UCI Allows Riders on UCI Teams to Race Without Points in 2021 & Reaffirms Covid Protocols

Feb 10, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  
Third for Tahnee Seagrave and under a second to the number two spot.

The UCI updated its World Cup eligibility criteria and reaffirmed its Covid-19 protocols in preparation for the 2021 mountain bike race season, which is scheduled to start in April for downhill and May for cross country. The changes have been brought in to ensure that racers who were unable or chose not to travel in 2020 are not significantly disadvantaged and to ensure that racing in 2021 has the best chance of going ahead.

Riders on UCI teams can race without points in 2021

While previously riders needed to have earned a certain number of UCI points in the previous 12 months to be eligible for a World Cup race (40 for elite DH, 60 for elite XC, 80 for U23 XC men, and 20 for U23 XC women), riders can now enter DH elite and XC U23 races simply by belonging to any registered UCI mountain bike team.

The eligibility update aims to address the fact that many riders were unable to travel to races in 2020 that would earn them points, but it also has implications for situations like Kaos Seagrave's ineligibility in 2019 and for riders who have the speed to race World Cups, but, for whatever reason, don't have the points.

No doubt on of the most beautiful tracks we ve been lucky to have a World Cup at.

The change inadvertently addresses an issue around lack of access to UCI points events faced by some riders who are fast enough to race World Cups, but historically haven’t always had access to events that would earn them UCI points. Given that World Cup racing is the most effective way to earn points and it is necessary to earn points to race World Cups, riders who don't need the points end up with the lion's share, and some riders can have trouble breaking into the eligible ranks. It seems like this will be a temporary change that only applies as long as the pandemic is affecting racing but we'll update you if it becomes codified in the UCI's rulebook in the future.

COVID protocols

On the Covid front, the document explains that the Covid mitigation protocols implemented in August 2020 will stay in place, which include weighing an event’s preparedness to manage Covid-19 against that event’s identified risk level and imposing fines on event organizers whose events don’t meet the UCI guidelines.

Updates to the XCO start order

Additionally, the update has changed the XC start order rules, again to address the issue of riders having missed races in 2020. Rather than being ordered based on the last published individual ranking, riders will be ordered "as per the UCI XCO individual ranking published on 03.03.2020 + points won at the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto Na Morave + points won at the 2020 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Leogang + points won at the 2021 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup events," which seems to suggest that the UCI has created a points matrix that most heavily weights the rankings published in March 2020, but still takes into consideration points earned since then.

The updated regulations, of course, are subject to change as the racing-during-Covid situation develops, and the UCI indicated that it is doing its best to provide some continuity in racing while staying flexible. We will update this article with any changes.


  • 81 7
 Privateers - "I got into MTB because I wasn't really into team sports growing up."
UCI - "You have to be in a team to race."
  • 15 0
 You have to be in a team to race without points. I imagine if there are any UCI points qualifying races before the world cup they may be full of fast privateer trying to get points.
  • 5 0
 Yep good point. Was more thinking if there isn't domestic racing accessible but the WC proceeds, might make it hard for Privateers to get points. @melonhead1145:
  • 5 2
 there is a bit of a difference to being on a race team in a sport where the racers act individually, and a team that involves passing a ball/puck/frisbee to each other. Or even road/track bike racing where riders work together.
  • 1 0
 I laughed when first read , not sure if was a joke.
  • 4 0
 @AyJayDoubleyou: I think he was being facetious
  • 3 0
 @AyJayDoubleyou: not really though, in f1 it’s a super individual sport, it’s just one person driving a car. But yet the best team has won for a long time in a row now.
A lot goes on behind the scenes to get that one bike to the top of the hill, with the right set up, the right fitness peak, the right nutrition and the right mindset. A great team will be better at all of that and that’s the difference between a champion and everyone else
  • 4 0
 At this rate, why not let privateers race without points? Maybe some sort of wild card lottery.

Generally speaking for this year a privateer will most likely be a local since they’re less likely to be able to travel to all the races because flying + travel exemptions + quarantine is not cheap. And we all know they can be a hell lot of fun to watch too. They’ll either make the racing interesting because they know the track but not impact the overall or they’ll make for a great VitalMTB Raw/Crash reel.
  • 2 1
 @toad321: F1 is the biggest team sport out there. Literally hundreds of engineers working together to get the fastest car. The driver is completely irrelevant.
  • 1 0
 @Fektor: This is true - but if there's no domestic racing UCI just need to do what they can to make races happen.

