At the end of last year, the UCI announced it would be making changes to the number of women able to compete in the final of a downhill World Cup, as well as announcing a separate category for junior women and a cut to the number of junior men able to compete.

In order to better protect the integrity of the course and therefore improve the quality of competition, the UCI Management Committee agreed the following changes for the downhill events of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup presented by Shimano:

• To reduce the number of riders by increasing the number of points required to participate (from 30 to 40 points);
• To reduce the number of riders participating in the final (15 Women Elite and 20 Juniors);
• To have a separate DHI Women Junior event.

Once the changes were announced following the meeting a lot of people reacted in what could be said a reasonable way based on the information, but are these changes really as bad as they seem, especially when it comes to the women's field? We spoke to a number of female athletes, team managers and the UCI to find out their thoughts, and got a bit more information on the changes.






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

The first point, more so that you are aware, all DHI rule changes only come at the request of, and only after extensive consultation with, the teams (mainly Elite teams, but also some representatives of standard UCI Teams). I would never consider a rule change for DHI in isolation. In recent years I’ve tried to give more ‘ownership’ to the teams so they feel more inclusive with us and they are now a big part of the decision making process. Dan Brown is the team rep invited to the UCI MTB Commission meetings and he is very good at gathering opinion and feeding back the demands and wishes of the teams, but we also meet as a group of UCI Team managers 2-3 times a season to give them a forum to discuss.

At all times Red Bull Media House (RBMH) are in those meetings too so the teams understand why and how they (RBMH) can better represent the sport through the programmes, this is important as it is such huge part of their media coverage. So no changes have been made unless requested by the teams.

At a popular European DHI venue (Ft William, Leogang) we get entries of around 150-160 Men Elite and around 30-34 Women Elite. Out of Europe (Cairns, Mt St Anne) we get around 100-120 Men & 20-22 Women Elite. Currently we have been qualifying 80 ME and 20 WE so the percentage of women qualifying from the entered riders has been higher than the men, so not equal and favouring the women. Qualification is a competition and I think it should remain that way and that a certain standard is required to achieve the Finals and I do think that creating a slightly harder quali will push riders to improve their ability in an effort to qualify.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

Out of Europe virtually all women entered have qualified and here, as is also the case in Europe, the range of ability is huge. By reducing to 15 (only 5 riders less) we are reducing the riders in the Final who are significantly slower to the point where they are sometimes being caught by the rider behind them, and not having riders in the Final whose ability level is significantly slower than the leading riders.

Regarding the men's qualification I personally was pushing for a reduction to 60 in the Finals but the overwhelming feedback from the teams was to leave it at 80 due to the much tighter level of ability; one small mistake in the men's race that costs a couple of seconds is crucial, in the women’s race the gaps are larger so don’t impact position as much.

We have increased the points required to enter a WC over 2 years (20 points in 2015, 30 points in 2016, 40 points in 2017) to slightly reduce the total number of riders entering as we have had issues with high total numbers impacting on uplift times, training availability (too many riders on the course during training at one time which doesn’t give effective training opportunities for the riders and so many riders does have an effect on the course itself), but also to try to encourage riders who want to compete in a WC to race other events on the calendar to gain the points they need. DHI has a strong WC but a weak base so a ‘qualification’ for WC by using more smaller events gives the riders more race experience & on a variety of courses.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

We have given the Junior Women what I felt was better equality with their male counterparts by giving them their own race, not just putting them in the WE race. The numbers of WJ are very low, usually between 3-7 riders. They will all qualify so while the Junior Men have a qualification run the WJ will have a seeding run, in place of timed training, so they still get an opportunity to have a run under race conditions in seeding, which adds to their experience. They will start immediately before the Junior Men in the morning.

By running the Junior Women with the Elite the numbers have stayed very low in recent years; I’m definitely of the opinion that trying something to see how it works is worthwhile; if there is no change or it is not well received in general after it has run for a couple of seasons then we can change it back, but right now the numbers are static so lets see if their own race helps.
(As a side comment, the only experience I have with something similar was when we split out the U23 Women from the Elite in XCO; once they had their own race the field size grew significantly. I appreciate DHI is a different discipline, but it’s worth considering).

Finally, RBMH are changing their programme format to give the women more of their own show (with a pre-show dedicated to them), rather than a pre-show about the men right before they switch to showing the women race. This will give the women a better showcase and do more for developing the personalities in their event, and the Final reduced to 15 riders will give those riders more programme time. This is important when considering your point about women’s sponsorship; I think a showcase for the top women can only inspire and motivate the next generation, it is programming like this with features as well as race run coverage that gives sponsors better exposure and value for money, and is more likely to increase sponsorship. RBMH want to create ‘stars’ and those will then hopefully transfer to other media outlets.






As someone who was selected to be team representative at the UCI MTB commission meetings, how do you feel about the changes, having discussed them all with the teams, the UCI and RBMH?

The changes the UCI have put forward are welcomed by the teams. As you can imagine with 15 Elite teams and another 3 or 4 other “influencers” at the table we have a lot of opinions to consider. That’s the hardest part of my position, I have to try to stay neutral and to convey the general feeling, the consensus of opinion to the UCI Commission.

The changes put forward are pretty subtle and a long way from some of the larger reforms we’ve looked at over the past few seasons. Without a title sponsor and further finances the World Cup’s potential will remain limited. I’m not saying that it isn’t a good product, as it stands it’s a very good product, but it would certainly benefit from a sponsor that would enable us to increase the number of rounds and increase the pathetic prize money. We need to ensure that the World Cup is the absolute pinnacle of the sport. Increasing the points required to enter the Series enables the UCI to make sure that the level of riding at World Cups is where it needs to be. Obviously this needs to be followed up with a more defined path to the top tier; I’d like to see the UCI focus on developing another level of international events such as the iXS Cup to support and feed into the World Cup.

With regards to the women’s numbers in the finals, that’s a tough call but when you look at finishing times in comparison to the men’s race it just needed tightening up to keep the racing closer for the finals. Junior women getting their own race category is great and follows on from the successful Junior men’s category introduced a few years back, I hope it will bring an increased focus to the category.

Do you think we’ll see a big change given the fact this may actually help push the women’s side of things thanks to increased coverage from Red Bull and closer competition due to the reduction in numbers?

Yeah, I actually think we’ll see riders pushing more to make those top 15 spots, That can only help contribute to faster development of riders. The top ten saw a lot of new additions last season and I think making it harder to get into the main event will push this group even more.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

I don’t see any change here at all, the majority of riders who play outside the top ten and some even within it are privateers with little backing. It’s sad but some sponsors fail to see the return on investment for women riders outside the top ten. The racing needs to get tighter and the placings mixed up more so we see new faces on the live coverage. I have no doubt this will happen in the next few years and when it does we can easily go back to 20 or more in the Finals to reflect the quality of the field.

As mentioned above we need to get a tiered system in place to allow for a clearer path. The iXS Cup holds a European Series on World Cup level courses so it’s is the perfect stepping stone.

As a team manager, do you see this change affecting how the companies you work with make sponsorship decisions?

For our own team not in any way. On a wider level reducing numbers will hopefully increase competition and develop the riders at a quicker rate so producing more riders able to mix it up come the Finals. That’s when potential sponsors are going to take notice!






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

I’d like to know who suggested it! I don’t see how it’ll make a difference to anything from the race organisation perspective at all, and only disadvantages the quarter of the women’s final who will not be able to compete in finals. Until now 80 men and 20 women compete in finals, so ¼ of the men’s field race. Why do you need to reduce the women’s field any further when the men’s field remains the same? It just makes us feel unwelcome.

