The introduction of the Mixed Relay event at the Cyclocross World Championships will go ahead despite increasing coronavirus cases thinning out numbers within national squads.
The debut Mixed Relay test event follows the introduction of the discipline at the 2021 Flanders Road World Championships, which was a surprise highlight from the week of racing.
Originally, three male and three female riders were set to compete per nation, each completing a lap before handing over to their team-mate, and those with the quickest accumulated time then crowned the winner.
Due to an uptick in positive coronavirus cases, however, each Mixed Relay squad will now have four instead of six riders. Italy, for example, has seen its squad halved following positive cases.
Seven teams will compete: Belgium, Italy and the Czech Republic representing the European contingent, while both the United States and Canada will field two squads each.
The inaugural Mixed Relay at last year's Road Worlds was a hit, receiving praise from fans and riders alike.
"I think it's fantastic," Alex Dowsett told Cycling Weekly after competing in the event for Britain.
"Cycling is a sport with a lot of tradition and a lot of that should stay but I also think cycling can be very archaic and very stuck in the past. And some of the really bad things that are associated with that - one of those is gender inequality. A lot of other sports you have mixed [events]."
Former organiser of the Fayetteville Championships, Brooks Watts, who brought the 2022 event to America, says he expects it will become a permanent World Championships fixture.
"For at least a decade, there has been talk of staging a mixed team relay event like the one held during mountain bike worlds," he told VeloNews.
"No ’cross worlds’ race director had yet stepped forward to make the relay a reality. This year in Fayetteville, we will finally see an unofficial mixed team relay championship — and I suspect it will become a fixture in future years with its own rainbow jerseys."
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