2023 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup schedule – a huge year in MTB
The UCI has confirmed a series of 2023 mountain bike events that will start Down Under, in late March. And we mean way Down Under. Tasmania will host the season's first two rounds of UCI Mountain Bike events with back-to-back enduro races.
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The last weekend of March sees Maydena host, followed by riders journeying to Tasmania's other recognised trail hotspot, Derby, for round two, during the first weekend of April. Tasmania offers some of the world’s best raw trails for enduro mountain biking, but the island’s location and exposure to unpredictable Southern Ocean weather patterns could surprise riders with wet and muddy conditions.
For mountain bike racing traditionalists, the 2023 calendar only starts in earnest on the weekend of 12-14 May. This is when the various cross-country disciplines have their first race at the proven Czech venue of Nove Mesto. The weekend will feature XCO, XCC, and XCM racing.
One of the UCI rule changes for 2023 is an open-format approach to XCM racing. Riders won’t be required to pre-qualify, unlike XCO and XCC events. This will allow the most ambitious weekend warriors, or talented amateurs, to trial their skills and fitness at an official UCI World Cup event.
A place for XCM and amateur racing enthusiasts
Routed over an endurance riding distance, XCM mountain biking lacks the tight (technical) courses and bunched riding of XCO. As such, UCI organisers feel more at ease allowing amateur riders to become the tail of a spread-out group of participants at an XCM event.
After Nove Mesto, riders venture south to Finale Ligure, on the Italian Riveria, during the first weekend of June. This riding area is known for its fast forest and rocky coastal descents. It is credited as one of the birthplaces of Italian enduro racing and will see the world’s best enduro, enduro-e and XCM mountain bikers in action on 3-4 June.
Four rounds in, and what about those most courageous mountain bikers: the downhillers? They join the fray in Lenzerheide (Switzerland) during the second weekend of June, sharing the venue and racing schedule with XCO and XCC races.
A short journey across the border into Austria will transport the world’s best mountain bikers to Leogang, for round six of the UCI World Cup season. This promises to be a massive weekend, with downhill, XCO, XCC, enduro and enduro-e races happening.
After Austria, the UCI event’s schedule routes back to Italy for two rounds. The last weekend of June will see enduro and enduro-e riders racing the trails of Val di Fassa. During the first weekend of July, XCO, XCC and downhill races will be hosted at one of the world’s most iconic venues, Val di Sole.
The mid-season break
Riders, mechanics and bikes will take a six-weekend break from early July to late August, before reconvening in Andorra. The 2023 XCO and downhill World Championships, will be hosted between Fort William (for the downhillers) and Glentress Forest (XCO/XCC competitors). Expect the Fort William venue to see the largest and most passionate crowds of the entire 2023 season. The United Kingdom’s gravity-obsessed mountain biking community always makes the pilgrimage to Scotland, to watch the world’s most daring riders, challenge one of mountain biking’s most dramatic tracks.
After two World Championship weekends in early August, bikes will be rebuilt, before teams visit the smallest country to host a UCI mountain biking event. The smallest country to host a UCI mountain biking event, Andorra will see XCO, XCC and downhill mountain bikers competing. And it is primarily the latter group who will be severely tested on Vallnord’s steep and technical downhill track, with many natural features, roots and braking ruts.
The first weekend of September sees the UCI’s eligible mountain bikers journey to France for a gravity focussed round at Loudenvielle. Enduro, enduro-e and downhill racers will compete in technical Hautes-Pyrénéan terrain, sure to deliver thrilling riding for gravity mountain biking fans.
A simply unprecedented round in Les Gets
Hors categorie is a legacy cycling term that applies mostly to road cycling and climbing, but it euphemistically describes the Les Gets UCI mountain bike round. A truly massive event, hosted deep in the Alps' most iconic mountain biking zone, the 2023 Les Gets UCI schedule will include absolutely everyone: enduro, enduro-e, XCO, XCC, XCM and downhill.
To accommodate this stacked volume of riders and disciplines, the Les Gets event is not a weekend affair, but ranging from 7-17 September, as a true festival of competitive mountain biking.
After Les Gets, teams travel to North America for the penultimate and final rounds of the 2023 UCI mountain biking schedule. Snowshoe (West Virginia), will host XCO, XCC, XCM and downhill riders on the weekend split by September into October. This is followed by the 2023 season finale, in Canada, at the proven Mont-Sainte-Anne, in Quebec.
What about watching all the action?
After many seasons of Red Bull TV controlling the broadcasting element of UCI mountain bike viewing, the 2023 events will offer a new media experience. Warner Bros Discovery is UCI’s new partner and as one of the world’s most recognised, resourced and proven broadcasting companies much is expected of this new media offering.
The promise is that Warner Bros Discovery will enhance UCI’s broadcast audience experience by using the best technology, cameras, and more intuitive editing. A criticism of the UCI’s live broadcasts has been the awkward placement of cameras, often ignoring the most exciting track features by streaming completely irrelevant camera angles.
Warner Bros Discovery promises to bring more action to mountain biking fans - more of the time. And with a stacked calendar of events, there will be no shortage of riding to live stream and package into highlights edits.
After years of free broadcasting from Red Bull, mountain biking fans are still unsure what the exact offering will be, for 2023. Warner Bros Discovery already broadcasts cycling through its Eurosport brand, but these road-riding events are part of a subscription service. That said, Warner Bros Discovery also has an agreement which sees enduro racing being broadcast for free. It is unclear exactly which model will apply for the 2023 season, and whether the live stream UCI mountain bike events will be pay-to-view.
I'm a bit mystified that we still don't know how people will watch the races; I would assume that the UCI would need to know this before awarding the franchise, and the prospective sponsors of XC and downhill teams would want to know too.