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Update: On Thursday afternoon, the UCI announced a change to the participation rule for the team relay test event taking place in Fayetteville on Friday, January 28. Due to the reduced number of athletes traveling to Arkansas due to illness or quarantine, the UCI has reduced the number of riders per relay team from six to four. Nations have also been offered the chance to enter two teams of four riders each. Each rider will race over one lap of a 3km course before tagging in his or her teammate waiting in a transition zone. Friday’s test event will therefore be four laps instead of the originally planned six laps.
As part of the UCI’s continuous experimentation with formats, the cyclocross world championships will open Friday with a team relay event in which six riders from each participating nation will race a lap each.
It is not a medal event, but just a trial to see how fans and riders respond to the format.
Updated: The UCI confirmed Thursday that it will reduce participation rules for the relay due to several teams arriving in Arkansas with its rosters depleted by COVID-19.
The UCI said, “To ensure that nations entered in Friday’s team relay test event can still field a team despite their restricted numbers, the UCI has reduced the number of riders per team from six to four. Each participating team in Fayetteville will line up two female riders and two male riders.”
The UCI has held team relays recently at the mountain bike world championships and the road world championships.
At the 2021 road words, there was a team time trial relay with three men and three women. At mountain bike worlds, the format was more similar to what will happen in Fayetteville. Both the team time trial relay and the MTB relay were medal events, however.
The format for the ’cross relay is six riders each doing a lap, with the teams composed of one female elite rider, one male elite rider, two female junior or under-23 riders, and two male junior or under-23 riders. With this configuration, nations can pick whatever start order they like.
Some nations like the Netherlands will skip this event.
“I want all the focus on the real races,” Dutch national coach Gerben de Knegt told WielerFlits.
The American national champions Clara Honsinger and Eric Brunner, however, are eager to check it out, saying it will be a fun way to preview the course at race speed. And with each rider only doing a lap, there isn’t much concern of overexertion the day or two days before the medal events.
“It is something that has been really cool that have introduced in mountain biking and I feel like cyclocross is the perfect format for it,” said Honsinger, who was third at the World Cup late last year on the Fayetteville course. “We have this relatively small lap, and we can all come together as a team and just see what happens.”
“This year it is just a test event, so there won’t be any medals or jerseys given, but I am really excited to see the atmosphere around it, and whether we can bring it to a full-level event in the future,” Honsinger said. “If anything it is a great opportunity to get a hot lap in and really race it before we race it the next day.”
The racing continues Saturday with the elite women, junior women, and under-23 men, followed on Sunday by the elite men, junior men, and under-23 women.