The reasoning behind it doesn’t make sense to me; ‘to protect the integrity of the course and therefore the competition’. Cutting out ¼ of the women’s field on race day (5 less riders on track) saves around 2 ½ minutes of racing in the current schedule and in the grand scheme won’t affect the conditions of the track. I think the integrity of the course is a different issue altogether that needs addressing. DH is an outdoor sport where the track is greatly affected by the weather, as well as continued, heavy use over the race weekend. Proper track preparation well in advance of the event, rather than the week leading up to a race or even during a race weekend, and a bigger maintenance team to keep on top of the track during a World Cup weekend would go a lot further to helping save the integrity of the course than reducing the number of female riders further.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

If it looks as though it is going to be detrimental to women’s downhill in any way at all then it should be reversed. As far as I’m aware the UCI claim to strive for equality, as most sports do these days, so I don’t see why they would stick to a change if it creates more imbalance within DH. The change that I see having a big positive impact on women’s downhill is the introduction of a Junior women’s category. Since there has been a Junior category at Nationals in the UK the numbers of girls entering have shot up, which is really encouraging to see. The number of juniors can outnumber the elite women at some races. Which also makes me wonder where these girls will go, if the number of Junior girls competing increases but the number of Elites allowed to race is reduced, where will the girls go when they move up into Elite? Will they be discouraged from aiming for the highest level of racing? Or move onto different disciplines?

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

Hopefully grassroots development will grow, and I would say it already is growing. Junior girls coming through will benefit from the experience of having their own competitive category, and I would hope more recognition from the media and support from sponsors/teams to help them race. In terms of elite level sponsorship, as far as I know, support drops off pretty quickly anyway for women who are outside of the top ten, or even in the higher numbers of the top ten. As in the men’s field, a lot of the competitive field will be made up of privateers who are making the best of the set up and support they have outside of a World Cup team, but I imagine the five women who used to qualify and who now may not make the final will probably find it harder to drum up the same support they may have had previously to help them to get to a World Cup event.

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

From racing as a Youth/Junior up until now, having the support to train and get to races, along with the belief from people around me has really helped me progress through the Elite ranks to where I am today. I think if more sponsors, teams, and media can continue to get behind Junior and Elite women’s racing, see the value in it to make us feel welcome and allow us the presence we need to compete at World Cups, then things will go in the right direction.

Reading through all the changes it’s easy to see each one in a different light, and from different people’s viewpoint depending what their values are. Some changes are positive and some I would say not. It’s also worth looking at who it is making the decision. The elite teams were the ones who have come up with and voted for changes over the year and it’s worth looking at the balance of the riders involved. Around 4/5 of the riders in Elite teams are the Elite men, and the changes do look to be made with the elite men in mind. It looks like the Elite Men get double practice on race day with morning practice and then another practice session before the Elite women race. Elite Women, however, will race later than the current schedule (now after the Elite men’s second practice) but will still only have practice first thing in the morning, so we will be racing on a track that will have had even more chance to change throughout the day, and is likely to be very different to the track we practiced on that morning. I’m sure it’s very difficult to fit everyone into the World Cup schedule, and that compromises need to be made. But I can’t help but feel like the Elite women get the worse side of the deal here.






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

From a viewer's point of view, you want to see fast, furious and close racing. I am afraid to say that outside the top ten, most of the women struggle on a downhill course, just look at the times. This is not something the public want to see. People will get bored watching someone, anyone, taking five minutes to struggle down a three-minute track - they also get bored with a rider winning by ten seconds all the time. I am not saying what the UCI have got it right but things needed to change. If the women had been putting in better times and the racing was closer, the UCI would not have cut the numbers. Before we can get more women in the finals, we need to encourage more girls into racing and, I think that the junior series will be a great help.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

No, in 2012 (Tahnée’s first year as a junior) we went racing knowing she was good enough and fast enough to qualify at a World Cup. She had cut her teeth in the amazing iXS series and proved she was fast. We would not have travelled 2,000 miles for her to race if she was not good enough to race. Not only that, we needed to know she would be safe out there… it’s dangerous! The number qualifying will have a positive effect - as I have said above - we ALL want to see more girls racing by that, I mean RACING, not just taking part (if they want to do that, they can ride enduro, haha). As soon as the girls start closing the time gap, the better it will be for everyone.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

It’s a good thing. In 2013, I took a gamble on a young Mike Jones and I did this because of the junior series. If Mike did okay, he would get more time on the bike at World Cups enhancing his progression as a rider - plus, there was more coverage for the team and our sponsors. With the right support and structure, it turned out the kid was quite fast ;-)

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

It’s a good thing. I think the Junior men’s category has helped young riders progress - only a few years ago, a handful would take part up until Saturday but not make the Top 80 finals on Sunday. With privateers leaving the race weekend pissed off, spending loads of cash, traveling miles and not making it through - that is not encouraging to any young athlete. In 2016 the UCI had 30 juniors racing Sunday - it is great for them and I am gutted their numbers have been reduced to 20.

In fact, we have way more juniors turning up to a World Cup than ever before. It is much more difficult for them now as there are so many riders - the competition is harder, much harder. This is giving us some amazingly fast, competitive riders. Great racing that is worth watching. I hope the junior series for the girls will have the same impact - however, I seriously worry about the quality of riders on the track as it will become dangerous for others.

In the 2016 season, we (Transition Factory/FMD Racing) had Tahnée injured at a BDS race because of a slower rider. This meant that she was not able to race Fort William World Cup and struggled to get through the race in Leogang. The UCI needs to look into this at World Cups and make sure that the safety of the best riders in the world is not put into jeopardy by inferior riders. The gap in speed and skill between say Rachel Atherton and a top junior is huge and they will be on track training at the same time!

I personally think there should be three training sessions - or maybe even start one day earlier and have the juniors race on Saturday.

1) Top 60 men & Top 10 Junior Men (70 riders)

2) 60-100 Men, Top 10 women, Junior Men 10-30 (70 riders)

3) The rest

Although this will not keep the course from deteriorating.

As a team manager, do you see this change affecting how the companies you work with make sponsorship decisions?

Not at all - Junior women can gain team points, this will be great for some teams. In the past, I think the role models of this sport have not been the most enticing. We are now at a time and are lucky that over the years more women across the globe have embraced all sports including the tough, physical ones.

Downhill MTB has some amazing female role models in Rachel, Manon, Tahnée, Myriam, Tracey and more… showing the world you can still be a woman whilst competing in one of the toughest sports in the world. Plus, if the junior girls are more competitive, it will create riders that teams WANT on their team.






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

I think it is a shame they are cutting the numbers down for the finals as I have a feeling this will effect the amount of women who now enter for the World Cups, to be honest, I'm not sure it will effect the support of the top riders massively but it may affect the riders coming up through the ranks and those trying to get into the sport for the first time as this will obviously make it harder to qualify.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

To be honest I think as a female riders it is a lot easier to pick up points than it is for the guys so I'm not sure this will change things on a big scale. Although our British downhill series doesn't offer UCI points anymore, plenty of other international races do, and these will set riders up for a good idea of the level and experience needed for World Cup races anyway rather than just jumping straight into the deep end at a World Cup. I think increasing the number of points needed to enter the World Cups could also lead to closer times for the final race as it will bring more experience to each round for the riders.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

This is where I think we will see numbers decreasing per round which I think over time will have an effect on sponsorships especially for developing riders coming through the ranks. Sponsorship is hard enough for elite level women, I feel the focus for most teams is on the junior or elite men so if the entries decrease I feel this may affect this even more.

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

I'm not sure if it will change things or not but my feeling is it will have an effect mainly on the rounds that are more costly to travel to but I believe if you want something, there's nothing to stop you achieving it; you just have to work hard to get there, so the riders that want to get the results will push hard at races. Maybe this will benefit the women's side of the sport by bringing the results closer together?






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

Well, I’m sure the UCI has their reason for this and it must make sense in some way. Cutting from 20 to 15 is nothing but fair if you compare the numbers of the men: roughly 200 men at the race, 80 of them qualify (40%) versus roughly 30 women at the race, 15 of them qualify (50%). So, looking at this number, women get treated quite well. Where it gets a bit more tricky is if you combine this new rule of cutting down to 15 with the number of protected women: It means 10 out of 15 riders are set for the finals, and only 5 spots are up for grabs. I personally think this is absolutely wrong. But I’m very skeptical about protection anyways, also in the men’s field.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

I think it won’t have any effect at all. But I’m aware of the fact that this comes from a man’s point of view and I can’t really say how it feels for a woman coming to a World Cup. As a young rider, you’ll have to beat 60% of the field, make it into the top 80, who most of them are sponsored by a team. If you don’t make it in there, your chances of getting on a World Cup team are quite small. So, you’ll just have to keep trying. If those 80 were suddenly cut down to 60, it wouldn’t change a thing.


What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

There are big World Cup teams who have to focus on results and media exposure, who will always have to focus on those riders that they believe have the potential in being on TV and/or the podium.

