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Sport Opinion: The UCI cyclo-cross ranking update is a failure, but it doesn’t have to be

18:55  25 november  2020
18:55  25 november  2020 Source:   cyclingnews.com

Tom Pidcock reveals 2020-21 cyclo-cross schedule

  Tom Pidcock reveals 2020-21 cyclo-cross schedule Briton will take in 14 races, ending at the World ChampionshipsThe Briton, who was runner-up in the elite men's race at the 2020 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships last season, will kick off his campaign at the fourth round of the Superprestige series in Merksplas on November 22.

Track. Cyclo - cross . Womens. Procycling. However, the UCI should be bolder and entrepreneurial with its rights, if it is to mitigate the threat of breakaway league reprisals. To reinforce this position, the UCI should back out of proposals for WorldTour teams to incorporate U23 development squads.

The official Cyclo - cross rankings from the Union Cycliste Internationale ( UCI ). Find here all the cyclo - cross rankings from all events in the world.

Anxiety, uncertainty, chaos, frustration, career killing...

Among the many words that come to mind about the UCI's latest cyclo-cross ranking policy update, 'relief' is not one that I would choose for a rule that detrimentally impacts the careers of over a thousand athletes worldwide. Yet that headline ran last Thursday when the long-awaited rule amendment was finally announced.

The new UCI policy amendment, as of November 19, 2020, wipes out all ranking points for the start of the 2021-2022 season, except for the 2021 Cyclo-cross World Championships set to take place in Ostend, Belgium, on January 30-31.

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Each UCI -sponsored event feeds into the season-long competition known as the UCI Cyclo - cross World Cup. Unlike other types of cycling disciplines, trials is a sport where the main factors are the stability and the control of the bike in extreme situations where speed also plays an important role.

Cyclo - cross is growing in popularity as a competitive bike sport, but can appear quite confusing to the uninitiated. Find out more about CX with this essential guide. At its most simple level, cyclo - cross is an offroad form of bike racing that sees racers encounter barriers or obstacles on the course.

It is a blow to individual athletes and national federations, and is an effective self-sabotage of all the hard work the UCI has done to globalise the sport over the last decade. It hurts women, men, veteran racers and developing riders alike. It's just plain bad policy. But it doesn't have to be…

To be frank, we've bigger things to worry about than bike racing right now. Bigger things than the ranking points cyclo-cross racers earn at said races. Bigger things than the start grid positions that said ranking points determine.

The US has set records with 200,000 COVID-19 cases per day in the last week, and a quarter million people have died here. Belgium has been locked down during the latest surge in European COVID-19 cases, though cyclo-cross races still take place thanks to a government decree.

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Cyclo - Cross News. British Cycling update on regional and national-level racing. It was a day of close margins at the 2020 UCI Cyclo - Cross World Championships, with Millie Couzens finishing fourth, Evie Richards sixth and Cameron Mason eighth.

However, the recent policy decision by the UCI now makes us weigh a fabricated numerical assessment of cycling worth against the very real dangers of a global pandemic. This shouldn't even be a choice we have to consider. That's not the kind of risky dilemma any official policy should promote.*

Of the 1,152 riders with UCI points and thus an international ranking (605 Elite & under-23 Men and 547 Elite & under-23 Women), only 127 of them, across four races, acquired points at World Championships last year. Of the 180 ranked North American racers, only 23 have points from World Championships.

No, 'relief' is not how the majority of racers feel, especially the 1,025 whose results are hosed by the pandemic and subsequent UCI policy. It's a policy that comes off as cyclo-cross elitist (as contradictory as that term sounds), and leaves blue collar bike racers and working class pros out in the cold.

Tom Pidcock delays cyclo-cross season start

  Tom Pidcock delays cyclo-cross season start Briton heads to Germany for tests ahead of Ineos Grenadiers debut seasonThe British rider, who took a surprise silver medal in the elite race behind Mathieu van der Poel in his first attempt, has decided to put in more training to prepare for the races, having come back from a late post-road season break.

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With just one race before the end, it looks almost certain Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos will claim the cyclo - cross World Cup title in Pontchâteau, France. She has an unassailable lead at the top of the standings, after winning her second race in a row on Sunday.

Of the 1,025 riders wiped from the rankings, around 165 of them, by optimistic estimates, will be North American (USA Cycling is not taking an official under-23 program this year, nor have they come close to filling their Worlds allotments in years past). Of that 165, I will be among the newly rankless. So yes, for the record, I have a stake in this. Yet my decision was made long before November 19, two and a half months into an ever shrinking season, long before the UCI finally released their updated ranking points policy.

* To be clear: professional athletes shouldn't be shamed for trying to continue careers and livelihoods while following the laws and policies of international governments and governing sports bodies like the UCI. Save your judgmental tomato chucking for the leaders who have failed to set meaningful public health guidelines and policies.

The Belgium government is still allowing professional racing during the country's lockdown and the UCI is still holding events in countries currently locked down, like the upcoming World Cups in the Czech Republic, Belgium and The Netherlands. It is the role of governing bodies to set regulations that encourage good decisions, not set policies that force people to make tough ones.

