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July 22/22 14:00 pm - No Mountain Bikers at the Commonwealth Games - A Bad Look for Canada


Posted by Editoress on 07/22/22
 

In one week, the Commonwealth Games will begin in the United Kingdom; while not of the same stature as the Olympics, this is a very major event that has seen the launch of many a Canadian rider's career on the international stage. Sadly, for the first time in history, Canada will have no mountain bike riders competing. This was very much on my mind at the first event of the national championships Thursday evening.

Canada has a long history of excellence in mountain biking at the Commonwealth Games - we won both women's and men's titles the first time it was added to the schedule in 2002; indeed we have won all but the 2018 edition of the women's race, and won a bronze medal in that race. On the men's side, we finished 1-2 in the first edition, and took bronze in the second. We are, unarguably the top medal nation in the sport at the Commonwealth Games.

 

2002 Manchester, UK


Photo

Chrissy Redden taking the first ever Commonwealth Games medal in MTB



Photo

Roland Green winning the men's



2006, Melbourne, Australia


Photo

Gold and Bronze for Canadian Women: Marie-Helene Premont, Kiara Bisaro

 

Photo

Bronze for Seamus McGrath

 

2010 Delhi, India, no MTB races were held

2014, Glasgow, Scotland


Photo

Catharine Pendrel taking the gold


Photo

Emily Batty, Catharine Pendrel, Rebecca Henderson (McConnell)

 

 

2018, Gold Coast, Australia


Photo

Evie Richards, Annie Last, Haley Smith

 

Photo

Haley Smith

 

So, it raises the question:  why did Canada not select any mountain bike athletes for these Games?

There are some obvious issues - the mountain bike races fall in the middle of the week between World Cup races in the U.S. and Canada's Mont-Ste-Anne, and these events are very important to the pro athletes. However, this was basically the same situation in 2014, at the Glasgow Games, where Canadians Catharine Pendrel and Emily Batty finished 1-2 and then headed straight for MSA.

Maybe the top Canadian pros declined nomination, due to pro team demands? That may have been issue, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't have been a perfect opportunity for some of our younger pros - U23 and first or second year Elites - to gain valuable experience competing at a major Games. It certainly might have been an opportunity for them to actually be competing at the front of the race instead of starting from the back of the field in a World Cup and battling for another top-50 result.

Sadly, we will never know because, it turns out, it was decided by the selection bodies much earlier to not include mountain biking. The riders never had a chance to decide whether or not they would like to compete.

Canada received 18 spots for cycling, to be used between road, track and mountain bike. A full track contingent was selected - 3 sprinters each for women and men, and 4 women and men for the endurance events, taking up 14 spots. This makes sense, given the quality of our track squad and how few chances that get to compete.

That leaves four spots and, in the past, some or all have gone to mountain biking, with the track endurance squads doing the road events. This time, all four spots went to additional road athletes - 3 women and 1 man. This is not a knock against the road athletes; all are accomplished pros who could be in the mix in the road races. However, maybe they didn't have to include quite as many, opening a few spots for mountain bike.

Unfortunately, it appears - from the various sources I have spoken with since the announcement of the team was made after the Road Nationals [see Commonwealth Games Team Announced] - that a deliberate decision was made to not include mountain bike, and to focus on road and track.

 

If this is true, it speaks to a more troubling issue about decision making; and the long term prospects for the mountain bike discipline if the development of our future athletes is restricted.

 

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