And there are the grassroots teams who will support riders on a national level, maybe taking them to a World Cup here and there. The World Cup teams will get that exposure from the top ten men, and from the top five women. This rule change has no effect at all regarding sponsorship. The grassroots teams won’t get that coverage at all, unless one of their riders has a fantastic day and ends up in the top five. So, again, this rule change has no effect regarding sponsorship.

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

The rules have been tweaked several times already in order to promote women in downhill. With no effect. People come to the World Cup because they love our sport. And those who love it enough, will make it! There will always be different backgrounds, it will always be harder for some people than for others to get to a World Cup. It is a lot harder to get to the World Cups if you’re from South America than it is if you’re from Europe. It is a lot harder to get to a World Cup if you come from a poor family than it is if you’re rich. As much as we’d love for everyone to have equal chances, the reality is that it is a lot more complicated for some riders than for others. No matter if you’re a woman or a man.






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

I am not opposed to this ruling at all. We've seen some events where women are crashing, flatting or getting other major mechanicals and still making the top 20. We're all racing and we all like competition so let's make it more competitive. One of the beautiful parts about downhill racing is the search for perfection in your race run. Qualifying is also a race.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

I believe we can make it into a positive. I hope that it will eventually cause National series to grow and in turn become more competitive. I believe that racing a World Cup is something that must be reserved for a certain level of rider. I realize that sounds like an elitist point of view, but I most certainly raced World Cups before I was ready. Sometimes I didn't qualify, sometimes I qualified but really shouldn't have and sometimes I got hurt. It would have been much better if I'd had a competitive series in Canada I could have focused on.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

If there is a smaller number of women racing and getting increased viewing time, photos published etc I can hope that the sponsorship level will grow for those who are in the top ten, in return causing the series to become more competitive and exciting. Mind you, I'm not saying those outside the top ten shouldn't have any support.

I don't think this will decrease the number of women competing. Perhaps for a few years at the World Cup level- but this shouldn't have any effect on the number of women who begin to compete.

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

I have never raced a full World Cup season, nor been on a UCI team so perhaps I'm not as savvy on the politics of it all. I am not writing from any ranked position either. I will have to work incredibly hard to qualify for every round, and I plan on working even harder to reach a podium position.

Any final thoughts?

Let's work hard and earn something. Let's try again and let's learn sacrifice.







What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

I think this is a good thing personally and this is something we have discussed in our team managers meetings as a lot of time the in between 15 and 20 riders in the world cup elite women are quite far in terms of time and in the percentage of time close to the win. On another hand, there are more fast girls now so I think it goes in a good direction to make sure the new fast girls, that are not only five now, are secured and can be racing on Sunday. And also this reduces the girls that might not be ready for World Cups yet. I think overall it's good, the number of girls should a bit similar racing but it should be just better girls racing in the final.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

I don't think those points will be negative for the women racing for qualifying as there will be a junior category. I think this is something for me really that is key and it will hopefully encourage more young girls to come and try and have a chance to race rather than have those young girls really try to make it to the top 20 before and have themselves disappointed because they are not qualified and can't ride. Overall, by placing the junior girls into their own category, I think we will see more girls on the race circuit. I think definitely making a change between the junior and elite category will be better for the girls racing.

On the other hand, I think the increasing points is not good for the sport as there are less and less races that give points to be qualified for World Cups and this is not really representative worldwide too as the points are evenly distributed on national series, either if it's English or French nationality or either if it's like a lower profile country of racing. That means if you are in a country with a lot of strong girls, it will be hard to qualify even if you are fast. If you are in a country with no girls racing and you are the only one and you will easily have the points even if your level is not that high. We have discussed that internally with the teams and we have proposed and asked to the UCI to put a differentiation between the strong countries of racing and the less strong country of racing to make it more even and it seems they haven't put it in place and that is something not only negative for girls but even more negative for boys as it will be super hard to get the points.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

These changes will be positive on the grassroots development because maybe some teams will get some junior girls, maybe some national teams will get some junior girls too and bring them more to the World Cups because they now have their own category. Overall, I think it will good for the young girls. On another hand it will just make life difficult for the women from strong countries like UK and France to be able to go to World Cups and I think it will have an effect on let's say, national level sponsorship but I think if the UCI do a little change with the rules of points and try to give more points to the strong countries that would be a global positive move.

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

For me as my personal experience with my team, I don't see any changes as Tracey is number two in the UCI ranking and she pretty much has enough points for a lifetime, she will be fine and she will also be protected on the first world cup so I don't see any changes for me personally.

As a team manager, do you see this change affecting how the companies you work with make sponsorship decisions?

I don't think it will make big changes for the companies but maybe some companies will now want to sponsor junior girls.






What is your opinion on the UCI ruling to cut the number of elite women able to qualify for finals?

I think it’s the right move because the World Cup should be the pinnacle, the very best riders in the sport at that moment in time. Right now I think it’s too easy to ride in the World Cup. This move will add to the motivation; if you crash or if you aren’t physically or technically 100% prepared then you shouldn’t qualify. In the long run, I think reducing the numbers will help to raise the bar and make the whole category better.

Do you think increased points and cutting the number of women able to qualify will be detrimental to the future of women’s downhill or have a positive outcome?

I’m not totally sure that it will make a massively noticeable difference, at least short term. If you’re serious about racing a World Cup you’ll make sure you get the necessary points – whether that’s 30 or 40. If you aren’t that serious then you shouldn’t be in it.

What sort of impact do you see these changes having on women's elite level sponsorship, the approach to grassroots development and the overall number of women competing?

It should help the sport, race series like iXS Cups and Pearce Cycles will start to have more value to riders who’ll want/need to do more racing. At the Elite level I don’t think it will have a huge effect and what effect there is I hope will be positive. Some riders I see and they are technically amazing but they haven’t got the hours they need to train (most likely because they don’t have sponsor backing and so have to go to work!) If they are forced to make that leap, take the next step in their career then the level of riding will go up and there will be a bigger field of more legit riders – way more appealing to potential sponsors, so it feeds off itself.

In your personal experience, what impact do you see this having, if any at all?

I think it's up to us as female riders to set the direction that these changes make. We can bitch about it and let it portray that we are less valued or we can bring solutions and make sure that it’s seen as a positive change. What sponsors see has to come from us first. Look at the example of young riders like Mille Johnset and Vali Holl, they aren’t even riding World Cups yet and they are already really proactive at portraying a positive image!


MENTIONS: @urteam / @FMD-Racing / @ManonCarpenter / @claudiocaluori / @trekfactoryracingdh / @ikeizer / @mdelorme / @natedh9




179 Comments

  • 72 2
 It's hard to please all of the people all of the time. I'm of the opinion that the WC should be the pinnacle, and it should be only the best to get though. If the UCI were cutting out fast riders, I'd see the point in inequality, but it seems to be more about sharpening the field, and the appeal of women's DH to viewers. It will be important that the UCI do their best to encourage large numbers in the junior races. In time this should see the next generation of fast riders graduate to WC.

