: how weird would this list have been with Martin Maes in it...
  • + 0
 @CaptainBLT: pretty sure Peaty only got one, Canberra, '09.
  • + 1
 @watchtower: Yes and Barel and Gee only won 2
  • + 1
 @watchtower: Medals, not Golds. In a conversation about consistency I considered any podium (top 3) relevant. That's also the way Wikipedia has the data organized.
  • + 6
 Tough question; however, this is were many sports, particularly motorsport gets it right. The World Championship is a season long event, were the best, most consistent wins - and allows for an off day due to illness or mechanicals. You can't 'luck in' to a season long championship - whereas in a 'one off' event you can.

Look at the CX World Championship in February; MvdP had dominated the whole season with about 30 wins - turns up and has an off day, finishing 3rd.

In my view, the World Champion should be the Number 1 based on results over the season, not on a particular day.
  • + 0
 And this is why mountain bike World Cup is arguably better- both titles exist in the same season. There is the season long title, called the World Cup Overall. And there is a separate title called World Champion. People arguing that motorsports does it right is missing the point. Both forms of racing have an overall title- that's not gone from mountain biking. The overall race is just referred to by a separate name.
  • + 4
 There is so much variety in one World Cup season. Different tracks, weather conditions, constant threat of injury from racing or training, fatigue, etc. To be consistent through a season is amazing. World Champs though you have everyone going bat-shit-crazy, balls-to-the-wall going for a win or top three. Not trying to take it easy-ish so you can get good points for the overall. That would be fucking hard - so many people trying SO hard to win it. If I were a racer, I believe I would want to win World Champs though just to get those goddamn stripes. You get that jersey for a season and then get to have the strips on kit going forward. You can see though from Gwin and Bruni that they both want the win that they haven't had yet. Gwin for the World Champs and Bruni for the overall. Interesting question for sure.
  • + 3
 I enjoy both formats. The World Cup for all the different courses, consistency throughout the season, strategy, etc. World Championships to see who can put it all together on that one day and wear the rainbow stripes for a year. History and tradition are important to me and that is why those rainbow stripes get the slight edge in my opinion over a World Cup series. Wearing those stripes does put a lot of pressure on the shoulders and seeing how they perform in the following years World Cup is pat of the excitement. Bruni's past two World Cup season were, in my opinion, only ok, but to see him take the World Championships last year and this year was very exciting. He was able to put it all together for that one special day.
  • + 3
 I prefer world cup because to win it means you are the most consistent rider through out the year not the best on the day, imagine say nino winning everything all year being the world cup winner, then at the world champs is sick in the morning, or suffers a major mechanical. so he doesn't wear the rainbow but is still the best rider in the world, but it isn't reflected by not having the rainbow jersey.
  • + 2
 More answers wouldn’t have gona a miss
Overall is important as in consistency over a season but like another said one race to prove ya faster than everyone in the race they are giving it they’re all, I think the both important as each other and I like the way it’s run. Just need a longer wc season
  • + 2
 World Champs, Same league as the Olympics. Representing your country. One run, no guts no glory. Put it on the line. Fastest rider gets the stripes for life. Hart and Bruni know what it feels like, Gwin doesn't. I reckon Gwin would gladly swap a handful of WC victories to have the stripes for life.
  • + 5
 Bet you I know what Danny hart and bruni would answer. I think at this stage Gwin would agree with them
  • + 1
 This. World cup is practice for world champs. Get it together for the big race!!
  • + 2
 You have to remember that the winning margins at all of these races are very slim. Calculate the top 20 riders individual times, add them up over the course of the season. I bet the order of things would have changed. Even allow qualifiers ‘ time.

You win a race, you are the better rider that day.

World Champs. Some riders are willing to accept injury as an outcome of laying on the line.

Stragety during the World Cup season dictates to “pace” yourself ???? and be injury free.
  • + 2
 Once you place the rainbow stripes on your jersey, you can keep them forever. And your paycheck is higher for the rest of your career. Only winning the olympics is bigger. Even a bronze at the olympics for xc guys gives more exposure that a rainbow jersey. World cups are major but there is less media exposure than Championship. It depends how the rider perform on each race.
  • + 1
 I think something like World Championships matter when the country actually invests in their athletes. In BMX for instance, yes I think it makes sense. At least here in The Netherlands, these athletes ride and train with the national team all year. I don't think this goes for mountainbike disciplines, at least not as far as I could see. Sure back in her 4X days Anneke Beerten was also training with the BMX team (under guidance of ex-team mate Bas de Bever) at the Olympic training facilities but I think most of the support still comes from the regular team. I think the whole national thing around the mountainbiking worlds is a disgrace. If the country is so proud of these athletes, they should actually invest in them when it matters.

