Analysis: The State of World Cup XC Short Track After Year 1

Jan 3, 2019
by Matthew DeLorme  



When the UCI added Short Track (STXC) events to the Cross Country schedule this year, many suspected that it, like Eliminator, would be a bit lackluster. After its debut at round two in Albstadt, many still had their doubts that it would fly. Perhaps this skepticism was, in part, due to the lack of terrain at the venue. We chatted with Simon Burney (a Technical Delegate for the UCI) before the second event at Nove Mesto and he shared insight into STXC's direction.

Primarily, he cited that MTB's status within the Olympics was only based on one event. Given that finding suitable locations for hosting Downhill events on a consistent basis is not on top of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) priority list, it could be some time before we see DH make it into the Olympics. That said, having only one event in the Olympics makes it difficult for manufacturers to invest too much time and money into a single event that offers them very little visibility in the way of branding. Therefore, if MTB could eventually add a second event to the Olympics, it would give manufacturers more reason to be invested and, ultimately, less likely for MTB to be replaced by a different sport.

Burney's second main point was that the UCI World Cup is a money-making venture. With big sponsors like Red Bull and Mercedes Benz, these events need to bring in the fans to stay viable. With DH, qualifying is an extra day of racing that fans can watch and enjoy. Even DH practice provides a great amount of entertainment - whereas XCO practice, not so much. Providing fans with an extra and arguably exciting event that allows for easy spectating was key in selecting the STXC format.

Burney's goal was that STXC would evolve over the season and become more thrilling at each round. While it initially seemed unfair that someone who normally would start on the first row might find themselves on the third row for XCO after a bad STXC race, it didn't do too much damage to the big guns. Nino still took the overall despite a couple rough days on the STXC course. STXC also gave Henrique Avancini the chance to shine before his Marathon Worlds title. For fans, it created a grand spectacle to see these riders go out and bury themselves for thirty minutes straight.

Is it perfect? No. STXC sometimes just feels like road racing with fat tires. Nonetheless, it's a good start at something new to encourage more fan and manufacturer participation in MTB racing and, as Simon Burney says, it will continue to evolve.

Simon Burney has been a Technical Delegate for the UCI since 2007 and is currently the Sports Coordinator for XCO.
Simon Burney has been a Technical Delegate for the UCI since 2007 and is currently the Sports Coordinator for XCO.

Fans came out in strong numbers for the extra day of racing. STXC was off to a raucous start.
Fans came out in strong numbers for the extra day of racing. STXC was off to a raucous start.

For those with power the STXC course was the ultimate battlefield.
For those with power, the STXC course was the ultimate battlefield.

If nothing else the riders gave it their all for a shot to start on the front row for XCO come Sunday.
If nothing else, the riders gave it their all for a shot to start on the front row for XCO come Sunday.

Mathieu van der Poel was built for STXC but he still had days that put him in the hole.
Mathieu van der Poel was built for STXC, but he still had days that put him in the hole.

Avancini took his first STXC win in Andorra and the momentum followed him through to the rainbow stripes at Marathon Worlds.
Avancini took his first STXC win in Andorra and the momentum followed him through to the rainbow stripes at Marathon Worlds.

Andorra was one of the best STXC races of the season. The combination of quick pace and lack of oxygen made for some intense racing.
Andorra was one of the best STXC races of the season. The combination of quick pace and lack of oxygen made for some intense racing.

No one complained about the opportunity of seeing Nino doing more whips.
No one complained about the opportunity of seeing Nino doing more whips.

As the season progressed so did the courses. Venues took advantage of the technical terrain at their disposal and implemented it when possible.
As the season progressed so did the courses. Venues took advantage of the technical terrain at their disposal and implemented it when possible.

The big guns were a bit more chatty at the start of STXC.
The big guns were a bit more chatty at the start of STXC.

The riders come off the start hot and don 39 t back off the throttle until they cross the finish. The wider-taped grass sections provide plenty of opportunity for passing. If you are a fan coming out for a bit of a quick racing fix STXC serves up plenty of action.
The riders come off the start hot and don't back off the throttle until they cross the finish. The wider-taped grass sections provide plenty of opportunity for passing. If you are a fan coming out for a bit of a quick racing fix, STXC serves up plenty of action.

With courses being small spectators can bounce around the track with ease.
With courses being small, spectators can bounce around the track with ease.