+1 for more races!
  • 18 0
 I agree. However the development/middle tier needs to be in place. It's going to be impossible for guys like Harry Heath/ Kenta Gallagher to break onto the scene now. It's a big nail in the privateer coffin. You can't get UCI points at British National series (which is a separate issue but a confounding one). Series like IXS need to be a true leg up to world cup if these changes are going to be for the good of the sport.
  • 6 1
 @thestigmk1: Why aren't UCI points available at British National series? That doesn't make sense. They're certainly available at National series level in all countries. There are different tiers, so some events will award more points.
  • 1 11
flag handynzl (Jan 12, 2017 at 1:36) (Below Threshold)
 @thestigmk1: I think you'll find British National series DO get UCI points.... www.britishcycling.org.uk/search/article/mtbst_National-MTB-Ranking-Points-Explained
  • 18 0
 @handynzl: Not wanting to accuse you of a quick google from the other side of the planet mate, but there is only one round that gets points. It's Fort Bill, and it's always a couple of weeks before the world cup, so kiss any chance of points good bye. Every existing British pro races it. If you want an idea of the struggle, look at what Peaty had to do a couple of off-seasons ago. Going around random euro races with zero publicity to get enough points.
The cost of having every round UCI sanctioned for points is prohibitive (approx £20,000 per round if I'm not mistaken). And it's crap, as talented riders see no reason to race their own national series. They have to save money to fly to Bulgaria and Portugal to do less competitive, poorly publicised races where they know they can get points.
  • 11 20
flag tufty (Jan 12, 2017 at 1:56) (Below Threshold)
 I think it's a tragedy to cut the womans field any more than it is. I am fortunate enough to know someone on the world cup circuit, she is fast and passionate but has been missing out on qualification. Now she doesn't stand a chance to compete on the world stage despite her being in the top 30 regularly. Imagine being top 30 in the world and not being able to compete at the top level. Especially when the mens field is so much larger.
  • 4 0
 @thestigmk1: Thats....weird. Sort of goes against every other country if it truly is like that. I take it that British Cycling therefore has only given sanctioning to essentially a "championship" race, rather than a "series". To be fair, same thing has happened here in NZ to some degree with the scrapping of the National Series, and now only a one race, one weekend deal (both DH and XC) although I was told that NZMTB was looking at getting sanctioning for some other series that are run on a commercial basis; if that happens though is an entirely other prospect right now. But right up till this season, we had points on offer from both the series (Cup races) and championship (one race). Riders are now talking about jumping the ditch to get some points in Aussie.
  • 33 1
 @tufty: I can understand your point on the level that this person is passionate and dedicated but that is not a substitute for performance.

The reality is that the womens field of DH has a huge performance gradient, from Rachel to the bottom of the field is such a huge time gap - You just cannot continue along the lines of allowing women who are really not that good to race at this level for the simple reason that the participant level is so low everybody qualifies.

The reason your friend is in the top 30 in the world but cannot compete at WC level will simply mean she is not good enough - its a harsh reality.

Take for instance the mens race, you can be a phenomenal rider and still not qualify because the standard of riding is so high, why then should a woman qualify automatically because the number of participants is low?

This is a fair way to run things, if you are good enough, you will qualify, if you are not good enough then you will either have to train more or come to the realisation that you can not cut it at the highest level - this is the same for men or women and the truth about any sport.
  • 4 0
 @thestigmk1: Didnt Kenta get a team seat with UR?
  • 6 0
 @PhotoCal: He did Smile I'd imagine his past couple of years as privateer would have been very tough/impossible in the new set up though
  • 3 4
 @thestigmk1: so the new rules have a greater chance of diluting the quality of the field. In other words, there are too many people from individual nations and a federation can now buy a place on the WC. Would that be the UCI looking for a way to make money at the expense of the quality of the field.
Sounds like Dh is following the football WC.
Shame really but it's the way.
  • 1 2
 @thestigmk1: I don't think you know what that word means.
  • 3 0
 @betsie: UCI looking for money!?!?! haha standard BS from the oligarchs who run sport. Our national series is the best in the world - I haven't checked the stats but I would guesstimate that BDS riders have more podium places at DHI level than any other country. FCUK UCI
  • 1 0
 @gonecoastal: which word?
  • 2 0
 Only 6 races... crap
  • 6 0
 @thestigmk1: BDS Round 2 is a UCI Classe 1 event.
  • 12 0
 While there are different opinions here, it appears that the overwhelming sentiment of WC riders/teams is that 1) WC needs to be the pinnacle of the sport and 2) the riding should be more competitive. I would agree with this too as it will make the racing tighter and tracks harder as the skill level of the group competing increases. I think some of the reason we've seen a "taming" of tracks is that the range of riders is too wide and in order for the racing to be safe the tracks have to become easier.

That being said, I think if the UCI wants to reduce the number of entries and up the level of quality at WC events, it needs to do a much better job for setting up a "qualifying series" that enable younger/newer riders to gain experience and points. While national series help here, there needs to be something that excludes "elite riders" (i.e Gwin, Hart, Gee, etc.) from taking valuable points away from someone that needs points at one of these events. An example here is the BDS at Ft. Bill, if you have a bunch of top 30 WC riders at the events that take up the first 10 spots and the majority of the points, you're leaving someone who needs points (that may not be far off the pace of the top 10) and is deserving of points in a tough spot. While its great to have that level of competition at more local/regional races, guys who are in the top 30 in the WC standings don't need points and we end up forcing up and comers to travel to obscure locations to get points.
  • 7 0
 @si-paton: Obviously you will know the most about this so I'll gladly stand corrected. If the goal of the UCI in this move is to make the very top tier more competitive, I'd say they need to be speaking to guys like yourself and making national series events a much bigger deal in terms of points on offer (and financial support for organisation). I can see that benefiting everyone across the board.
  • 4 0
 @dhx42: 100% correct.
  • 6 0
 @thestigmk1: We have to pay the UCi to host a UCI Classe event. Plus give away free entries to all UCi Elite Teams, plus the extra prize money and extra commissaires (travel, accommodation, food etc..). The reality is that it costs several thousand pounds more to put on a UCi event. Top 10/15/20 get points but the problem is those riders already have hundreds of UCi points. Those scratching around for 40 UCi points therefore need to head to UCi events around the globe where the competition for points would be less than say a BDS, IXS Cup etc.. Even Peaty couldn't get enough at Portugal earlier last year could he?
  • 6 0
 @si-paton: Would it be feasible to have a rule that if you are currently in the Top 40 of the WC standings, you are unable to gain points at a non WC event. I am not totally sure on the point accrual at WC events, but in theory anyone who is top 40 probably has enough points to be qualified to WC events in the next year...
  • 1 0
 @si-paton: yeh it sounds horrendous. I feel UCI should be approaching national series that world cup is going to pull from and making it an ideal platform. Widen the base of the pyramid before extending the top as it were. And yes @dhx42 that would be a great idea. Keep UCI points available at national level only available to riders that haven't earned them on the WC circuit and are pre qualified for the next season.
  • 1 0
 @dhx42: YES! USA ProGRT seems to have that going with all events being Class 2 and a Class 1 and Class HC... seems like riders can win their way up in points to get to WC... but i dont understand all the details since i dont follow closely this system. On the road, they did have a similar thing where the top ProTour teams could not even enter certain lower class races at all... that makes sense... but then only if there are a lot of races... and unfortunately, there are not a lot of races... and what races there are are not always UCI affiliated for a number of reasons... I am involved in enduro though, and the system there is very loose and designed to be easy to engage in... since Chris Ball was involved in UCI he does understand these issues and i am really happy that on that side of the sport we are taking steps to have something in place to avoid these kinds of issues altogether in the future...
  • 2 0
 @thestigmk1: Our races may be less competitive and poorly publicised,but the tracks,the weather and the ambiance are worth the trip! See you at the Portuguese Cup next March!
  • 34 2
 I know we have all heard this but we need to move away from the fast flat tracks. As rat boy said in his video I'm genuinely bored of seeing flat out tracks with the same lines we need less bike parks and more technical trails. Yes the flat out trails make the times closer which is better for viewing but in the long term is it really? The fact Harry Heath and rat boy have removed themselves from racing that says a lot to me! We are going away from proper downhill riding to who can ride bike park the fastest which isn't realistic.
  • 8 0
 also I forgot to add every bike company are basing their bikes on world cup results/tracks and that just isn't realistic. A track such as innerleithen where I am from or dunkeld just wouldn't suit a 27.5 slack as f*ck world cup bike. Im buying a downhiller soon as I know 26 inches will definitely be better for me for riding these tracks!
  • 7 0
 This!! There have been a lot of pedally WC tracks recently. Bring back the Ultra-Gnar, the crazy line choices, the rocks and roots.
  • 8 8
 @Pauley: bike parks look like they look because artificial tracks are more sustainable than "natural" ones. Then venues don't want to pay for building a new track every second year after it got beaten up. Look at how Maribor looks like these days. You wouldn't like to ride there.

Inevitable cost of the expansion of the sport. Sht gets dumbed down. But nr of bike parks and trail centers goes up all the time. There are more and more places to ride and if you tell me that it's not what we all wanted since years then I don't know how to satisfy a person on the internet...

