Our Racing Rumors series is usually about who’s going to which team or which bike is coming out soon, but there are (and already have been) big changes afoot behind the scenes. Last year, Discovery Inc, now Warner Bros. Discovery, has invested in the Enduro World Series. And last June, we learned that they, through the new Enduro Sports Organization, will organize, media, produce, broadcast and promote the 2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in 2030.
With so many high-profile changes, many of us are wondering what the series will look like next year and beyond, especially the World Cup teams and riders themselves who have concerns about the schedule. , pitch size and team entry fees. This appears to have prompted the riders to form a union, with meetings in Lenzerheide and Vallnord already underway. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Henry’s video interview with Loic Bruni, Vali Holl, Greg Minnaar and others where they explain their motivation for the union.
We have reached out to all of the acronyms – UCI, ESO, ETC – for comment and although we have not received any additional information so far, we will update this article as the picture becomes more clear. But for now, let’s go over some of the rumors floating around.
Men’s ranking of the top 30 runners
Status: Unconfirmed, seems likely
The rumor met with the most disdain in the comments section is that the men’s final may only include the fastest thirty qualifiers, less than half of what currently makes it to Sunday’s main event. A smaller field will see qualifying matter more than ever, of course, but it could also mean we’ll see fewer young guns, privateers and non-factory riders spending their time and money following the circuit. So what could be the motivation behind allowing only thirty qualifiers?
Now that Warner Bros. Discovery and ESO handle the broadcast and production of the series, so they might want to streamline things for exactly those two points. A shorter, more exciting final could also be easier to stream live, and giving up more than half the pitch would also underline just how elite the best in the world truly are. As some commentators have mentioned, many other top sports have far fewer athletes in the main event, which makes it even more difficult for them to come in.
It’s worth noting that we recently conducted a race coverage survey, and approximately 90% of respondents said they “prefer to see the fastest runners perform on long segments of the race track” rather than “Look at all qualifying groups with less coverage per race”. The poll didn’t directly address this rumor (the community overwhelmingly opposes fewer qualifiers), but it does show a desire for more coverage of the fastest riders.
But there are downsides to a thirty-runner final. Other commentators raised concerns about a smaller field hampering promising riders while pointing out that one of the best parts of the World Cup is “how the best privateers can compete with the world’s elite”. . And we should agree. What about timed training, women’s court and juniors? Does a halved male field accompany a doubled female field to achieve gender parity in qualifying and finals 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 Discovery+ only
Status: Unlikely (for now)
More mixed news, if true, is that the World Cup races will be shown exclusively on Discovery+, an on-demand streaming service that requires a paid subscription. While that seems unlikely given the small number of viewers our sport attracts (relatively speaking for a company like Warner Bros. Discovery), it’s a pattern that many other sports have adopted over the past few years.
Benefits? We should all be crossing our fingers for way more cameras on the course and better coverage, of course, but it would also be great to see infographics on screen during the race. Imagine if we could watch overlays of a runner’s heart rate, wattage, or even a live stream from Amaury Pierron’s helmet in Fort William? This is all already implemented in other action sports, so it’s not too much of a stretch. I may be on my own on this, but I would absolutely pay for the kind of access I get to Formula 1 racing from its F1 pay TV service.
Of course, paid access to WC racing would severely limit the audience, and we’ve heard that at least one major bike brand will seriously reconsider the extent of their participation if that happens. And what would all of this do to the deals the UCI wants with mainstream brands like Mercedes? The understandably vague responses we’ve seen from ESO indicate that broadcast rights are a moving and potentially undecided target. If we were to speculate, and you know I will, it would be that there will still be a free viewing offer, similar to what Red Bull has had in the past, while they add a premium tier.
No comment from Rob Warner and remotely
Status: Confirmed and unconfirmed, respectively
“How can Danny Hart sit with such big balls?” will forever go down as one of the greatest sports commentaries of all time, a quote from the voice of ATV racing: Rob Warner. A former World Cup rider himself, Warner has been calling the action like himself forever and it would be hard to listen to anyone else… But that’s exactly what’s going to happen when the first race next year. Why? Warner reportedly signed a new contract with Red Bull this spring which, if you skip all of the above, no longer broadcasts our sport. By the power of deduction, this tells us that we will no longer have the English excitement of Rob as we did that day in Champéry in 2011 and so many times since.
We contacted Warner who confirmed the rumour: “No it’s true. I won’t be working with the UCI for the foreseeable future, I will be working for Red Bull.”
So who’s going to yell at us about the size of the horsemen’s metaphorical appendages? We don’t know yet, but rumor has it that the commentators will be off-site, likely covering the action remotely from another country. Although it may seem strange, it is actually the number of sports that practice it, often without anyone knowing.
Team registration increases to $20,000
Status: Unconfirmed, but plausible
Currently, teams must pay an entry fee of $3,000 to participate in the World Cup series, but there are talks that this amount will increase nearly sevenfold to $20,000 per team. It’s a big increase, but why? We’re still awaiting a response from ESO on this, but fewer racers (remember, only the top thirty could qualify) likely leading to fewer teams could be a factor. And especially if Warner Bros. Discovery and ESO seek to improve sports coverage while simultaneously having a smaller field.
There’s also a big “but” to point out: we don’t yet know if the fee increases will only apply to elite teams, or if small teams and privateers would be impacted as well.
A Union of DH Racers World Cups
If you’ve seen the video, you already know that it quickly went from rumor to confirmation. Led by Loic Bruni, the aim is to give riders a bigger voice in the sport they compete in, particularly when it comes to track and safety issues.
Finn Iles, who describes the effort as more of an association than a union, has worked closely with Bruni to lead the charge and echoed what others have said about the need for representation: “At the moment , we have absolutely nothing to say We have nothing to say for track, we have nothing to say about prices, we have nothing to say about safety, we have nothing to say about anything And we are the product.
Two riders’ meetings have taken place, one in Lenzerheide and the other in Vallnord, but details are scarce.
It should be noted that several of the most vocal riders promoting a riders union are sponsored by Red Bull, which lost the rights to broadcast the world cup for 2023. I’m not saying that Red Bull is fomenting the union, but that there is much less conflict for their riders now that Red Bull will no longer be the broadcast partner.
It’s clear there will be changes to World Cup downhill racing for 2023 and beyond, but the exact significance of those changes will remain to be seen. What’s your take: Would you pay for a streaming service if it was significantly improved? The disadvantages of a smaller field are obvious, but could there be advantages? What would you change in terms of the calendar or the race format?