The 2023 racing season marks the beginning of a new era for World Cup Downhill. This year marks the end of Red Bull’s involvement with the World Cup side of MTB after 10 years. Which brings about a few big and small changes for the fans, the racers and the teams. Here we’ll break down all you need to know for this year’s season including what has changed.

What you need to know about the 2023 Downhill World Cup race season:

  • 8 races held in Europe and North America.
  • Two points-paying race runs on finals day: semi-final and final runs.
  • All Elite and Junior races are broadcast on discovery+, GCN+ and Eurosport.
  • All junior races and Elite semi-finals are available for free and live on Youtube.
  • The top 60 men and top 30 women from Qualifying will race in the semi-final, the top 30 and 15 from semis race the final.

Also, check out the Full Guide to all 6 disciplines of the UCI MTB World Series or the full list of all 58 teams competing in the DH World Cup.

Let’s start off with an overview of the entire UCI DH season and go deeper from there.

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Laurie Greenland celebrates at UCI DH World Cup in Fort William, United Kingdom. // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Race Calendar

There are 8 UCI World Cup Downhill races scheduled in 2023. The race season starts on June 9th in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, and ends on October 8th in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada. Again the World Championship race is not the last race, but is held on August 3rd-5th in Fort William, Scottland.

2023 UCI Downhill World Cup Schedule

June 9 - 11 2023LenzerheideSwitzerlandEurope
June 15 - 18 2023LeogangAustriaEurope
June 30 - July 2 2023Val di Sole, TrentinoItalyEurope
August 23 - 27 2023Pal ArinsalAndorraEurope
September 1 - 3 2023LoudenvielleFranceEurope
September 7 - 17 2023Les Gets, Chatel, MorzineFranceEurope
September 28 - October 1 2023SnowshoeUSANorth America
October 6 - 8 2023Mont-Saint-AnneCanadaNorth America

With no races in April and May, this is one of the latest series starts ever. This may be a calculated move to gain more time for the organizers. As there has been shuffling and big changes happening behind the scenes.

There’re two new venues, both in France: Loudenvielle and the world-famous Les Gets-Morzine-Chatel region. One of the riders’ favorite tracks in Portugal has dropped from the line-up tho.

In addition, there are two official pre-season test events for DHI and XC, the dates for which have yet to be announced. Seems like the rider-organized “Not-A-Race” in Schladming had an impact on the schedule.

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Loris Vergier was one of the few who could stop Amaury from winning in 2022. // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Where you can watch Downhill World Cup races

UCI World Cup Downhill is mostly available live and for free on Youtube. Only the Elite class final race runs are broadcast live and on-demand as pay-per-view on discovery+, the Eurosport App and globally on GCN+. (Source: UCI Press Release)

While there is a lot of coverage of the UCI MTB World Cup on the UCI World Series Youtube channel, not everything is available as a free live broadcast. All of the Elite final races are pay-per-view. The production quality will be high as they claim 20 cameras on course, supplemented by 3 drones. There will be full top-to-bottom coverage for the top riders.

It looks like riders are still allowed to film the race weekend on their own helmet cameras. For complete and up-to-date race coverage you can follow some of the best riders on the planet on Youtube.

DH legends Bernard Kerr, Aaron Gwin upload footage of their race weekends regularly. And let’s not forget the best pre-race and post-race interviews by Wyn Masters on WynTV (GT Bike’s channel). Plenty of choice to follow your favorite riders a follow to stay up-to-date on DHI action.

How much watching DH World Cups costs

Discovery Plus has two pricing options: a $5 monthly plan that includes ads, and a $7 monthly plan that is ad-free. GCN+ is $7 per month or §40 per year. Eurosport Pass has a monthly fee of $7 as well. Amazon Prime Video users can also add discovery+ at $5 or $7 to watch via Amazon Video, but cannot use the apps.

That’s a cost of $25 to watch the entire 5-month Downhill season using the cheapest plan or $35 for the ad-free subscription.

Discovery+ streaming is only available in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK and Ireland.