In general I think it sucks that they cut down womens field.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: i see where you are coming from but places where I am from literally receive no funding as it is a world cup event would add so much money to the economy and the track meaning they could employ more track builders and repair more natural ones.
  • 4 1
 @Pauley: isn't UCI charging like 900k Euro from the venue to cover a World Cup event or World Champs? (It's fkd up i know) Riding venues invest money in sustainable sht. It has also to do with satisfying greenies and land owners.
  • 4 0
 I agree with you, but it's difficult to judge these tracks from a GoPro course preview.

Having only ridden one WC track, which was Fort Bill, I can say that was a gnarly f*cking track. Damn good fun as well, but only when you ride it can you really see how rough and gnarly it is.

I personally would like to see more natural tracks used, for at least one or two races anyway. Just natural kickers/jumps and have the track weaving down through a beautiful, picturesque woodland.
  • 1 4
 @bikekrieg: Name the pedally tracks from 2016
  • 32 5
 You can see why Racheal is ahead of everyone. Her attitude is focused and it comes across in the comments she has made above. Reflect that with Manon Carpenter's comments and its like she is all for "inclusion", i.e. little slow Sarah should get to race, "just because". It IS a WORLD cup, not a local club thing, where yes, everyone should get a chance. Compare this with say, Formula 1; only a set number of cars, and you have to qualify within 107% thus making the back markers hurry up. Imagine how close and riveting the womens race could be if all 15 riders were within 107% or the winners time? On a 4:00min flat winning time, that means 15th would need to be across the line in 4:16.8. How many times has Rachael won by a 16 second margin to second place in the last season or so?

If it was easy, everybody would do it.

Thing is, a World Cup SHOULDN'T be easy. So frankly, not everyone should do it.

However, I am with Claudio on protecting 10 riders. Make it 5 riders (they're the genuine fast ones) and then let the rest squabble over the other ten spots. At least that would change it up a bit.

And then, breaking the juniors out might actually have the effect that nothing much happens anyway. If there are 25-30 racing in 2016, and 10-15 of those were juniors, then in 2017 those 10-15 all get to race, and the elite field is now a contest between 15-20 women anyway. Up to 5 would miss out. Under the 2016 rules, 15-20 would have missed out as only 20 were allowed to race. So now LESS miss out.

Let's see how it goes. Could be great. Could be a lot worse.
  • 23 9
 that's because of her brothers
  • 17 9
 Well this is the mentality that is continually being pushed in the media and by general feminists/socialist do gooders. That women need artificial help to reach the top. It's no wonder they think like that in a world that is constantly telling them it is the system that is against them.

Then one woman, Rachel , who doesn't think like that and just goes out and focuses on her job annihilates them. Socialism and equality of outcomes is a ridiculous concept that hurts everyone. If women want to get better exposure then more of them need to look to Rachel and be like her, it's not the "oh so oppressive" system that is at fault.
  • 5 14
flag thedeathstar (Jan 12, 2017 at 6:56) (Below Threshold)
 @humoroususername: How convenient that all those pernicious ideas of feminists, socialists, and pretty much all women in general can be fixed by going from 20 riders to 15.
  • 7 1
 @humoroususername: I agree. You can't artificially force different groups of people to do something to try and get some sort of statistical equality. We could just as easily complain that there aren't enough black riders, or enough Asians in the NBA.

Look at Pinkbike; I know ONE girl who has a pinkbike account thats not a public figure. Are we going to start having quotas to get more female pinkbike accounts, and then pay them to make sure they post frequently enough? I'm all for increased womens outreach, but you can't plan other peoples lives.
  • 3 6
 @humoroususername: you don't see something wrong with only 30 women showing up to a world cup? Or low numbers at national or provincial race series?
  • 2 1
 @hamncheez: Yes, those are accurate analogies.
  • 6 0
 miranda miller is on point. "let's work hard and earn something. let's try again and learn sacrifice."
  • 16 2
 @racerfacer: no, I don't see anything wrong with that. I see it as a logical outcome of demand and supply.

I know one girl who races at a very high level. I have known her for years. She is now starting to beat a lot of the men and when she does I never see or hear any negative comments from those who have been beaten. She has received massive support from the male mountain bikers in this region and we all look forward to seeing her on the world stage. Why has this happened? Because she is dedicated and she wants it. There are simply no other girls like her out where I am. She also has probably the greatest earning potential of all mountain bikers in the country because of how few girls actually mountain bike at her level. (I'm not Canadian BTW)

Don't you think that maybe, her determination and success is what is going to encourage other girls to try the sport? Or do you think we should encourage girls to put in substandard effort and just allow them to enter simply because of a quota and this concept that they deserve to be there based on nothing other than their chromosome.

I can guarantee you that there is one girl out there who looks at Rachel Atherton and thinks "I'm going to smash her some day". Putting girls who don't have that attitude on the circuit makes a mockery of the sport and damages her chances. How is seeing undeserving women getting annihilated by Rachel by a minute going to encourage girls to give it a go? People look to the winners for inspiration, not the losers. Especially not if they are only there so we don't appear sexist.

God I hate PC culture...logic just goes out the window.
  • 5 2
 @humoroususername: agreed. pc=snowflakes
  • 5 4
 @racerfacer: Do the number of women construction workers bother you? If women aren't choosing to race DH at the same rate that men are, how can you force them to race from the top-down?
  • 10 5
 @humoroususername: think a little deeper bud. You don't understand that there are underlying societal factors keeping girls from trying and sticking with the sport. Maybe they don't want to perceived as being "butch". Maybe they are intimidated and don't feel welcomed by "bro culture". As a society, we can do a better job of welcoming women to high end sport.

Think about it, there are at least handful more women out there who have the genetic potential to be competitive with Rachel Atherton. The problem is that they are never picking up a downhill bike and getting to the start gate. The UCI's decision is just a barometer of this reality where you only have 2 elite women at a BC cup.

This resistance to PC culture is insanity. You're doing the same thing (insulting people with the same, tired insults) and expecting different results (them to "toughen up"). Keep going bud, see where it takes you.
  • 3 2
 obviously the old approach was not encouraging more competition so changes made. give it a chance.
  • 4 2
 @fullbug: seen the same thing in motocross, women's class with 3 women in it riding trail bikes not jumping a thing. Downhill just appeals to men more then women . . . Not a pc culture or Chauvinist thing! ! !
  • 2 3
 @MX298: agreed. speakin of.. arlington sx in a month! hangin in the pits and practice!
  • 2 1
 @racerfacer: Many of your points have merit; the culture of biking can be unfriendly to women. However, the solution to this and other problems has to be ground-up, not top-down. Its like affirmative action; it hurts people who merit college and scholarships, but are passed up for a lower-qualified person because that person has darker skin. Affirmative action then also hurts the minority receiving the benefit by placing them in colleges that they are not prepared for and have much higher drop-out rates (with loads of debt) than those who were admitted based on their ability to perform academically, rather than the color of their skin. The real problem is that if you're not middle-class and white, public high school are utter failures and do not prepare their students for college. This is the same as biking- the UCI is reacting to what the environment is, and in this case it cannot change that environment. That has to be done on the grass-roots level- at your local races, trails, and clubs.
  • 3 0
 @hamncheez: I must have misread this article to have missed where this is at all related to affirmative action.
  • 3 0
 @thedeathstar: I get the connection and enjoyed the comment as it is correct as I pay for my kids education and drug testing roadies ! ! !
  • 2 3
 @humoroususername: "socialist"

Piss off and keep it for Breitbart.
  • 3 1
 @KeithReeder: I've never been on the breitbart website. Can't really see your point there. Is that your response to everyone that you may have an inkling disagrees with you? Subliminally accuse them of being some sort of subversive white nationalist by associating them with a website known for having people like that on it? Attack the messenger and not the message is a great tactic of those who do things for "the greater good".

If you have a point make it, otherwise stay quiet and try to learn something. Like a civilised person.
  • 6 1
 @racerfacer: I think about this regularly.

Acceptance of PC culture is insanity. You cannot socially engineer a nation. It has been tried and failed many times. You keep saying "as a society we can do a better job of welcoming women to top end sport".

I just gave you a very clear example of how men of all ages make a talented girl very accepted within the sport. They do more to encourage her than they would for any young males. Yet somehow they need to do even more?

