The UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup powered by citymountainbike.com isn’t quite like anything else. Eliminator (XCE) has been compared to many things – including four-cross (4X), cross-country (XC), BMX, even Twenty20 cricket and Olympic snowboarding – but for spectators, it’s a special bike racing discipline that has a unique charm. On the eve of this year’s opening fixture – at Barcelona on Saturday 23rd March – we answer some FAQs in our introductory guide to your favourite new competition.
What is XCE?
Cross-country Eliminator is high-octane, elbow-to-elbow mountain biking on short, technical courses, raced in heats. The UCI Eliminator World Cup puts that format into a series of specially designed events for maximum impact and excitement.
XCE is a format of cross-country racing that has just as much to do with technical riding as it does with crossing long tracts of country that the ‘XC’ evokes. But ‘E’ stands for “eliminator” and is the special element that puts the pressure on the athletes and sets the fans’ adrenaline pumping.
Each heat – contested by four riders - is an elimination heat: the fastest two qualify for the next round, the slowest two are eliminated. The race format continues until only four riders remain to fight for the medals.
How does it compare to other cycling disciplines?
XCE is raced on tracks, typically between 500m and 1000m long, featuring a mixture of natural and man-made obstacles, climbs, descents, corners and short sprint straights. Riders may face multiple surfaces: grass, cobbles, tarmac, grit, sand, dirt, you name it… every World Cup course is different.
The racing demands not just power, but also a range of skills that must be deployed with a mixture of planning and reactive racing instinct. A high level of technical handling is required, along with strategic elements such as pacing and line choice. Stamina plays an increasingly important role as the heats progress and the event reaches its climax.
The primary skill-set required is closest to that of traditional cross-country racing, where most XCE athletes come from. Yet XCE athletes also lean on the technical precision of the physics-defying world of trials, borrow some of the mentality of BMX riders, and arm themselves with the nerve of track sprinters. XCE is sometimes casually referred to as ‘Sprint’ XC.
Ranking points are awarded in each of the eight World Cup rounds: 60 for first place, 40 for second and 30 for third, right through to 1 point for 16th. And of course those standing points tally throughout the season. The rider who has the most standing points wears the UCI World Cup leader’s jersey and compete for the overall title.
What’s new with the XCE World Cup?
XCE itself isn’t new - it’s been around for a few years - but the format has been developed into what we have for 2019. XCE was tested as a UCI World Cup competition in 2011 and was integrated into the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup the following year. After a hiatus in 2015 and 2016, the discipline returned in 2017 with its own dedicated UCI World Cup organised in partnership with citymountainbike.com. Since then, it’s taken on a new, edgier, style, which continues to be tweaked, year on year.
The different rounds for the 2019 UCI World Cup are exciting and varied. The first two venues – in March and May - are new to the World Cup calendar: Barcelona (Spain) and the small French mountain town of Villard-de-Lans, in the Auvergne-Rhones-Alpes region that hosted the 1968 Winter Olympics.
June sees the World Cup take its customary visit to the USA before a return to Europe. The later rounds see back-to back August events in Belgium and the Netherlands before a culmination with two more back-to back rounds in September: Germany and finally Austria.
Who to look out for
The big names in both men’s and women’s competitions naturally include the 2018 UCI World Cup winners: the Netherlands’ Jeroen van Eck and Norway’s Ingrid Bøe Jacobsen. Each built substantial points tallies last year, with three race wins apiece, but the large number of other race winners and podium finishers show a highly competitive depth of field.
In the men’s racing, look out for the multiple German national Champion Simon Gegenheimer (and winner in the Netherlands in 2018) who wants to go one better than last year’s silver. Other strong contenders include Frenchmen Lorenzo Serres (winner in Italy last year) and Titouan Perrin-Ganier (2017 UCI World Champion and multiple French Champion). Sweden’s Anton Olstam and the Netherlands’ Lehvi Braam both earned multiple podium finishes in the 2018 World Cup and would love to convert them into wins.
Women to watch include 2018 UCI World Cup runner-up Ella Holmegard of Sweden, consistent strong finisher Margaux Borrelly of France, Germany’s Clara Brehm and Anna Stray Ronge, the Norwegian who took second place at last year’s Belgian round.
What about this weekend?
The 2019 World Cup starts this Saturday 23rd March with the first round in Barcelona. Racing will take place in Montjuic Park, venue for many of the 1992 Olympic Games events. The course – containing some natural obstacles - will be very technical and promises exciting racing as riders battle for an early claim on the leader’s jersey.
MTB XCE World Cup calendar
23rd March – Barcelona, Spain
31st May – Villard-de-Lans, France
9th June – Columbus/GA, USA
15th June – Volterra, Italy
15th August – Waregem, Belgium
18th August – Valkenswaard, The Netherlands
15th September – Winterberg, Germany
20th September – Graz, Austria