If regional races can take place, then it may actually become easier for privateers to accrue required points as there won't be the same amount of pros needing to attend lower level races to pick up points like we've seen in the past.
  • 55 5
 Hey, privateers !
Yeah ?
F*ck you !
  • 2 0
 True. What is the solution.
  • 8 0
 @CantClimb: register as a UCI team. Sure, it's not cheap but it is probably cheaper than travelling to several different races chasing points. However, registering a team isn't exclusively for the big names.
  • 2 0
 @billbobaggins468: yea I think the Zwar brothers are registered as their own UCI team Zwar brothers racing and are essentially privateers
  • 36 5
 @CantClimb: more domestic racing. Why do we have 200-300 racers (and the circus that follows) traveling all around the globe trying to race at an elite level? It’s environmentally irresponsible, costs and logistics are huge, and reduces our street appeal.
I’m all for the privateer racer as I’ve been one myself for over the past decade on the west coast.
However, we need to put more money and credibility into more regional racing, ie: North America series, South American, Europe, Oceania, etc. Then the most elite racers from these series compete on the world level. In addition, you could race globally in other regions to chase points. However, you reduce the number that are competing to qualify and racing, similar to how UCI already did, but more. Combined, it would support more grassroots level racing, reduce carbon impact, and put more money into local economies as opposed to a few select towns in Europe each year.
You would also see less static in the elite level and this also increases our street appeal for marketing. Average joe does not want to watch 60 riders descend the same track for 4 hours.
Make it more elite! If each region sent 4 or 5 of their best to qualify, then reduced it to top 12 or 16 on race day. Slapped it with a good broadcast, good camera work, and more track coverage, real you may have a more sellable program. Joe-Schmoe can now root for the racer from their region, on a more attention grabbing 1-1.5hr program vs 2-3hrs of monotonous bicycle racing on the same 8 sections of track.
More street appeal means more sponsors, more money, more coverage, more racing, better bikes, so on.
  • 2 0
 @mtnbykr05: I down voted you before reading all of the post...what you are saying is absolutely correct. With less riders in the elite, you can also have more races, more double headers, and do more pre/post race things. I assume too, this would make getting the sport on a tv block easier...instead of a three hour block, an hour.

Good thoughts on your part.
  • 6 2
 @mtnbykr05: 12-16 racers only on race day? Is that what you're saying?
"Average Joe" won't give any more of a shit about DH (how big is the potential audience anyway?) and you'll seriously annoy existing fans. You could have based your point purely on the environmental aspects. The rest seems pretty tenuous.
  • 1 0
 @mtnbykr05: Makes good sense.
  • 1 0
 @mtnbykr05: the problem is there is not a big enough market for racing outside of Europe. In the US we basically have no XCO racing anymore and enduro events have mostly replaced DH.
  • 3 0
 @mtnbykr05: 100% agree, making world cups etc smaller will make them more elite and improve coverage and improve the events overall.
it will also force more pro level athletes compete in national series which will boost their prestige which in turn will lead to more grassroots development.
  • 1 0
 @dthomp325: Do you think that's because no one wants to race DH though? Not saying you're wrong, just asking what you think. From my perspective it seems like there's a limited group of people that are organizing races, and they focus on the trend, hence Enduro taking away from DH and XC, and more recently Gravel taking away from XC.
  • 2 1
 @mtnbykr05: I'm an average Joe and I love watching 60 fast AF men and women rip down the same course for 4 hours. I agree with the rest of what you're saying but Im happy to devote a few hours every couple weeks to watch some racing! I do like the idea of each region being able to send 4-5 of their best to qualify, but those could be more like wildcard spots and then keep the top 40 as it is now or something.
  • 2 0
 @mtnbykr05: Good points. Thanks.

However I used to like it when they showed all 75 qualifiers for 4 hours.
  • 5 0
 @jwestenhoff: I don't think many amateurs want to race DH anymore. I live in Colorado and have done a few local DH races. Few people show up and 50%+ are on enduro bikes rather than proper DH bikes. Enduro races are still popular and very well attended. All the regional fast guys race enduro. Endurance XC racers are similarly popular and very well attended by amateurs too, but WC style XCO format is all but dead around here.

I think it's mostly because US sees bike sports as a participant activity vs a spectator activity and enduro and endurance XC are much more accessible for amateurs, while true DH and XCO require expensive specialized bikes and training/fitness and are simply more difficult for the average Joe who wants to do a few races a year.

Enduro and endurance XC allows uncompetitive riders to go out a have a fun day. Getting shelled off the back of an XCO race or finishing at the back of the pack in your single DH run isn't any fun so competing in those disciplines doesn't make a lot of sense unless you're proper fit and competitive.
  • 1 0
 @dthomp325: Interesting, good thoughts. Makes a lot of sense when you put it that way.
  • 1 0
 @edparry: spectators who actually turn up to watch also get short changed with this. Instead of a whole day of people pinning it down the mountain, you'll get a couple of hours. Less spectating time, making it less worthwhile to travel and less revenue for the resort, through both lower visitor number's er
  • 1 0
 .... something glitched...