Now how exactly is the uci going to change the fabric of society enough that more girls pick up bikes? Are women going to stop wearing makeup suddenly to ensure more tomboyish girls don't feel left out when they do something mucky? Unlikely. Are they going to stop using sexuality when it suits them to ensure they aren't written off as a sideshow? Again unlikely. Hannah Barnes is a pro mountain biker based on her looks alone. Can you name one male mountain biker who can say that? How can you have equality when the opportunities can never be the same?

Let's look at modelling. Why do female models earn so much more than men? Should we just force more men into fashion shows in the name of equality? And while we are at it should we insist they are paid the same as the female supermodels despite the fact no one gives a shit about them?

Women are every bit as responsible for society being the way it is as men. This denial of reality in favour of a hypothetical ideal is in my opinion completely bizarre.
  • 23 1
 What about more rounds? Would love to see that. See what the riders and teams think.
Surely more exposure and opportunity for riders?
  • 7 2
 Yeah, but $$$$$ for teams more time commitment for riders and not all locations can pull together a vollie force to make it happen and meet UCI & RBMH requirements. They take a lot of coordinating and $ to happen.
  • 7 0
 @CaptainSnappy: Yeah but there are enough locations out there that are not far away from ones who already have a wc in their city. For example, Schladming would be a great race, the infrastructure is there and in the past there already were some wc races, plus you only drive about 2 hours from Leogang to Schladming!
  • 8 0
 The answer you seek is in the article....no naming sponsor, ergo, not much money to go around. Maybe we can setup a crowd funding page to support another race or two???
  • 10 2
 There IS enough money to go around, they just funnel it into the dope road show. TLD and FOX have said MANY times the difference between MX and DH is not the money per race, it's the number of races. Simple math that those French speaking Fuks at the UCI can't figure out.
  • 9 0
 @FabianD: Agreed. Back in the 90's the rounds were organised that way. Bromont and MSA were raced not long after Sea Otter and other Norba rounds.
Places like Cairns that are a long way from anywhere but have a massive trail network could host 2 rounds on seperate tracks on seperate weekends in the same postcode.
Bringing trials and 4X (or slalom) back in is also another way to get more $$ for support. The more people that go to the event the better it is for all.
It's like having a music festival with only 2 bands. Think it needs to be pushed instead of being cut back.
  • 4 0
 Teams wouldn't want more races, theres a bigger gravy train from video content not racing now.
  • 5 0
 this is the one issue if I have with UCI - they want too much money per event which detracts a lot of places automatically..the amount is not insignificant either
  • 2 0
 @CaptainSnappy: Yep, i think thats it. Its a big commitment to do more races, and the brands get enough exposure out of it - SC and Spech treck, etc, don't need more. It would take team sponsorship deals with large non MTB multinationals to drive more races. They'd want races in all markets to drive max global exposure. But do we really want to go down that route? I for one think Team Samsung vs Team Audi might make things less entertaining.
  • 2 0
 More racing would make the series much more exciting and give more to the riders and sponsors but as others have said the cost and logistics implications seem to outweigh any motivation to do it. In certain areas it would be eeeasy to add an additional round onto the following weekend, places like the Alps and Canada have huge amounts of tracks to choose from, you could have one track one weekend, keep the pits in the same place and then another track the next before moving on - It would be quite cost effective that way as travelling amount is the same, you just need to stay longer.
  • 16 2
 interesting viewpoint from both sides of the fence. I tend to agree that there needs to be more fire to qualify for the finals...but..you also don't want to detract women from participating and growing themselves. I think UCI does sometimes take some undue flack for what they do as it is very difficult to please everyone, and despite having made some horrendous decisions in the past...I am on the side of the fence that tends to agree that 15 spots and more points to compete will be beneficial to the sport for women...As long as there are sufficient and suitably competitive alternative events to get points and experience...time will tell
  • 3 4
 Damn, neg propped you, when I meant to up you.
  • 5 4
 @CaptainSnappy: got your back mate, I wasn´t gonna do either
  • 1 4
 Damn, did the same you did...
  • 7 0
 The womens side of DH is in transition at the moment. We have Rachel, Tracey, Tahnee, Mannon etc all at the top level of DH and there does seem to be a lot of younger riders becoming interested now too.

The problem we seem to have is the huge differences in ability levels at elite level and the low turnout - We almost make a mockery of competition if all women that enter automatically qualify can rank themselves as '10th in the world' if they end a race 40 seconds slower than the top 3.

If / when more women compete in the sport things will sort themselves out but for now something had to be done to ensure it is only people capable of racing at the highest level that are on track in the final - Hopefully it will give women something to push for.

I can only hope womens DH continues to grow, it has come a long way from when I used to race and women riding was seen as a bit of a joke by some.

The problem with other events is that they just don't have the competition - a local DH race will see every women that enters get on the podium - it must be difficult to motivate yourself to ride faster if you don't have anybody to beat....
  • 4 0
 @Racer951:

Womens times completely drop off the moment you get to the girls who are not riding pretty much full time.
That there is the problem, as without more female customers companies are never going to support a female rider completely. How could you ever expect a full time student, who works part time in the winters to save for her racing, to be able to get close to Rachel, Tahnee, Manon, Myriam or Tracy, Whom have all with the exception of Tracy gone straight from Juniors to training and riding full time - in Rachel's case for nearly 10 years.

It's also no coincidence that every single one of the top female racers mentioned above have a brother or father who are also heavily involved in the industry, which definitely made their journey to being a professional smoother - not easier, just smoother.

These girls are all incredibly talented professional athletes, they are impressive to watch and although most guys like to think they are faster than all the girls, the reality is... they are not. No but really... You are not!

There are a lot of other girls out there with just as much potential but DH is all about all the finite little details and without 100% focus on the task in hand its pretty unlikely they will ever be able to really make waves in the results. you can't focus 100% on one run, if you drove yourself to the race, make your own food, have to go back to work the following week and have to fix your own bike. - Until companies start giving girls realistic amounts of support to help the succeed and not relying on the bank of mum and dad to fill the gaps it wont change much. It's the same for the guys really - just much more obvious in the womens field.
  • 2 1
 @monty15: I actually think the chance for a young female racer to get support is much more than that of a young male racer who has a huge amount of competition and has to ride at a much higher level before they are even noticed.

I have said this before and I wont name anybody out of respect but I know of a few local female riders getting decent levels of support from brands and the local shop when their riding standards are pretty low in all reality - What they do have though is a good image and instagram page. The guys that get the same support level are

Men get things just as hard but remember when they travel all of the way to another country in the hope of qualification for a WC this is often dashed as they cant make it into the top 80 riders most of which will be full time atheletes.

There are hundreds of guys who travel as privateers to world cups, driving themselves there, getting money together from winter jobs or even working inbetween - Its no easier for the guys but they do it, its a right of passage for many and the reality of DH racing.

I dont think it is any more obvious in the womens field - It is a simple case of show the talent / results and get support and as there is more talent than there is support available, somebody has to miss out.

To be honest I think support for women is getting better and I am all for it - I want to see women racing DH but it will be a slow change to what is lets be honest a male sport by its very culture. This will change over time, it already is.
  • 14 0
 BDS is pushing forward for female participation at our events. Equal prize money, a large Junior female category and more importantly, at every round of the series last year we supplied toilets at the top of the hill, for last minute nerves and all that. We also appreciate this primarily helps out our female athletes as well as Commissaires, Timing, Media, BDS Team and Spectators.. We will again ensure toilets at the top at every round of the 2017 HSBC UK National Downhill Series as we believe this is essential kit. We also welcome all international female riders of any age from Cadets up to Grand Vets!
  • 4 1
 There is a difference between "equal" and "equitable" that most people fail to understand. All things considered a decent percentage of prize money, especially in regional and nation series, comes from entry fees. Prize money should reflect this equitably.

As is stated in the article generally there are 4-5 times as many male entrants as female entrants and, specific sponsorship requirements not withstanding, prize money distribution should reflect that. If I am one of 160 male entrants and I make the paying podium then I expect my share of the 160 entry fees (less running costs) that represent my category of the sport. Male riders are not racing against the female riders and visa versa.

If a sponsor or series want to particularly promote women's or junior racing then it can and should and also clearly communicate this in the way that Giant run specific Liv clinics and activities and Trek run a women's series.

People should not make the mistake of thinking that because women's prize money is generally less that they are valued any less it merely represents the proportion that they represent at any event. Especially in downhill which is a race against the clock. Where representation is more equal, both in participation and targetting consumer marketing, prize money has more quickly become equal as well as equitable (World Tour Tennis and Golf for example).

