‘The death of our sport’: Cyclocross world in uproar about changes to race calendar

Stars of the discipline have spoken out about a planned redesign

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stars of the cyclocross world fear “the death of the sport” as the UCI plans to introduce a revamped calendar next season.

The governing body will expand the World Cup from nine to 16 rounds, but this has prompted fears that the financial burden of these races could be too great for teams.

Cyclocross great Sven Nys, now a team manager, and the organiser of the only Swiss round of the World Cup Christian Rocha have both been critical of the changes.

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Rocha, who runs the Bern World Cup, which was held on Sunday (October 20), also raised concerns about the delay in confirming details of the new calendar, saying that deals with major sponsors are being closed.

Nys, who now runs the Telenet- Fidea Lions team, said: “Organisers deserve more respect. What happens now is the death of the sport in the long term.

“There is no respect. I am happy that the first organiser is sounding the alarm.”

The UCI announced in June that it would introduce major changes to the CX calendar from the 2020-2021 season up to 2023-24.

Responsibility for organising the expanded World Cup series will be handed to Flanders Classics, a race organiser that runs 16 events across the cycling calendar, including the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

UCI president David Lappartient said at the time: “This partnership with Flanders Classics opens new international development possibilities for cyclocross.

“The UCI cyclocross World Cup will greatly benefit from its expertise in domains such as the production and broadcasting of images and the improvement of the offer to spectators.”

Lappartient said the changes were being introduced to make cyclocross more attractive.

Rocha says it is unclear if the Bern round of the World Cup will be held next season, as he has yet to receive firm details from Flanders Classics or the UCI.

He told Belgian CX website Velditkrant.be: “So far we have only had one phone call with Flanders Classics. Furthermore, we do not yet have any information from them or the UCI.

“The deals with major sponsors are now being closed. The UCI promised us last year that everything would be clear in the summer. We are already in October and we know nothing. We want to keep bringing this world cup to Bern in the coming years, but this way it becomes more uncertain every day. We want clarity.”

Rocha added: “I spoke with several non-Belgian riders and they all confirmed to me that it is almost impossible financially.

“I do not know to date what changes will take place next year. That makes planning very difficult. That is why it is still unclear whether the World Cup in Bern will be organised again.”

Following the 2019 edition of the Bern World Cup, star riders spoke out to praise the organisers, including winner Eli Iserbyt and Belgian champion Toon Aerts.

Iserbyt said: “Cross the way cross should be, where the sport is number one.

“Next year is a question mark for both us and for them. It’s a shame that this sport will be squeezed empty by one super classification.”

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Aerts said: “Last year fast and dry, today muddy and slow. Racing in Bern is always nice and the organisation is great and professional.

“Hope to come back in the future.”

Cycling Weekly has approached Flanders Classics and the UCI for comment.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.