What is Cross-country Short Track


What is Cross-country Short Track

1 year ago

In the world of mountain bike racing the format of Cross-country Short Track (XCC) is both the youngest and one of the most dramatic for racers and fans alike. Introduced back in 2018, the format hasn’t been around for long but in that time it has made waves and shot from being a warm up act to a fan favourite in its own right. 

It is traditionally raced on a Friday evening and acts as the starting pistol to the first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup event at a UCI MTB World Series race weekend. 

Short Track offers all the tactical intrigue and bar-to-bar battling of its big brother, Cross-country Olympic (XCO), but fought out over a much shorter race course and a reduced number of laps. The result? Ultra condensed, flat-out cross country racing, often with explosive results. 

Here’s everything that you need to know:

What is XCC and what are the courses like? 

XCC, just like XCO, is a mass start race which sees the full complement of the world’s best cross country racers take to the start line. By shortening both the course and the race distance the result is a high intensity cross country race.  

The courses are made from elements of the full-length XCO tracks but slashed in length to between 1-2 km. Typically, they’re wider and feature less of the daunting technical sections (such as steep rock gardens) in order to keep speeds and overtaking options high for maximum action.  

The number of laps raced are determined by how many circuits can be fitted into 25 minutes. Up for grabs are the all-important grid positions for Sunday’s XCO race and points for the UCI XCC World Cup overall title. 

How do you win an XCC race?

Winning is simple - you just have to be the first to cross the line! It’s no more complicated than that. But of course, nothing is ever ‘simple’ when it comes to racing. 

Cross country racers compete twice in a weekend which requires careful metering of energies expended. 

The format has repeatedly proven that attack is often the best form of defence. Even if a racer doesn’t see themselves as going for the XCC win, the safest place to be is at the front, especially at the start. Collisions are commonplace and with average speeds being much higher than in XCO, off-bike excursions are perilously high risk. 

For those with their eyes on the prize, winning is a delicate balancing act between metering your efforts, positioning and constantly analysing the racers around you at all times. Races often come down to nail-biting sprints for the line. 

What makes this event so special?

The UCI MTB World Series, which hosts the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, is the premier mountain bike race event on earth and is where the very fastest come to do battle across the globe, every year.

Win a UCI MTB World Cup race and your name is written into the history books, win enough of them to take the overall title come the end of the season and you can count yourself amongst the greats. 

The results of XCC races count towards the grid positions for the longer distance XCO races but they also offer up points for their own UCI World Cup category with titles waiting to be claimed at the end of the year. 

What are the bikes like?

Racers must compete on Sunday’s Cross-country Olympic race aboard the same bike that they competed in the short track race on at the start of the weekend. Hardtails (bikes with no rear suspension) are increasingly rare these days with full suspension ruling the roost.

As with everything cross country, lightweight reigns supreme with as many components as possible being constructed from carbon fibre. Cross-country tyres are also extremely light and feature low profile tread designs to reduce rolling resistance. The racer's position on the bike is finely tuned for maximum efficiency over comfort.  

Dropper seatposts, which allow the saddle to be dropped into the frame for more room to manoeuvre on technical descents, were once viewed as an indulgence in cross country racing but have now been accepted for the benefits that they offer.    

Who are the riders that I should be looking out for?

It’s hard to mention ‘riders to watch’ in regards to anything cross country racing-related without automatically saying, ‘Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’. The newly-signed Ineos Grenadier is one of the most complete bike racers the world has yet seen. Cross-country Short Track is habitually fought shoulder-to-shoulder right down to the wire but at the 2022 UCI World Championships, racing at home in front of a partisan French crowd, Ferrand-Prevot blew them all away! She took the lead early on and stormed to a winning margin of +18secs literally never looking back as she went.

That said, six different women won a short track race in 2022. The only repeat winner (prior to Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’s Worlds win) was Switzerland’s Olympic Champion, Jolanda Neff. Neff’s compatriot, Alessandra Keller, took the UCI XCC World Cup overall title last time out and will be hopeful of defending it in 2023. 

In the men’s field there’s an unprecedented spread of racers who could take the points. Germany’s Luca Schwarzbauer has carved out a niche as a powerful short track specialist in the face of the Swiss dominance - the alpine nation having hoovered up wins in 50% of 2022’s top flight XCC races. Switzerland has been the dominant nation in cross country racing for a generation now and look in no hurry to relinquish that crown. 

South Africa’s Alan Hatherly won the UCI World Cup overall title last season having taken victory at the opening round and then backed it up with a slew of top fives across the rest of the year. Even in a sport as combative as XCC, there’s no replacement for consistency!  

Where can I watch it?! 

With the firepower of one of the world’s biggest sports broadcasters behind the UCI Mountain Bike World Series, there will be more live coverage and more ways to follow racing than ever before. UCI World Cup Cross-country Olympic, Cross-country Short Track and Downhill events from the UCI Mountain Bike World Series will be available live and on-demand on discovery+, the Eurosport App and globally on GCN+. UCI World Cup Cross-country Marathon, Enduro and E-Enduro will benefit from in-depth Highlights Shows at every round. More ways to watch will be announced in the coming months. 

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