Re ranking support series the UCI could perhaps look at lowering the licencing fees required for regional and national series and grade them like they do in road racing. That way if a particular country has a very competitive and strong national series their races generate more points than the equivalent series in a country that realistically has a far weaker and less competitive series. Off the top of my head; UK, France, Australia and New Zealand must currently be ranked quite highly as they appear to consistently produce strong riders at WC level. Other countries do not appear to have the same production rate must by comparison have weaker series. The current European Series appears to generate strong competition and, by result, strong racers, as well.
  • 4 0
 @amrskipro: Well written and a very valid point. A race organiser in Oz tried to do the equal prize money thing for Enduro.

with an elite mens field of around 20 riders on average, plus 100ish other males, the winner got $1k with prize money down to 5th place,

The womens elite field sometimes struggled to get five rider, so any female was pretty much guaranteed prize money which was subsidised by the rest of the field. I didnt think that was equality.
  • 15 3
 I don't get why so many ppl are bitching about this... The womens category just isnt as competitive, why watch the lower ranked riders coming in 60s+ behind the pace? They should step their game up... And the junior category is great for upcoming riders.
  • 27 17
 Absolute horse sh*t! The DH World Cup needs to break away from the UCI. Let them deal with just road cycling. This is why the EWS is completely separate! The UCI makes terrible calls just like let's get rid of 4X! Who are these people at the top? Madder
  • 2 0
 I think you'll find UCI is being brought in to EWS for this year
  • 4 1
 EWS and the DH-Teams should sit together and work something out to bring DH away from UCI. Then they also could bring back 4x.
  • 2 0
 @aushred: yup, I can see that. Where there's money there will be juice, and when there's juice, there will be the uci
  • 10 1
 mmm tricky one this but i think rather than cutting the number of women , the focus should be on getting more women up to a higher standard. how? practice,training and help from experienced racers /coaches, managers,teams and sponsors
  • 11 1
 Yep, but they are advocating partcipating in national series races to gain skill, experience and WC points rather than jumping head first in to WC. Miranda had a good response to the same issue.
  • 4 0
 @CaptainSnappy @phunkt its really up to the local and national races to get more women ready for a UCI DH track. We complain that these tracks are to "bike-parky", but even the easiest, calmest tracks (like lenzerheide) are downright dangerous for your average riders like us. If you have to go around that road gap, you shouldn't be qualifying for the finals. The only way we are going to get more women participating in the sport at the top level is to grow the lower levels, like the IXS and national race circuits.
  • 9 0
 Don't understand how nobody is commenting on the decrease in number of spaces for the junior? They are the future of the "elite" with some of them being quite close to the top times.
  • 7 0
 My big problem is with the junior men being reduced to 20. Roughly 150-170 elite men show up for most WCs. 80 qualify, which is about 50% of the field (even better odds at Cairns, MSA and FT Bill). At the WCs I attended last year, about 75 junior men competed with 30 qualifying, or about 40% of the field. Knocking that down to 20 getting through would have a mere 27% qualifying. The junior field is fast and competent, I just don't see how this rule change does any good and only discourages young riders.
  • 2 0
 They are just saying "do your national series and do well first". I have seen kids that are not in the top 20 at a pro-grt heading overseas to a WC event because they have the resources ($) and a team (ESC) to get them there where top 3 kids Are not! It should be all about speed . . . . !
  • 2 0
 At least they made a separate junior field. We could go back to a few years ago when they had to qualify into the Elite men. This way there is a guaranty of 20 juniors, the old way you'd get 1 or 2 rippers that landed them selves in the top 80.
  • 2 0
 @MX298: Getting to a WC is different from qualifying for finals at a WC. At Lourdes last year for example, 5 juniors that finished in the top 20 in finals, finished in the 21-30 spots in qualifying so wouldn't have even made the finals in 2017. Its a very deep and competitive field and these new numbers discourage talented juniors to make the investment in WCs. Just don't see the logic of trimming the field.
  • 2 0
 @WolfStoneD: Very true
  • 7 1
 The UCi Are killing World Cup downhill racing! The sport is all about the wild card!! and the committed racer that works their way up through the world cup standings. Top racers are not just born. For most it takes years of living in a van, or hitch hiking to races like Wyn Master did. Riders need to get wold cup experience, to have any chance of gaining sponsorship so they have have the resources to take their riding to the top of the sport.
  • 11 4
 For those saying "it's not fair", well, the world isn't a very fair place, is it? Suck it up, train like a champ, and go again.
  • 11 3
 Cut the men's field while you're at it.
  • 3 0
 UCI and companies that sponsor the team are interested in making it like a more private select club making more difficult to have access, to them the club already has grown enough, it is funny like, you see other disciplines like Freeride actually growing, rampage for example, become a annual event, crankwox is getting another full event in Europe, let's see what the future holds.
  • 4 0
 If they are worried about the time difference between 1st placed women and last placed women why not have a qualifying % time like F1.

You have to qualify within a say 10% window of the fastest rider...

????
  • 4 1
 Because nobody wants to see a race with only 1-5 people in
  • 3 0
 @daweil: 1-5 if rach is having an off day haha
  • 3 0
 @daweil: no one wants to see a bunch of female riders billy goat/tumble down a track either...your answer doesn't further the conversation
  • 5 0
 Someone besides UCI needs to takeover DH. That's all there is to it. Sorry, but UCI is all about road biking, leave that to them.
  • 8 2
 "I mean RACING, not just taking part."
Tony Seagrave ~ truth.
  • 1 0
 And money!
  • 3 0
 I think the interview missed out by not asking a direct question about the junior men rule change. I also believe that the UCI makes it TOO expensive for different national series to offer a high-level point classification. All the National races in the US paid out 10 spots, with 10th offering 1 silly point. When Gwin, Shaw, Mulally, Ropelato, and Leivsson (and others) generally holding the top 5 spots; point are hard to come by.
  • 2 0
 Just look at this years pro-grt schedule. No normal rider with average wealth can do the whole series! Sure makes it hard to get 40 points.
  • 3 0
 This is such a valid point. The problems being addressed at the WC level are growing out of much more serious problems strangling the sport at the National level. These changes are reactionary, not proactive in any way.
  • 2 0
 At least you guys have a national race series.
  • 1 0
 @WolfStoneD: well we do have 320 million people.
  • 1 0
 @MX298: and a similar problem that it takes a week to drive across the country for 1 race, or a big bank account to fly all over your country.

You can do the whole euro series and cover far less km than we have to.
  • 3 0
 The thing about the tracks being hardcore is that they have got a lot better in recent years. 2 popular riders have announced that they don't enjoy racing world cups any more because the tracks are too "bike park", but it seems a lot better than it was. Even the tracks like Leogang have been improved, and this year we had Valnord, VDS, MSA and Lourdes. All good tracks. The Cairns track isn't what people want, but in the rain it can produce a pretty exciting race. Plenty to grumble about with UCI, but they do seem to have taken fans wishes into account regarding track design
  • 2 0
 Ironic that Harry's best results the last two years were on A-line
  • 5 0
 Its a viscous circle, women bike less, so they buy less, so there's less money in paying female pros. The impetus has to come from somewhere.
  • 1 1
 Since when is financial support from Giant for female riders completely dependent on the spending habits of their own gender? If we, as men, buy a ton of Giant bikes, why would Giant not use some of that revenue to support female racers? I believe what you mean to say is that the gender proportions of the sport's overall participants may be indicative of the financial support up and coming female racers receive in comparison to men.
  • 2 0
 @CaptainSnappy: Giant have their LIV range now which is as far as I believe the only part of Giant that will support women. Interestingly Giants most sold bike last year across all their MTB range was the top spec women's specific Enduro bike the LIV Lust. They should probably make more of a fuss about that.
  • 6 0
 That's a poor guy Tony Seagrave is talking to...
  • 7 3
 UCI are so sensitive as a Mafioso. Only money and deals, do not give a sh... about the sport
  • 7 5
 If it looks like the mafia, acts like the mafia then it's probably the U.S government.
  • 2 1
 @Boardlife69: so much for swiss neutrality...shots fired.
  • 2 1
 This is aimed at DHWC racing as a whole. As Barel and many other Elite riders have said WC DH is the F1 of Mountain Biking.

