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The UCI Announced the World Snow Bike Championship, and We Have Questions

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the international governing body of cycling, announced the first Snow Bike World Championship this week.

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Next year, cyclists will mimic downhill skiers, crashing gates on epic downhill snow courses, which begs the question — why?

I’m a lifelong cyclist, a diehard fan of bicycle racing, and have raced motorcycles. I support all forms of two-wheel competition, from BMX to track cycling. But once in a while, an event pings my radar, rendering me dumbfounded.

And here we are. On Wednesday, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) announced that the first edition of the UCI Snow Bike World Championships will take place on February 10-11, 2024, in Châtel, Haute-Savoie, France. With individual events titled “Super-G” and “Dual Slalom,” it sounds like downhill skiing on a bike. That’s because it is.

According to the UCI official press release, these events closely mimic alpine skiing competitions. But racers are on downhill mountain bikes, which seems contrived at best and horrifying at worst.

UCI World Snow Bike Championship Events

UCI Snow Bike Championship
Definite wobbler; (photo/screenshot)

Per the UCI press release, “The Super-G races will take place over a single run on a slope with a vertical drop of between 350 and 650 meters depending on the route chosen. The distance between the gates will be around 20-25 meters, as in alpine skiing. The racers will start one by one at regular intervals.’

“The dual slalom (comparable to the parallel slalom in snowboard and alpine skiing) is an event made up of a series of elimination races in which two riders go head-to-head on two parallel slalom courses. They compete against each other in two heats, switching courses for the second heat. The rider with the fastest combined time advances to the next round of the competition. The courses will take approximately 30 seconds to descend.”

I don’t know about you, and I’m not a skiing expert, but I’m certain skis or sleds would be a better way to do both of these events. And I am at a loss as to why a downhill mountain bike professional would risk their upcoming season trying to ride a bike on the cold, tractionless substrate.

The Inaugural Snow Bike World Championship

snow biking
Super wobbler; (photo/screenshot)

Any cyclist brave, crazy, or aloof enough with a racing license from a UCI-affiliated nation is welcome to slide uncontrollably down the contrived courses in what I’m sure is a beautiful alpine setting.

This isn’t exactly new. Versions of snow bike racing have popped up at Winter X Games, and the French cycling federation gave it a shot in 2019. But this will be the first unified and recognized world championship, and the winners will carry the rainbow stripes on their jerseys (or ski suits?) for the entirety of the next season.

I have been in bicycle racing since my teens, and now I’m a crusty, ornery, bitter, and skeptical has-been who routinely scoffs at modern bicycle racing developments (aero socks!) and the UCI’s affinity for ridiculous decisions and rules (make sure your aero socks are within height guidelines!). But the UCI’s “forward-thinking” move leaves me scratching my graying head.

But Why?

The UCI already has cross-country, short course, marathon, and downhill mountain bike racing in its control. It recently added gravel racing to its empire, to the utter disgust of many of that discipline’s original participants. Now it’s creeping into the alpine skiing world in such a contrived way.

This looks and feels like a fraternity stunt or an episode of “Jackass.” Yes, you can run studded tires, but it’s not a fat bike; it’s a downhill mountain bike. Yes, snow can be softer than dirt or rocks. But it can also be icy, and we’ve all seen the gut-wrenching Lindsey Vonn Super-G crash in those conditions. And tires don’t have metal edges.

If you were perched on top of a snowy and potentially icy hill and could choose a method of transportation to the bottom, I bet a bicycle with rounded rubber tires would be at the tail end of the list. I think I would have more control on one of those round plastic discs with the rope handles. But there were no gates when I gleefully slid down snow embankments.

We Will Still Watch the UCI World Snow Bike Championship

Remco Evenepoel
A legitimate cycling world champion, Remco Evenepoel. I hear he trains 30 hours a week and gets chapped lips; (photo/Specialized)

But my grumpy ass will still watch come February. I have to. I must witness the spectacle of the most contrived official cycling world championships ever.

I will certainly have a whiskey in hand, and maybe I’ll get a foam finger and U.S. flag to cheer our country’s entries. I suspect the crowd there will be much less uptight than road cyclist types. I’ll be stoked to see some nearly naked European, face painted like their flag, beer stein in one hand, chainsaw motor in the other, yelling for their compatriot, full throttle. Braaaaaap!

This announcement painfully reminded me that there are some e-bike world champions proudly riding in their living rooms with their rainbow stripes. Their skin still has a youthful glow, thanks to being shielded from the elements, and they have yet to wear out a tire. But they exist. And no, I didn’t watch. Bah, humbug.

A screenshot from the Zwift cycling app

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