Enduro World Series links with UCI 

Managing director says not to expect major changes

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - LONG TIME COMING The Enduro World Series and UCI reached an agreement for races beginning in 2019.
  • File photo by Dan Falloon
  • LONG TIME COMING The Enduro World Series and UCI reached an agreement for races beginning in 2019.

As the Enduro World Series (EWS) grows, some additional outside oversight will be helpful, its managing director said.

In a June 24 interview, Chris Ball said the EWS' agreement with Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which begins in the 2019 season, will help the discipline grow in a responsible manner.

Now in its sixth year, the EWS has added North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific feeder series and has roughly 50 qualifying events a year.

"The discipline has grown exponentially," Ball said. "We've always felt that all sport needs neutral governance. It needs to make sure that the actual foundations, the decision-making on the ground is removed from the race organization, the riders and the teams.

"That's obviously handing over some elements of decision making from us, but it's a very healthy thing ... It's good to have checks and balances in place to make sure things are impartial when they need to be."

Ball said some athletes and fans might be concerned that the UCI will be granted too much power, but said the EWS will retain the ability to choose its venues and trails, among other factors that have helped it grow to this point.

"That all remains. That's all with us," he said, adding that the European events are already run with input from UCI. "At events where there is no federation history and there is no commissary, it will be implemented."

Ball said while the agreement had been in progress for some time, the election of new UCI president David Lappartient in 2017 was a major accelerant toward it becoming official.

Lappartient said in a release that he hopes enduro will flourish with the new relationship.

"Thanks to this partnership, it will now benefit from a broader international reach and an unprecedented capacity to develop through our 190 National Federations," he said.

Another development comes in the form of the Trophy of Nations. In a ninth race following the regularly scheduled eight-event season, riders will compete for their countries, with the winning squad earning a coveted rainbow jersey. The inaugural Trophy of Nations is set for Sept. 29, 2019 in Finale Ligure, Italy.

Each country's top three riders, regardless of corporate sponsorship, will have their times taken together to determine a winner.

"It adds a whole new dynamic," Ball said. "We try to keep core elements of mountain biking in there, and we think riding together is a huge part of that."

Whistler pro rider Jesse Melamed wrote via text that he has limited experience with the UCI, but expressed some cautious optimism after the announcement was made.

"I think it is good to have the UCI legitimize the EWS and bring in neutral government and anti-doping," he noted. "I hope the style of EWS doesn't get changed too much but (I) understand if it will. I do believe the UCI has good intentions so I am excited to see what comes of it."

In a follow-up, Melamed said he feels the benefits of partnering with UCI, such as additional anti-doping measures, are for additional protection as opposed to a response to an ongoing problem.

While Melamed is intrigued by the Trophy of Nations and the chance to win a rainbow jersey, he said his main focus remains on the overall EWS title.

"It would be cool but not as prestigious," he said.

Fellow rider Andréane Lanthier Nadeau, a Whistler resident originally from Quebec, wrote via Facebook Messenger that including the UCI might help the EWS steer back in its original direction.

"The intense growth that the EWS sustained in the last few years caused the series to outgrow its original purpose. The initially more adventure-based circuit is becoming more race-oriented with the competitive spirits of the racers," she wrote. "The established status of the UCI will bring not only a normative influence, but also credibility to the sport of enduro in general. That being said I hope EWS will stick to its true colours and keep taking us on amazing trails all over the world."

Lanthier Nadeau also feels the partnership could lead to a greater level of uniformity between each round of the series, which she would welcome as it would help her better prepare for the races.

The 2018 Enduro World Series season continues this weekend with a two-part race in Petzen, Austria and Jamnica, Slovenia. This year's race in Whistler as part of Crankworx is slated for Aug. 12.

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