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XCE – Winner or binner?

| Blog, Mountain Biking Uk | 15/05/2012 08:00am

Much head-scratching after the curious spectacle which was round two…

Cred: Rob JonesStanding in the noisy throng of spectators amid the overcast yet mild Yorkshire evening of the Dalby XC World Cup’s Pro Sprint Eliminator, I decidedly ‘got’ the new discipline. Plastic pint in hand, a load of mates around me roaring and shouting at a previously alouf racing discipline turned almost sexy and infinitely more accessible. This would be worth a watch next season.

Round one of the new XCE series rolled off a purpose-built start ramp at the Houffalize World Cup. The ever-shifting two-wheeled chameleon that is Brian Lopes took the victory on a short punchy track which saw riders hunched low over their front tyres snarling for air. It may have lacked the festive vibe of the Dalby event but it was a good start.

When I sat down after lunch on Friday with a much-needed end of week coffee to watch the replay of the second round from Nove Mesto though, I couldn’t help but feel deflated. The course seemed to comprise entirely of tarmac whilst the only real ‘feature’ was a fire-road section with a ditch dug in the middle of it. The lengthy run-in to the finish past the vacant grandstands told it’s own story.

The Tweetosphere promptly erupted – Lopes (who finished 29th) queried whether the UCI would ever run a road race on a 90% dirt track before vowing to race on. The most vocal criticisms however came from the 4X community who still feel aggrieved to have gotten the chop from the World Cup roster at the end of last year. The knives were pointed squarely at the lack of action, the tarmac course and the lack of any real spectacle.

A certain US mag was even prompted to declare that the course had been designed specifically to prevent a Lopes win. Anti-US and anti-Lopes sentiment dripped derisively from the article which was generally lambasted for its blinkered and unsubstantiated claims.

So what happened?! Did the UCI simply drop the ball? Were the Czech organisers not arsed about the new format or was there just nowhere to build a decent course? Only those involved in the events planning know the truth but one thing that is obvious is that Nove Mesto represented a massive step backwards for a discipline which needed a seasons-worth of leaps forwards.

Cred: Rob Jones



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