So yeah, I don't really care about whatever mountainbiking medal was won by the Dutch at the Worlds this year. At least not in relation to my country. The four medals the ladies picked up at the BMX worlds earlier this year however, yeah these makes me proud.

www.fatbmx.com/bmx-racing/item/45475-2018-uci-bmx-world-championships-baku-aze-women-junior
www.fatbmx.com/bmx-racing/item/45477-2018-uci-bmx-world-championships-baku-aze-women-elite
  • + 1
 Cup is very important for bike people, who follow racing all season long. The convinced fans would appreciate the consistency of winning race after race. But Champs are a way for winners to leave the little cozy fandom and get some general press, because people tend to care more once there are some national flags attached. To much greater extent it goes for the Olympics: it is probably only MTB race getting some coverage from general publications.

Without 'normal people' press racers would only have brands of bike part manufacturers on their jerseys. And I think, MTB can use some of the juicy contracts with cable-tv or plumbing companies, just like the road cycling does.
  • + 1
 The two can't really be compared and surely it depends on the support rider gets.
Winning the WC means a season without major injury .... and for a Pro (as per question) that means money, bike, expenses.

Taking part in the WC .. well firstly you have to be selected by the national body so it is that national body you are really representing, if you don't play the right politics then ??? ... the sum total of their support being: "here is a jersey and if you damage it you need to pay for a replacement" to the other side and for example the training and support given to the Swiss XC team.

Maybe some countries even make the riders pay for their OWN jersey... but depending on the national selection comittee you (or as a pro your sponsors) may need to get there on your own expense and provide your own bike and pay for your own medical and physio throughout the whole year.
  • + 1
 I like the consistency of results over the entire WC season to nullify short-term injuries and mechanical issues. It also showcases athletic fitness, especially for racers who also compete at other events in between such as nationals and Crankworx, etc..

World Champs is cool, but unless you are consistently winning like Bruni and Rachel or getting on the podium, it can be like a “hold my beer” type of race. Which then allows for dark horses to get a chance at a top result.

Doesn’t matter though, keep em both!

I do like to see riders compete in as many disciplines as it is good for the sport. Olympic DH would be such a great event IMO; the biggest World Champs of them all.
  • + 1
 In XC racing World Championship matter more than world cup overall. Being consistent is great, but being the best on the day that everyone else has designed their season around is huge.

In DH world cup overall is bigger then world championships. Someone can get lucky (take huge risks and get away with them) and win a world championships, but to win the overall you have to be best.
  • + 1
 The consistency over the course of a season is a bigger tell-tale sign of performance in my opinion. I really do prefer the EWS format in that respect - it sort of mimics F1 racing in a sense.
  • + 2
 Overall. Overall demos a riders ability to adapt from tracks of all terrains and the ability to perform consistently every race. That defines a skilled rider.
  • + 1
 Make the World Cup season longer. I truly enjoy watching but damn there should be more stops then 6. I know it's a but different but look at moto that has 17 supercross races then straight to out doors for 12 more races
  • + 1
 For me, if Mr. Gwin wins the World Cup, it is the most important. If he wins the World Championship race, then that is the most important. (To be honest, I don't follow either so the above is pure BS.)
  • + 4
 World Cup overall is way more of a achievement
  • + 2
 Who cares what we think!
If you ask the racers what is more important to them, 10/10 will answer World Champs.
That's the way it always been.
  • + 2
 Personally I'm glad there is one more fucking race to cheer for!!! Stop being wankers!
  • + 1
 Maybe series winner should have the rainbow jersey , there have been some random one race winners in recent history .But then again random is good .
  • + 1
 The World Champ in my opinion is Amaury Pierron because he beat every body all year long. One race doesn't mean much to me. UCI needs to differentiate them more.
  • + 2
 world champs should be run every 4 years.
  • + 1
 how about if it was the first race of the season instead?
  • + 1
 @noisette: still not worth anything. the world cup isn't played every year.
  • + 2
 one race one run. there is no tomorrow. the pinnacle is the worlds
  • + 3
 World Peace
  • + 1
 They are both important, that makes it hard to decide. However a season of races shows who is really the champ!
  • + 2
 This would be great poll for the pros.
  • + 1
 Loic only wins 5 races in his career. World Cup and world champs Gwin wins more than 20. Gwin wins!!!
  • + 1
 Lots of ebikes in Lenzerheide...too many.
  • + 1
 Could we have the possibility to just value both the same?
  • + 2
 World Cup Champs FTW!!
  • + 0
 World champs should go away and add 1 more race to world cup. Make the world cup final worth 50 more points for the win
  • + 1
 I can’t get excited for worlds when I can’t wstch it.
  • + 1
 Is this really a question?
  • + 1
 overall because your best among all the tracks not just one
  • + 1
 world cup, redbull hardline and rampage.
  • + 1
 World cup overall winner should be wearing the stripes
  • + 0
 You could win WC without winnimg one single race. World Champ has to win actually - so...
  • - 2
 Hardline
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