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.
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.