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August 13/02 11:17 am - Step Up to the Line - An Editorial Comment


Posted by Editor on 08/13/02
 

Canada Still in the Hunt for Worlds Spots

If you read the Forums, you may have noticed recently a discussion regarding Canada's participation (or, rather lack of participation) in the men's road race at the world championships this year.

What it boils down to is this: To send a team to the road worlds for the elite men's road race, a country has to meet qualifying criteria, the foremost being that the country is ranked in the top 30 worldwide (the higher the ranking, the more riders are allowed). Canada has been hovering around 30th place for the last few years, and has always managed to squeak in.

However, recent rankings put Canada in 33rd place, meaning no men in the road race (there are rules for individual riders having high ranking, but no Canadians fit this criteria). The most recent rankings, after the past weekend, put Canada back into 30th, 1.75 points ahead of Venezuala. The cutoff is August 15th (Thursday), so if it doesn't change Canada might yet squeak in again. The CCA says that they will send two riders if they do meet the cutoff. So, at this point it becomes a wait and keep your fingers crossed situation. The situation is the same for the Athens Olympics, by the way.

Regardless of whether Canada manages to get riders in or not, the question remains: how did we get into this situation, and what can be done about it?

The short answer is that the deck is stacked against us by the UCI. To get UCI points, riders and teams need to participate in UCI-sanctioned races. Right now, there are 3 such events in North America - Beauce, San Francisco and the USPro Championship. Our riders have taken a good number of the points available at those events, so when the events are offered, Canadians perform. There used to be Redlands and Sea Otter, where Canadians racked up most of the points, but those events have chosen not to take out UCI sanctions.

The American teams that Canadians such as Eric Wohlberg, Gord Fraser, Mark Walters and Svein Tuft ride for have chosen to stay in North America, especially since September 11th, meaning that the opportunities for points has dried up even further. Sympatico-Jet Fuel's forays to Norway and Ireland have helped, but we are still at an enormous disadvantage, compared to the Europeans.

The United States and Australia are saved by the large number of pros they have on European teams (US Postal is a Euro team, for all intents and purposes). If it weren't for Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team, the Americans would probably be in worse shape then we are.

Pierre Hutsebaut, Executive Director of the CCA says that Canada and New Zealand are the most discriminated against cycling nations under the regulations, and I tend to agree.

So, what can be done about it? Well, the CCA has already begun lobbying the UCI to recognize the unique difficulties we face, and there may be some slight relief coming from that direction. However, the fact remains that we need more riders in more UCI sanctioned events. For Canadian-based teams to go to Europe is economically unfeasible, given the levels of sponsorship currently available. To get the American teams such as Saturn, Mercury, etc. to do it is even more unlikely, given their desire to race in the US for their sponsors. It is hard enough to get them to release Canadian riders for projects such as Langkawi and the Commonwealth Games.

We need to generate more UCI sanctioned events in Canada - both one day and stage races. Existing races such as Tour of Delta, Whiterock, Gastown, the Midweek stage race, Quebec-Montreal, etc. New races need to be developed - how about a men's race to go with the Montreal Women's World Cup, or a Gatineau Park race? When we had the Canadian Tire series, there were lots of opportunities for Canadians to get UCI points, and we (as a country) were ranked in the mid-20s.

The CCA is anxious to assist organizers in the process of gaining UCI sanctions, and the UCI is more flexible with events outside of Europe. I have spoken with numerous individuals at the UCI (from Hein Verbruggen and down) who recognize the need for more events outside of the traditional cycling countries, and are open to doing what they can to encourage more races. The requirements for a UCI 2.7 event are not as onerous as one might think.

It's time for us as a cycling community to step up to the line.

 


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