...through both lower visitor numbers and shorter visiting times, which will make it less attractive for a venue to host such an event. You're reducing the quantity of the spectacle by 75% without raising the quality by nearly as much. You're also raising psychological barriers to entry because the motivation of riders will drop along with the number of spots available. This will also reduce riders ability to gain WC experience...
  • 1 0
 @CantClimb: Same, with the time slots out here on the west coast I could go in and out of hangover sleep and then be alert by top 20!
  • 16 1
 I've got the no points part down,
can someone help me with the team part? Wink
  • 13 1
 So now rich kids from the us can race!
  • 3 1
 Eastern states cup kids!
  • 8 0
 no pressure then kaos
  • 1 1
 I thought he was on the fmd racing team so he isn’t a privateer
  • 6 0
 @Ooofff: exactly, which is why he doesn’t have to worry.
  • 1 0
 Control has it covered...
  • 8 1
 So can Ben Cathro race this year then?
  • 4 0
 Not that i'm aware of because he's classified as a privateer, he has factory support but isn't a fully fledged UCI team
  • 4 0
 He could still race under a national (British Cycling) jersey if he isn't able to get the points.
  • 3 0
 @Williambellmtb: But isn't Nina Hoffmann essentially a privateer who created her own UCI team. This year she added another racer, but otherwise it doesn't seem like it's much different than what Cathro was doing. Just a matter of filing the paperwork and (probably) paying the fees.
  • 7 1
 Looks like a sensible decision from the UCI for a change!
  • 4 2
 Will there be a ban on aero tucks in DH racing also? This was one of the coolest things which developed in road racing the last few years, so of course the UCI banned it.

  • 2 0
 Might allow for some innovation, for example a dropper seat post that drops down and back would allow them a nice tuck position while staying within the new rules.
  • 3 0
 @dthomp325: great way to sell new crap you didn't need before with potential for more standards and complexity
  • 1 0
 Don't see many dropper bars or crossed arms in DH.
  • 3 1
 So now corpos decide who's fast (or more likely, instagramable) and that also means their peeps get MORE face time in the public... Meanwhile privateers who already had more adverse circumstances to compete with are even more out of luck. "It was too hard for the people who make us money to compete, so we cheated for them"

In the words of Padme Amidala, "So this is how democracy dies... to thunderous applause"
  • 1 0
 You've so clearly never been to a World Cup
  • 2 0
 @Rudy2455: no I haven't, please explain.
  • 2 0
 @jofn00: Teams and corpos are two very different things. And UCI teams are all structured very differently. You have some independent teams owned by an athlete or manager where there might be a title sponsor but it's still the individual's team, you have some factory teams like Santa Cruz that only supply bikes and the athletes negotiate all their other sponsors independently, and you have other factory teams like Canyon where the team manager negotiates all sponsorship deals, plus others that fall in between with a mix of team and personal sponsorship... Behind all of that are a collection of dedicated team managers and event promoters actually coordinating and realizing this thing called a World Cup season that the UCI then takes credit for because they sent over some officials and made sure some athletes peed in a cup.

What I'm trying to say is, the team of people who actually make World Cup teams and races happen have no incentive to sponsor anyone who isn't fast. The primary way they attract sponsorship money is by getting podiums or at least airtime on the Red Bull TV broadcast.

And while we all (myself included) love a good privateer story, for every denim destroyer out there, there are 5 other privateers who don't have the speed or the skill to safely race a World Cup. It's far from a perfect system, it needs our criticism and ideas for improvement, but you can't ignore the dangers of a situation where someone who does not have the necessary skill seriously hurts himself or hurts others around him.

If you want my opinion, the real threat is the rise of instagram influencers and youtubers. It's not that sponsors are going to demand slow riders enter a World Cup, it's that sponsors will ask why is winning a World Cup even helpful to my brand when I can invest that sponsorship money into a youtuber who will guarantee hundreds of thousands of viewers? World Cup teams are very expensive, and riders aren't able to guarantee airtime and results.

I hope that makes sense. I think something like a pool of money to support privateers who are competitive similar to what Wyn was organizing is a good idea; in the end there must be a balance that keeps the barrier to entry low enough that it's not dependent upon money without being too low and risking the safety of the race.
  • 1 0
 @Rudy2455: thanks for that thoughtful and detailed explanation!
  • 3 0
 How does this effect Ben Cathro @cathrovision and the pursuit of uci points?
  • 2 2
 I think the proposed change is balanced and very good. I think it places trust in the UCI teams not to sign anyone who does not deserve to be at or cannot safely race World Cups. A points rule for privateers, while not perfect, would go a long way to ensure that only riders with professional pace turn up to a World Cup.
  • 1 1
 This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard tday what about privateers so the only solution now is for them to make a uci team even tho they closed applications on the 14th of January for teams wtf they are driving dh into the ground
  • 2 0
 If I'm reading the rules correctly, team registration is 2,500 Euro's. No small chunk of change.
  • 1 0
 Didn’t registration close already too?
  • 2 0
 That’s one way to let Rachel Atherton race again.
  • 4 2
 UCI are total UNTs
  • 1 0
 Maybe the UCI might have to find another way to exclude Kaos then?
  • 3 3
 So many heavy opinions in here, none backed by any intelligence or evidence!
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