Kate Courtney gassed after an STXC.
Kate Courtney gassed after an STXC.

While STXC is mainly about the speed getting air is fairly common.
While STXC is mainly about the speed, getting air is fairly common.

What will come next year for STXC Will the UCI do away with the XCO field position advantage and incentivize monetarily Time will tell.
What will come next year for STXC? Will the UCI do away with the XCO field position advantage and incentivize monetarily? Time will tell.



34 Comments

  • + 68
 The pic of Nino's whip through the wheel of another rider is really cool - nice one!
  • + 42
 Bring back 4x
  • + 4
 from what i remember the lack of 4x at the world cups is more that the venues don't want to invest in building tracks for it. the numbers i heard from windham were astronomical. for the record - UCI still hosts 4x world championships. 2018 it was in vai de sole.
  • + 3
 There are still 4x series, just no UCI world cup. That said, it does indeed deserve more love. It is the most obvious and accessible transition for BMX racers into mountainbike racing.
  • + 24
 Maybe it was just my desire to watch more racing on dirt, but I really enjoyed watching the XC races in 2018. Much like how watching the DH races back in 2013 rekindled my enthusiasm for riding and racing DH again, 2018 gave me some desire to race XC again.
  • + 13
 Making STXC results the first two rows of the XCO was a great call as the 'big guns' had to race unlike in the eliminator races in the past. The idea is good to build on, some of the tracks were awesome and they could improve the rest.
  • + 3
 This. I loved how it changed the game slightly. If you were a contender for XCO, you couldn't just coast through the STXC. Likewise, you need to keep some in the tank for the longer race the following day. And be mindful of points if you were angling for that overall.
  • + 10
 Shorter tracks makes XC racing so much more exciting for spectators.
  • - 12
flag RedRedRe (Jan 3, 2019 at 4:57) (Below Threshold)
 Have you ever been to an actual wc race? I guess not.
  • + 9
 Neff hitting the doubles is always a good shot.
  • + 2
 Watched every XC race this year, but not the short track, didn't hold my attention. I agree we need 4x or dual slalom to come back to world cup, 3 uniquely different genres of MTB for everyone's spectating pleasure.
  • + 1
 What about having XC qualifying on a full lap instead of STXC ? There's too many racers during the XCO event anyway, the lasts in line are always jammed somewhere right after the Start. Cap at 100 racers, 20 protected, first qualified on the first row like downhill. It would be even exciting to watch !
  • + 1
 Interesting how there's an Olympic angle to the discipline, yet the recent interview with the new UCI pres made it seem cut and dry: one bike sport in, one must come out. So which discipline would go to make room for STXC?
  • + 1
 i took that to mean something on the track or road side.
  • + 1
 @captainderp: I assume road viewership is high enough to make it untouchable - this may not be correct though, just an assumption.
  • + 1
 More events can be added but not more athletes. It is possible to add another event that XC athletes race. So in theory DH is still possible but if it were added people would have to race both XC and DH. Which would actually be pretty cool.
  • + 1
 @WhatAboutBob: that is interesting. STXC would be great for the Olympics then.
  • + 3
 I really enjoyed the extra day of racing. It was a win!
  • + 1
 Is there a discipline which is basically xc but with harder more technical features? Like enduro without the gradient? And if not, why not.... Endurocross but on xc bikes.
  • + 1
 the XCO was good in 2018, especially so the ladies .... 2019 promises to be even better, can't wait!
  • + 1
 Dang, Annika has killer legs!
  • + 1
 Best change to a sport ever.
  • + 0
 3rd pic down of Neff - isn't that Brain supposed to stop fork bobbing on out of the saddle efforts?
  • + 2
 If you are referring to the silver thing at the bottom of the rught fork leg... Thats the timing chip
  • + 1
 @TheBearDen: I'm referring to her being 40% into the front travel on smooth ground.
  • + 1
 @JohanG: you mean the hill she pushed into coming around the corner? You should slow motion Shoot a video of yourself. Riding on flat and coming in hot to a quick punch hill and see where your fork is.
  • + 1
 @TheBearDen: but that's what the specialized brain is supposed to prevent.. It's meant to distinguish between rough terrain and other causes of slow speed compression.
  • + 1
 @thesharkman: neff doesnt ride for specialized... why would her bike would have a rear shock with the Specialized Brain on it? None of the front forks ever had a Brain piggy back... Why are you two so confused by whats happening that photo? Lol
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