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7-time World Cup winner speaks out ahead of competition expanding from 9 to 16 rounds

Cyclo-cross great Sven Nys has said that reforms of the cyclo-cross calendar by the UCI mark “the death of our sport in the long term” amid uncertainty over the make-up of the sport’s future calendar, with concerns also expressed by race organisers.

World cycling’s governing body is expanding the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup competition to 16 rounds from the 2020/21 season.

It is planned that eight races in the enlarged competition will be held in Belgium and eight races, no more than two of those will be held in one country. As a result, the competition will be spread around eight or nine different countries.

The reforms, which are being co-ordinated by race organiser Flanders Classics, also provide that races take place on 16 Sundays during the year, starting at the same time each week.

Rounds will be held from the second Sunday of October onwards, the only gaps being one date in November for the European championships, and two slots in January for the Belgian national championships and the world championships.

The third round of this year’s contest took place in Bern, Switzerland, at the weekend following the opening two rounds in the United States. The next round takes place in the Czech Republic in mid-November, followed by three in Belgium, with the final two being held in France and the Netherlands.

However, Belgian news website HLN reports that organisers are still waiting to hear the exact format of next year’s competition in terms of which races and countries will be included, making it impossible for them to plan ahead.

Christian Rocha, organiser of the Bern round, said at the weekend: “So far we have only had one phone call with Flanders Classics. Furthermore, we do not yet have any information from them or the UCI.

“The deals with major sponsors should now be closed. The UCI promised us last year that everything would be clear in the summer. We are already in October and we know nothing.

“We want to keep bringing this world cup to Bern in the coming years, but this way it becomes more uncertain every day. We want clarity,” he continued.

Rocha also had concerns over the sustainability of the expanded format, saying: “Sixteen rounds? Who can pay for that? I spoke with several non-Belgian riders and they all confirmed to me that it is almost impossible financially. The value of the World Cup is also falling for us. "

Writing on Twitter, seven-time World Cup winner and twice world champion and now manager of the Telenet-Fidea team, said: "The organisers deserve more respect.

“What is happening now is the death of our sport in the long term. There is no respect. I am happy that the first organizer is sounding the alarm.”

He also expressed concerns over the future of other races, saying: “What about the classics on the calendar? Diegem, Zonhoven, Koppenberg, Loenhout ... Everyone has lost their date or is forced to pay well and then you can become a World Cup. It is high time there was clarity! "

Flanders Classics has promised to provide just that and said that it had already been in contact with Rocha and would be consulting further with him and with organisers of other races.

Chris Mannaerts, who is in charge of cyclo-cross at Flanders Classics, said: “Look, the question from the UCI was very clear: cyclocross must be reformed.

“Internationalisation is also a priority, but we want to do so with respect for traditions.”

He insisted that the expanded competition is “not news” and has “been on the table for some time,” but acknowledged it would affect the rest of the calendar.

"We have therefore had discussions with all organizers since June and we are making clear to them what exactly the expectations are for a World Cup," Mannaerts said, pointing out that Flanders Classics was only appointed to run the competition in June.

“We couldn't take action much earlier and we are fully engaged in those conversations. The calendar of sixteen World Cups has now been announced last week. That is our first step.

“We will now continue to consult with everyone about the actual implementation thereof. How long will that last? This will also be known in the short term. That will be somewhere around November 1, maybe before, maybe after. I don't pin myself on a date," he added.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.