Fans from countries not listed above may set up a virtual private network (VPN) like ExpressVPN to route their traffic through a server in one of those countries. The region-specific streaming my caused by Warner Bros. Discovery Europe managing the distribution.

As of publishing, there is no additional information concerning free highlight shows or broadcasting details of the World Championships in Fort William, which have had a different broadcasting format and channel than the World Cups in the past.

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Can DH legend Aaron Gwin come back to winning form in 2023? // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

For the first time in 2023, all final runs of the 30 Elite Men and the 10 Elite Women will be broadcast in full length, top to bottom. The semi-finals, held on the same day as the Elite finals, will also be broadcast. As will both Junior classes for the first time ever, who race their finals the day before.

Who will broadcast UCI DH World Cup 2023?

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports is broadcasting the UCI World Cup Mountain Bike racing for the next eight years, starting in 2023. All Elite and Junior Downhill races are available on Discovery+, Eurosport and GCN+. Discovery+ is accessible in the US, Canada, Brazil, certain regions in Asia and the majority of Europe.

No additional information is available on how and in which countries the World Champs are going to be broadcast. This has been a difficult topic to navigate in the past.

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Rob Warner and Eliot Jackson are no longer hosting the race livestreams. // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

What happened to Red Bull downhill?

Warner Bros. Discovery bought the rights to operate and distribute the Mountain Bike World Cup Series starting 2023, taking over from Red Bull. It’s rumored that the auctioned price was more than RedBull was willing to invest, using their tried and true business model for promoting and distributing race content.

With this change, there are also some big changes to how the races are run, the points system and the number of riders. The introduction of semi-finals, reductions of finals spots and increased attention on semi-finals by points awarded are among the most noteworthy.

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Loic Bruni at UCI DH World Championships in Les Gets, France. // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Downhill World Championships

The World Championship is the single most prestigious race of the year. The status of world champion is awarded based on the performance in this race. Results don’t affect the World Cup standings, so riders usually are taking more risks. The race format and riders attending also differ from the World Cup races.

Some top riders from the World Cup series may be missing due to a small delegation per country of up to 7 riders total across all classes. Riders get nominated by the delegation of their home country. With many countries participating, this is the race with most countries and riders racing. There’s no qualifying requirement like for World Cups so everyone entering will race.

Countries with the world champions of the previous year are allowed one extra rider spot. This is so that the reigning world champions are guaranteed a spot and don’t take away one for fellow countrymen.

Where is the MTB Downhill World Championship in 2023?

The 2023 MTB Downhill World Championships will be held in Fort William, Scotland from August 3rd to 5th. Junior finals are on August 4th, Elite finals on August 5th. This long, physically demanding track is the longest-running on the World Cup calendar, being raced for the 21st time in 2023.

DH legend Gee Atherton will return to World Cup racing after recovering from his almost career-ending accident. // Dan Griffiths / Red Bull Content Pool

Race Format & Rules

The race weekend consists of practice sessions, qualifying, semi-finals and final race runs for the Elite classes. Juniors remain the same with one qualifying run and one race run. The introduction of semi-finals is one of the biggest rule changes for this season.

Out of qualifying, the top 60 of Elite Men and the top 15 Elite Women qualify for the semi-final. From there, only the top 30 men and 10 women of semi-finals advance to the final. Both race runs take place on the same day.

The Junior races take place the day before Elite finals.

In other words, getting a top 60 qualifying time doesn’t guarantee a finals run. Racers have to do well in two timed runs of quali and semi to even be in the final. With the exception of the season-long protected riders.

By the way, if you’re wondering what’s up with the constant whistling by race marshals, I got the answer for you here. Hint: It’s regulated in the official UCI rulebook.

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Amaury Pierron, the 2022 World Cup overall winner, is among the season-long protected riders. // Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

Protected Riders

The status of protected riders guarantees season-long semi-final appearances. It’s awarded to the top 10 men and top 5 women of the 2022 season’s final standings. Only the top 5 men and top 3 women are secured for the final runs.