Relief for North Americans as UCI modifies cyclo-cross rankings

  Relief for North Americans as UCI modifies cyclo-cross rankings Points from last season count for races cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemicThe UCI published the special provisions for the cyclo-cross season on Thursday that allow points scored in the 2019-2020 season in races that have been cancelled this year to be counted toward the ranking.

a train is parked on the side of a snow covered road: Andrew Juiliano - Living that pro cycling dream, one rental van roller session at a time. Maldegem, Belgium © Provided by Cycling News Andrew Juiliano - Living that pro cycling dream, one rental van roller session at a time. Maldegem, Belgium

Career-altering decisions

I am not a top ranked racer, but my 51 UCI points do get me front row starts outside of Belgium and the World Cups. In Spain, where 85 guys can take to the start line, with more than three quarters of them unranked, that's a huge difference. I've used my earned starting position to achieve respectable results, like a podium finish (third) at last year's UCI-inscribed Copa España race in Pontevedra along with other top tens in Spain and Italy.

This is the culmination of eight years of cyclo-cross vagabonding, operating out of the backs of rental cars, riding trains to races, chasing World Cups and UCI points across three different continents. I'm damn proud of how hard I've worked for those good rides when they happen. Those points matter.

It's tough being forced into a career-altering decision, especially in the absence of any official guidance other than the constant news of cancellations. A few racers rolled the dice and flew to Europe. I don't blame them. The majority, like myself, decided that with over half of the World Cups canceled and more than 120 events knocked off the UCI schedule including every event in North America, perhaps we had to take the initiative.

Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen, Pidcock, Bettiol and Urán to compete in inaugural Esports World Championships

  Van Vleuten, Van der Breggen, Pidcock, Bettiol and Urán to compete in inaugural Esports World Championships Zwift races on December 9 to award first-ever rainbow jersey avatarA total of 20 national teams will ride the men's and women's races, with a number of wild cards awarded to riders to bring the total number of nations represented to 22.

If the buck wasn't going to stop with the UCI, it had to stop somewhere. For me, that meant turning down five digits worth of sponsorship bucks. It wasn't right to take money for racing that might not happen. Six months of preparation flushed down the drain. I cancelled long-term accommodations in two different countries and sadly passed up the first RV I would have had for those soggy winter race days in Belgium.

These are the very real-world effects of poorly thought-out policies, delivered halfway through a dying season. Yet now this is the best case scenario – disappointed and rankless racers wondering what the future holds. The worst case, well that's when people's lives are in danger. Rankings now will reshuffle based on risk tolerance and randomisation, not cycling talent or grit.

There are 1,024 other stories like this that the UCI simply erased with their recent policy. Once those points disappear, we'll be at the mercy of 'drawing lots,' the way unranked riders are gridded at UCI races. Unless of course, we opt to risk travelling from all over the world, to the only place with regular racing still happening, so we can try to qualify to scour the dreary Belgian sand dunes in January for our precious points.

Sure, there are COVID-19 testing requirements to get into those Flemish races, but what about the hotels we stay in? The stores we buy groceries? The families we stay with? The families we come home to? Bad policy puts our worlds at risk. But like I said, it doesn't have to be that way.

Solutions

The ITU World Triathlon Series has set a prime example of how to manage risk and maintain ranking points. On March 16, right as the pandemic forced the shutdown of countries across the world, the ITU froze all rankings, and instead there were interim rankings established for any events held between July 1 and December 15.

Van Aert on cyclo-cross return: It's not realistic to expect me to be at my best straight away

  Van Aert on cyclo-cross return: It's not realistic to expect me to be at my best straight away Belgian to make 2020/21 'cross debut at second round of X2O Badkamers Trofee in Kortrijk on SaturdayVan Aert's victories on the road this season included Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche and two stages at the Tour de France, as well as second place at the Tour of Flanders and silver medals at the World Championships in both the road race and the time trial.

Those who still wanted to race could, but it would not affect overall rankings that determine World Championships selection and quotas for national federations, once regular racing resumed under more normal circumstances. Those who want to race still can. Those who are unable to travel, or who do not want to due to global pandemic, don't have to compromise.

It seems that a similar policy would be just as effective for the cyclo-cross, which could fairly preserve both the starting hierarchy, established over decades of racing, while also incentivizing people to stay home.

So UCI, why not just put those cancelled events on a two-year expiration cycle? A freeze on points that most of us are unable to defend due to a world turned upside down. Still hold the World Championships in Ostend, and still allow that race to be counted for next year. Treat it as a bonus for those riders who are willing and able to continue their seasons as the rest of the world stands still.

That seems like a fair compromise for everyone involved. The majority of racers keep the starting positions, hard-earned but now lost through no fault of our own. The lucky few, the cream of the crop who can still race, will have their Worlds bonus points to boost their ranking when the world rights itself again.

So there it is. I've spent far less time proposing a solution than I have whining about the policy in the first place. See, it's that simple.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures. Yet asking the UCI to reexamine and rewrite one rule that's less than a week old is hardly exceptional. It's simply essential. It's simply responsible. It's simply the simplest thing they could do, and the right thing to do, during these most exceptional of times.

The UCI was contacted about this issue, but have yet to issue a response.

If you'd like to voice your input to the UCI in support of a more responsible and reasonable policy, e-mail Simon Burney, the UCI off road manager: simon.burney@uci.ch

About the author

Andrew Juiliano is an award-winning journalist and professional cyclo-cross racer for Lazer-Voler Pro Cycling. He cut his writing teeth as the former editor in chief of ROAD magazine, and he became all too familiar with crappy policymaking during his time as a wastewater policy analyst in California, where he lives, riding circles on the beach, dreaming of grey skies and soggy days on the dunes of the Flemish seaside.

In Sudan, Ethiopian refugees try to rebuild life in their camp .
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