If you’ve looked at the MTBA calendar recently and wandered through into 2019, you would have seen some funny little mountain symbols beside a few races. If you’re up with the goss, you will know that these little mountains represent the new National Cup that has transformed the national series for 2019.
From tier three events to tier one and up to ‘Marquee’ and National Championships, the National Cup looks to spread the goodness of mountain bike competition and bundle it up into one flowing single trail. At the moment though, it might be a little hard to find the trail. So, let’s look at a few key features of the new National Cup and start getting a better understanding of how mountain bike competition will look in the future.
A big part of the new National Cup is points. Not UCI points, though some races will have them, but National Cup points. These will accumulate as you race select events and your top 12 will be tallied at the end of the year to give an overall ranking for your discipline’s category. At the moment, I will focus on the XC National Cup – this is the XC Perspective, after all – though there also is a Downhill, Marathon and Enduro Cup, but points are different.
Previous national series have been focused over the Australian summer, which is great as it’s warm … but it is also great for racers going overseas to race the international calendar as they can race some introductory races to gain UCI points and fitness before heading overseas. Though the downside of the summer series is that it makes for a very long season starting in November/December, coupled with a full World Cup season and finishing in September of the following year.
Another downside of the summer national series is that for riders staying in Australia it means there are very little racing options during the Australian winter that pull together the best riders in Australia leading up to World Championships in September or gives options for UCI points. For riders not interested in international representation, it means there is no real continuity during the winter and just a hodge podge selection of random events to do when they feel like it. The National Cup with its tiers and points looks to change this.
The series will pull together new and existing events throughout the year, from January to December, giving many options for racers to get their fix of racing adventures. One such hopeful prospect is the Mackay XCO classic in June, which is a Marquee event with UCI points on offer. Point one is it will probably be warm, point two there might be enough incentive on offer for top riders to make the trip, and point three it might be a great mid-year development opportunity for all racers.
Other Marquee events, which are classified just below State and National Championships, that have been announced so far include the Oceania Championships and Outback Cycling Easter in the Alice stage race. The stage race points will be included in XCO series rankings, which is cool. This gives a great cross-section of events for racers to target.
Speaking of points, the point system seems to be fairly simple with one points table that will be multiplied by 3 for National Champs, 2.5 for State Champs, 2 for Marquee events, 1.5 for Tier One, 1 for Tier Two and 0.5 for Tier Three. Simply racing a sanctioned event will gain you points in the series and your top 12 results will give you your final score.
All up, the National Cup should give racers something to aim towards over the entire year and for junior riders it will mean their development can continue through the winter months and not just wait for a summer series to roll around again. The points and classifications should raise the profile of events and hopefully be an incentive for riders to target, which will push the race speeds higher.
The widespread nature of the series could also mean more development and racing opportunities for riders across Australia. Time will tell if this is true but it does seem to be a step in the right direction. Hopefully there will be enough opportunities for international representatives to gain points and fitness before heading overseas if they wish.
Keep an eye on the XC Perspective for all the racing news coming up! Also check out the next Between the Tape in the upcoming Australian Mountain Bike magazine on sale 22 October for a look at how science is helping some nations be better cross-country mountain bikers.