This is how I think it will probably end up in the next few years.

1. 6-10 Rounds a year
2. Top (20?) Male / Female riders from previous season have guaranteed entry to all rounds for the season.
3. Riders who were outside the top 20? Get the opportunity to qualify for the remaining (20?) race day positions.
4. Finish in the top 20 on race day, you're qualified for the next race. (not sure how this would work)
5. Juniors get to race world champs / have a separate race series.
6. New riders must gain enough points / prove competitiveness to be allowed to race.

Less riders on track will be better for TV coverage as it showcases the pinnacle of the sport, which in theory should bring more money into the sport.

I know this sounds strict, but you have to work your way up the chain in any major sport to get to the top. In F1 you can't just earn your 30 points in local races and turn up to race the F1 on Sunday.
  • 1 0
 UCI and it's rule changes are often quite dubios, been like that in the past and will be in the future. UCI isnt about getting DH more popular because they want the olympic sports to grow. Quite like the FIA.... I really like Claudios point, we should get away from protection. The performance-grid in the womens category has too much spread, just watch the WMX Races, those are quite similar conditions and most of the riders are on an equal level of performance...without gaps of 20 seconds or minutes.
  • 1 0
 Change can be a good thing and make people train harder and start to charge dn the course faster. Wish that the big change was getting new courses and not the same old stuff year after year....i....tons of places around the world that would love to host a brand new downhill event.
  • 3 2
 I am on board with tightening the field...

Honestly, it's refreshing to read the likes of Miranda Miller and RA siding with the UCI on this. On the other hand, we can all agree that the female racing pool is rather small, so it's a fine line between making adjustments for the overall betterment of the series vs decreasing the caliber of female talent overall by limiting opportunities for female riders.

Personally, I don't care for women's DH, as Miranda said...many of the female riders struggle to even get down the tracks. That doesn't mean they don't deserve a spot in this sport, but at the "pinnacle"/WC level...the clock doesn't discriminate.
  • 1 0
 The way I see it is that, in theory, it will make the rest of the women's field get faster and ultimately catch up with where Rachel is at. They should feel more determined and more motivated to fight for a place in a WC race, which will transfer to their training regime by training harder which therefore means quicker times.
  • 1 0
 I'm a big fan of this article. It was very interesting hearing from so many informed people with such varying opinions. I didn't fully understand the implications of the rule change before reading this. I thought Claudio's point about protected riders was particularly interesting. It seems like UCI might need to make some changes in the near future if they want the talent they cultivate in the junior field to transfer into women's elite.
  • 1 0
 I'm disappointed Rachel didn't take the time to address how the changes will affect non-euros.

The problems with downhill racing are systemic and their roots are much deeper than WC racing. I can appreciate this idea that as the pinnacle of the sport we need to make it more exclusive, but exclusivity is rarely a positive.

The real tough questions that need to be asked are: Why are there such huge time gaps in women's racing? Why are so few women showing up so that so many qualify? Cutting the number of racers accepts these problems, it does not attempt to address them.

I think the solution is always more emphasis and more opportunities and more accessibility. Not necessarily for WC races but for sanctioned races. You grow the sport from the ground up! A kid sitting on his couch watching "stars" on RedBullTV isn't the future of our sport; the kid entering the beginner class of his local race is. It's very telling that Simon Burney didn't respond to the question about grassroots support and development. The UCI (and its national affiliates) has a long history of being too good to get its hands dirty growing the sport, it just wants to make rules and take money from the people already sat on top (that was kinda harsh, oops).

And Red Bull has too much say, period. They don't own this sport and as far as I know their contract to film it isn't indefinite.
  • 1 0
 I think there's a possibility that in a few years there won't be any new female riders who have come through the ranks because the changes will make it harder for them to gain sponsorship now. Who's going to become the next Rachel Atherton (or any of the other top female riders) once she's retired? It's really putting the impetus on the teams to sponsor riders even though they might not be able to race in the world cup. While I understand that there's a bit of a range in technical profiency in the womens field, I think it sucks that there not really thinking about the long term implications of the actions they're taking on elite womens DH.
  • 1 0
 Manon- " if the number of Junior girls competing increases but the number of Elites allowed to race is reduced, where will the girls go when they move up into Elite? Will they be discouraged from aiming for the highest level of racing? Or move onto different disciplines?"


Answer- Yes they would.

Its already happening all the time DH racing. Young talent's that don't get major points in Downhill then usually QUIT, move to a different discipline, or new Sport all together.

Theres are Litterly Thousands of riders racing for points who are LABELED "PRO'S", that will never get anywhere near a world cup. SADLY, because they feal its just not worth it. I keep going because I love bikes, but your only young for so long.
  • 4 0
 Miranda Miller is a badass!
  • 1 1
 ????????
  • 2 0
 The MOST badass
  • 1 1
 Did the NIMBY50 three years ago and somehow caught Miranda near the top of the Let It Go climb. She cruised passed me going into Overnight Sensation (down) and never saw her again. #notsurprised
  • 1 0
 I'm calling BULLSHIT! I looked up the qualifying results for 2016 women's elite at Fort William and Leogang and the number of female entries was 41 and 38 respectively, not 20-22! Didn't look at the other races. Pretty lame!
  • 4 0
 And what was the time gap between 1st and 20th?
  • 3 0
 Also. There were 46 total women who raced elite in 2016.

Of that 46. Roughly 20 went to 2 races or less.

And less than 9 raced in all the events.

m.vitalmtb.com/news/news/2016-UCI-World-Cup-DH-Overall-Results,1003
  • 3 0
 more egg and spoon racing not less!
  • 4 4
 Women are great but they will never be as exciting to watch as the top men, like basketball, or snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, etc..I know there is a big push for equal pay at the top which is good.
  • 2 1
 $$$UCI and REDBULL $$$$$ that's all it if folks! All $$$ all the time! The racers barely makes enough money racing to cover their medical expenses!
  • 3 0
 Why does no one talk aboutcutting Junior man field?
  • 1 0
 Because a few years ago there was no Junior Men field. They had to qualify into Elite Men, so while 20 is still 10 less than last years 30. It is still 20 more than a few years ago. With this system there is a guarantee of 20, a few years back you had 1 or 2 that landed inside the top 80. Makes it hard to justify the funding when 130 Juniors sign up for qualifying and 2 get into the main show. This was of that approx 130 20 for sure make it into the main show, and they are competing with riders at a much similar skill level. This makes it more fun for them as they can race people the same age and skill and have a good chance of not going home early. Making the main show means more sponsors are likely willing to support Juniors.
  • 2 0
 @WolfStoneD: Exactly
  • 2 0
 Who else read Claudio's comments in his voice in their head and added screams and shouts?
  • 2 0
 Thanks for the insight Pink Bike
  • 1 0
 BTW. in mobile version of the web, there are no names of asked people.. So little bit confusig at first.
  • 3 2
 the uci can suck my balls. bunch of roadie lycra loving ponces
  • 1 0
 Miranda Miller. is Badass. Her comments confirm. Rock On.
  • 1 1
 This is probably a sign the WC tracks are going to get more hardcore... ?
  • 6 0
 you wish
  • 1 1
 Snap shot from Progressive -Thank you Flo
  • 1 1
 I am a sucker for a good plait.
  • 1 0
 Dimples also.
  • 2 3
 Notice how all the team managers are men...and all seem to be in favour of these changes.
  • 3 1
 SantaCruz team is one off the top of my head that is managed by a women, whom is also and ex racer.
  • 8 0
 Note Miranda's and Rachel's responses. Also note Claudio pointing out the obvious maths of it. Also note one of the men running a team very much in favour of change happens to be Tahnee Seagrave's dad. Also note that the Team Manager in charge of representing the Elite teams has Rachel as his star rider. I personally wasn't a big fan but actually reading opinions of two female riders, one at the very top and one on the 10th-15th end of qualifying, and the opinions of those in the field has changed my mind. Don't just cry sexism because it's fashionable. It detracts from real issues elsewhere.
  • 5 7
 women cant ride downhill unless they have a brother who shows them the way down the course... i joke... i joke...
  • 2 2
 Thanks for coming out, Grandad.
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