For the 2023 season, the top 10 protected elite men are:

  1. Amaury Pierron
  2. Finn Iles
  3. Loris Vergier
  4. Andreas Kolb
  5. Bernard Kerr
  6. Laurie Greenland
  7. Benoit Coulanges
  8. Aaron Gwin
  9. Danny Hart
  10. Greg Minnaar

And the top 5 elite women who are protected riders in 2023 are:

  1. Camille Balanche
  2. Myriam Nicole
  3. Valentina Höll
  4. Nina Hoffmann
  5. Eleonora Farina

Additionally, there are additional guaranteed spots for semi-finals awarded to the top-ranking riders within the current season. These are the best non-protected 10 men and 5 women based on the current season ranking at the start of the race weekend.

This means for semi-finals, 40 spots for elite men and 5 spots for elite women are available for non-protected riders. Protected spots for riders out with injury will not be replaced.

(Source: Article 4.11.014 UCI MTB Rules 2023)

This protection system always leads to confusion regarding the starting order. Let’s look at how it works in simple terms.

Starting Order

The start order for the semi-final and final races is based on the results from the qualifying round, with the fastest rider starting last. However, the last group of starters is always going to be all protected riders and the fastest non-protected 5 men and 2 women elite riders – queued based on their quali results.

(Source: Article 4.11 UCI MTB Rules 2023)

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Jackson Goldstone moves up to Elites in 2023 having already posted competitive times in his Junior races. // Nathan Hughes / Red Bull Content Pool

Points System

There’s a completely new points system for World Cup Downhill in 2023. Qualifying now pays fewer points, with the majority awarded for semi-finals and finals. The points for finals are higher for the first couple of positions compared to semi-finals. This means the competitor with the fastest time in finals isn’t necessarily taking away the most points.

The exception to this is again the last round of the season. As in previous years, points are only awarded for the final race runs. There are no qualifying or semi-points handed out in Snowshoe, USA.

This new points scale will no doubt lead to more strategizing by riders and teams. Here are the exact points scales for qualifying, semi-finals and finals for both Elite Men and Elite Women.

2023 UCI DHI World Cup Points Men

Show More Show Less

2023 UCI DHI World Cup Points Women

Show More Show Less

(Source: Article 4.11.020 UCI MTB Rules 2023)

And now for those riders of you who want to participate in the racing instead of watching all the action.

How to enter a UCI DH World Cup

One of the following three criteria has to be met in order to enter a DH World Cup in the Elite class (age 19 and over):

  1. Having obtained at least 40 UCI points in the UCI DHI individual reference ranking.
  2. The national federations may enter a maximum of 3 supplementary riders per category. These riders must wear national team clothing.
  3. Riders belonging to a UCI Elite MTB Team or a
    UCI MTB Team (new for 2023)

One of the following three criteria has to be met in order to enter a DH World Cup in the Junior class (ages 17 and 18):

  1. Each national federation may enter a maximum of 6 riders per category (wearing the national outfit required).
  2. The national federation of the organizing country may register a supplementary second team of maximum 6 riders (wearing national outfits required).
  3. Riders belonging to a UCI Elite MTB Team or a UCI MTB Team (new for 2023)

Note: To register for the race, riders must be part of a UCI Elite MTB team, a UCI MTB team, or registered with a national federation. In other words: You can’t register yourself.

How many UCI points do you need to race a World Cup Downhill?

Riders need a minimum of 40 UCI points in the UCI DHI individual ranking to be allowed to enter a race. Even with fewer points, there are two other ways to race a World Cup Downhill: Get nominated by your national federation or be part of a UCI Elite MTB Team or a regular UCI MTB Team.

How to qualify for a UCI MTB Downhill World Cup

Any rider meeting the registration requirements can technically qualify for a UCI DHI race. From qualifying, the top 25 Junior Men and 10 Junior Women qualify to race their final. And the top 60 Elite Men and top 15 Elite Women race the semi-final. Only the best 30 and 10 respectively qualify for the final race.

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