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May 4/07 10:39 am - CCA Responds to Symmetrics' Pan Am Withdrawal

Posted by Editor on 05/4/07

CCA Responds to Symmetrics Pan Am Withdrawal

Late last night, Symmetrics team owner Kevin Cunningham sent out a press release stating that he was withdrawing his team members from participating in the upcoming Pan Am Road and Track Championships, to be held in Venezuela, May 21-27 (see Daily News - May 3/07 10:45 pm EDT - Symmetrics Cycling Withdraws All Riders from Pan Am Championships). This came only few hours after the CCA had announced the team - which would rely heavily on Symmetrics riders for the men's road squad (see Daily News - May 3/07 6:00 pm EDT - CCA Announces Pan Am Road & Track Squad).

We had been aware that the CCA had delayed in announcing the squad while they discussed team composition with Symmetrics - the Pan Am Championships (NOT Pan Am Games) are extremely valuable for UCI points (and hence Worlds and Olympic ranking), and the CCA does not have the budget to send a full squad - but this was a dramatic development.

The CCA High Performance Committee made the following announcement (with respect to the road squad) - Symmetrics riders are bolded:

The CCA has also finalized selection for the men's road race. As per the published criteria, the following athletes have been selected:

Elite men:
Svein Tuft (Langley BC): road race and time trial
Charles Dionne (Ste-Foy QC) : road race

U23 men:
Christian Meier (Langley BC): road race
David Veilleux (Quebec QC): road race and time trial

In order to field a complete team in the road race (six elite men and four U23 men), the CCA is also inviting the following athletes to attend. However, due to budget constraints these athletes will be required to fund a portion of the cost of their participation:

Elite men:
Andrew Pinfold (Victoria BC)
Andrew Randell (Toronto ON)
Eric Wohlberg (Levack ON)

U23 men:
Marsh Cooper (Aldergrove BC)
Keven Lacombe (Amos QC)

The composition of Canada's team for the men's road events will therefore be as follows (in alphabetical order):

Road race (elite):
Charles Dionne (Ste-Foy QC)
Martin Gilbert (Montreal QC)
Andrew Pinfold (Victoria BC)
Andrew Randell (Toronto ON)
Svein Tuft (Langley BC)
Eric Wohlberg (Levack ON)
First reserve: Zach Bell (Vancouver BC)
Second reserve: Ryan McKenzie (Calgary AB)

Road race (U23):
Marsh Cooper (Aldergrove BC)
Christian Meier (Langley BC)
Keven Lacombe (Amos QC)
David Veilleux (Quebec QC)

Elite time trial:
Svein Tuft (Langley BC)
Eric Wohlberg (Levack ON)
Reserve: Zach Bell (Vancouver BC)

U23 time trial:
Christian Meier (Langley BC)
David Veilleux (Quebec QC)
Reserve : Keven Lacombe (Amos QC)

As anyone can, see Symmetrics riders make up the majority of the squad and, from their performances recently, are among the strongest riders Canada has. It should be noted also that Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net p/b Maxxis), Dominique Rollin or Mark Walters (both Kodak-Sierra Nevada) would not be available for the project, and that Michael Barry (T-Mobile), as a member of a ProTour team, could not have any points count in the Continental standings.

We spoke with Kris Westwood, Director of High Performance Programs at the CCA about the selection process and the withdrawal of Symmetrics from the Pan Am Championships team.

Canadian Cyclist: We knew that there had been some negotiations about the extent of Symmetrics involvement in the project, and that they had some concerns, but this dramatic withdrawal is more than we expected.

Kris Westwood: Yes, it is very disappointing; we had been talking with Symmetrics for sometime about (this project). They had offered to contribute to the project to support Svein, who is the clear leader based on how he is riding and his (UCI) points.

Under the criteria Svein was an automatic selection and the High Performance Committee (HPC) met and decided to add Charles (Dionne) as the Committee choice, since they felt a sprinter should be on the team. So Kevin (Cunningham) withdrew his team.

(Note: The HPC consists of Louis Barbeau (Quebec, Chair); Luc Arseneau (New Brunswick); Denise Kelly (Ontario); Brian Cowie (B.C.))

CC: Was the HPC aware of this potential conflict?

KW: It was presented to me by Symmetrics that they wanted to have a team there to support Svein, to have certain riders. I did not present this to the (HPC), since it was not suitable and should not be a part of their decision.

CC: So why did the HPC choose Charles Dionne - he is coming back from injury and surgery, but has not yet shown the form he had previously?

KW: The argument made at the meeting was that he is returning to form, that he had top-10 finishes in (Tour de) Georgia. Also that he had previously done well at the Pan Am Championships, finishing second two years ago, and that it is a flat course in Venezuela, so a sprinter would be an asset.

CC: Without Symmetrics at the Pan Am Championships ...

KW: I am not optimistic. Without Symmetrics we are not able to field a complete team, since Sport Canada does not provide us (CCA) with the funding for this project. I definitely acknowledge that Symmetrics has invested more than the CCA, earned way more points than CCA projects. As a private team owner he (Cunningham) was uncomfortable with the situation, and we were not able to create a situation he was comfortable with.

CC: There has been some speculation that Dionne "pre-announced" his participation to the Quebec press - was there any pressure?

KW: Not at all, I am not aware of anything like this. Also, it could have been a misinterpretation by the media - I know Charles said that he had made space in his team program to be available, but that is not the same thing at all. Charles just indicated that he would be available, as do other athletes.

CC: So what does this say for future team projects?

KW: That is a very good question, and I can't answer it immediately. My personal opinion is that selection by Committee is not always the best method - they are not as accountable as staff for results. Road projects need to be built around a leader, that is why you select a team. However, this was almost a unique situation for us (Canada). Usually we get two or three riders at max, so there is no real 'team'. It is rare that we have the numbers to put together a full team and look at those considerations.

CC: When is the cut-off for team selection, is there any opportunity to revise the team?

KW: The cut-off was Monday, it is too late to make any changes, and we couldn't fund other riders anyway. Basically, Symmetrics is not happy with the selection, and the HPC is not prepared to move. Selections are always difficult, always disappointing to someone. It is one thing to accept an offer from a private party, and another to abandon an established selection process.

CC: Is it still possible that Symmetrics riders could be added back to the project?

KW: Well, we will not be replacing them, so yes, that would be possible.


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