Our race rumor series usually revolves around who’s going to which team or bike to launch soon, but there are (and have already been) some big changes going on behind the scenes. Last year saw Discovery Inc., now Warner Bros. Discovery, by investing in the Enduro World Series. And in June of this year, we learned that they, through their newly formed organization Enduro Sports, will provide the organization, media, production, broadcast and promotion of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup from 2023 to 2030. With so many high-profile changes, many of us are wondering what the series will look like next year and beyond, especially World Cup teams and the racers themselves who have concerns about the calendar, stadium size and team entry fees. This appears to have prompted the contestants towards forming a union, with meetings already taking place in both Lenzerheide and Vallnord. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Henry’s video interview with Loic Bruni, Valle Hall, Greg Minnaar, and others as they explain their motivations for the union.
We’ve come up with all the acronyms – UCI, ESO, and ETC – for comment and although we haven’t gotten any additional information yet, we’ll update this article as the picture becomes clearer. But for now, let’s delve into some of the rumors swirling around us.
Cut the men’s field into the top 30 runners
condition: Uncertain, seems likely
The rumor that was greeted with the most scorn in the comments section is that the men’s final may only include the top 30 qualifiers, which is less than half of what currently makes it into Sunday’s main event. The smaller field will see more qualifying than ever before of course, but that could also mean we’ll see fewer pickup guns, pirates and out-of-factory racers spending their time and money following the circuit. So, what is the motivation behind only allowing thirty qualifiers?
Now that Warner Bros. is interested. Discovery and ESO broadcast and produce the series, they may want to simplify things for exactly these two points. It might also be easier to stream shorter, more exciting finals, and giving up more than half the field would underscore how elite the best in the world really is. As some commentators have mentioned, many other major sports have far fewer athletes in the main event, which makes getting there more of an achievement.
It is worth noting that we recently conducted a survey on racing coverage, and about 90% of the survey respondents said “You’d rather see the faster riders perform on the longer sections of the racetrack” instead of Watch entire qualifying groups with less coverage per round. The survey wasn’t directly addressing this rumor (the community overwhelmingly opposes fewer qualifying), but it does speak to a desire for more coverage for the fastest riders.
But there are downsides to the tournament’s thirty finalists. Other commentators have raised concerns about a smaller field holding up the rookie contestants while noting that one of the best aspects of the World Cup is “how the top pirates can compete with the world’s elite”. And we have to agree. What about on-time training, women’s field, and juniors? Is the men’s field accompanied by two halves of the women’s field doubled to achieve gender parity in the playoffs and final coverage? No idea, but we’ve reached out to ESO for comment and can’t stress enough that this is still an unconfirmed rumor.
Pay-per-view on Discover + only
condition: Unlikely (for now)
More mixed news, if true, is that the World Cup races will be broadcast exclusively on Discovery+, an on-demand streaming service that requires a paid subscription. While that seems unlikely given the small viewing numbers that our sport attracts (relatively speaking for a company like Warner Bros. Discovery), it’s a model that many other sports have taken on over the past few years.
Pros? We should all have our fingers crossed for more on-track cameras and improved coverage, of course, but it would also be interesting to see some of the graphs on the screen while racing. Imagine if we could watch overlays of a runner’s heart rate, wattage, or even an in-flight broadcast from an Amaury Pierron’s helmet at Fort William? All of this has already been implemented in other action sports, so it’s not too far fetched. I may be alone on this, but I would totally pay for the kind of access I get to Formula 1 racing from paid F1 TV.
Of course, paid access to WC would severely limit audiences, and we’ve heard that at least one big bike brand will seriously reconsider their engagement size if that happens. And what will all this do with the agreements that the UCI wants with major brands such as Mercedes? The understandably vague answers we’ve seen from ESO suggest that broadcast rights are a moving target and may not yet be determined. If we’re going to speculate, and you know I will, there will continue to be a free-to-watch show, similar to what Red Bull has had in the past, while they equip a premium class.
No Rob Warner and remote commentary
condition: Certain and Uncertain, respectively
“How could Danny Hart sit with balls this big!?” Forever as one of the best sports commentaries of all time, quote from The Voice of Mountain Bike Racing: Rob Warner. Warner, a former World Cup racer, has himself been describing the move how he can ever since, and it would be hard to listen to anyone else…but that’s exactly what will happen in the first race next year. why? Warner reportedly signed a new deal with Red Bull this spring, which, if you skip everything above this, will no longer broadcast our sport. By the power of inference, that tells us we’ll never have the English Rob excited again like we did that day at Champery back in 2011 and many times since.
We reached out to Warner who confirmed the rumor: “No, that’s right. I won’t be working with the UCI for the foreseeable future, I’ll be working with Red Bull.”
So, who is going to yell at us about the size of the metaphorical appendages of the passenger? We don’t know yet, but rumor has it that commentators will be offsite, potentially covering the event remotely from another country. While this may sound strange, it’s actually the number of sports you play, often without anyone being the wiser.
Team registration increases to $20,000
condition: Uncertain, but reasonable
Currently, teams need to pay a $3,000 registration fee to participate in the World Cup Series, but there is talk of a sevenfold increase in that fee to $20,000 per team. This is a huge increase, but why? We’re still waiting for ESO’s response on this one, but the lack of racers (remember, only the top 30 might qualify) likely resulting in fewer teams could be a factor. Especially if Warner Bros. Discovery and ESO are looking to improve sports coverage while at the same time having a smaller field.
There’s a big “but” to point out, too: We don’t yet know if any fee increases will only apply to elite teams, or if smaller outfits and pirates will also be affected.
DH World Cup Racers Association
If you watched the video, you already know that this video quickly turned from a rumor to a confirmation. Led by Loic Bruni, the goal is to give runners a greater voice in the sport they compete in, especially when it comes to issues of tracking and safety.
Finn Ailes, who describes the effort as more of an association than a union, worked closely with Bruni to lead the accusation and echoed what others have said about the need for representation: “Right now we have absolutely no say in anything. We don’t. The track, it’s not We have a say in the prize money, we have no say in safety, no say in anything. We are the ones representing the product.”
Two racing meetings have taken place, one in Linzerheide and one in Vallnord, but details are expected to be scarce.
It should be noted that many of the most vocal riders are promoting the Red Bull Racing Federation, who have lost the 2023 World Cup broadcast rights. I am not suggesting that Red Bull is instigating the union, but there is a lot less struggle for its riders now that Red Bull will not be the broadcast partner. .
Obviously there will be some changes in downhill racing at the 2023 World Cup and beyond, but exactly how important these changes will remain to be seen. What do you think: Would you pay for the streaming service if it was greatly improved? The downsides to a smaller domain are obvious, but could there be some positives? What would you change about the calendar or race format?