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The UCI lobbies to make Cyclocross an Olympic Sport

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The UCI is continuing its long (and probably futile) lobbying effort to have cyclocross become an Olympic sport. But the world governing body for sports cycling is not targeting the Summer Games for the sport as one might have expected but wants ‘cross to become part of the Winter Olympics.

The stumbling block, however, remains the IOC charter rule, which mandates that a sport in the Winter Olympics must be contested on snow or ice. This was the reason that a round of the 2020 Cyclocross World Cup was scheduled to be held in Villars, Switzerland, at an altitude of 1,300 meters. “We were hoping for snow to convince Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC,” said UCI sports director Peter Van den Abeele at a roundtable discussion organized in December by the Dutch cycling publication WielerFlits. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted that.”

Cyclocross Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado
Dutch Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado celebrates as she wins the women’s elite race of the ‘Herentals Crosst’ cyclocross race. © Profimedia

Nevertheless, the lobbying effort will continue, Van den Abeele said. The reason the UCI and all cyclocross riders are eager to have the sport become an Olympic attraction boils down to one word: money. Speaking at the same roundtable discussion, cyclocross race organizer Tomas Van Den Spiegel and Tom Van Damme, president of the Belgian cycling association, said that Olympic acceptance would lead to financial backing for ‘cross riders and thereby boost the economy of the sport. “That is one of the reasons why mountain biking has gained the upper hand in a number of traditional ‘cross countries,” Van Damme said. “They receive subsidies for mountain biking but not cyclocross. Athletes who target the Olympics are more likely to receive funding.”

Belgium is an exception in that cyclocross stars are well paid, Van Damme said. “In many countries, it is more of a paid hobby,” he noted. Van Den Spiegel said Olympic inclusion would free up much more money for the national federations. “Look at track cycling in England, which is run on big budgets while cyclocross is treated in a poor way. No Olympic medals mean no money.”

Sanne Cant
Belgian Sanne Cant pictured in action during the women’s elite race of the ‘Vestingcross’ cyclocross cycling event in Hulst. © Profimedia

One would naturally think then that it probably would be easier to try to have cyclocross accepted at the Summer Olympics. Well, not really. For one thing, the ‘cross season runs through fall and winter so the Winter Olympics would fit more naturally into the sport’s calendar. In addition, the Summer Games are limited to 28 sports (now including break dancing!), 300 events and 10,000 athletes. This would mean that one cycling event – or a sport that no longer interests anyone like the Pentathlon – would have to be tossed out of the Olympics to make room for cyclocross. There are no such caps to the Winter Olympics. There is just this irritating rule that the sport must be run on snow or ice.

Those who want to support the motion to have cyclocross become a part of the Winter Olympics can put their names to an online petition to be forwarded to the IOC. The petition reads in part: “Cyclocross is a purely winter sport, practised since [sic] several years by cyclists from all [over the] world (surely in all countries where many sports of [the] Winter Olympic games are practised). Rain, mud, cold, ice and snow don’t stop ‘cross riders.”

You can find the petition HERE. At the time of writing, the petition was 292 signatures short of its goal of 5,000. Good luck.