With the World Championships to be held in Val Di Sole, Italy, from 25-29 August 2021, AusCycling has just announced athlete selections for Junior, U23 and Elite XC and Junior DH — this does not include Elite DH, which will be announced early July. The major caveat is that only four of the 18-riders on the list will actually be eligible to compete.
In late April, AusCycling updated its position on sending teams abroad. Essentially, with the international borders still closed and Australian’s not allowed to travel overseas without an exemption, the governing body announced it would not be conducting national team campaigns or projects outside of Australia before 31 August 2021 — unless there is a risk to Olympic and or Paralympic qualification.
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With the ongoing global pandemic, the cap on international arrivals, the mandatory $3000 14-day quarantine, and the fact that a national campaign requires the athletes and mechanics, coaches, and an army of support staff, AusCycling felt the risk and cost was too high.
A few weeks later, on 18 May, the governing body announced its selection criteria for the World Championships but stated it would send no national team to Italy, But, riders who are on a UCI registered team (i.e. are already likely in Europe) would be able to apply to participate.
This means even if they have met the performance criteria, riders who are not on a UCI registered team are not eligible to compete. The reasoning behind this stipulation, for any campaign where riders are wearing the green and gold jersey, AusCycling assumes the duty of care, which can not be waived or transferred. After exploring every option to facilitate the travel and competition of athletes on non-UCI registered teams still presented too much risk.
Who was selected?
Canberra based Zoe Cuthbert is one such athlete who has met the performance criteria but doesn’t tick the UCI box; she told Flow, “(I’m) stoked to be selected for the team; unfortunately, I can’t travel due to COVID, but I’ll be cheering the Aussie’s on from home.”
Cuthbert is joined by the likes of Cameron Ivory, U23 XC National Champs Sam Fox and Katherin Hosking, Junior XC National Champions Hayley Oakes and Joel Dodds, Junior DH National Champs Elise Empey, and Remey Meier-Smith, as well as Issac Fletcher, Matt Dinham, Isabelle Flint, Riley Corke, Ashleigh Weinert, and Lia Ladbrook.
According to AusCycling, these 14 riders have secured an invite to an MTB high-performance camp scheduled for later in 2021. The details of this camp are yet to be confirmed, but AusCycling says it is exploring possible trans-Tasman locations.
“AusCycling recognises that 2021 has been a challenging year for athletes with exceptionally limited racing opportunities to meet performance standards and selection criteria. Australia is also facing limited athlete quotas at World Championships this year in some men’s categories,” says Evan James, the MTB Sport Manager at AusCycling.
“AusCycling believes it is important we recognise athletes that have achieved selection, even if they are unable to compete,” he says. “I’m Excited by the opportunities that will come for athletes at the high-performance camp later in the year, in addition to other significant development projects in 2022.”
Of the 14 riders who were selected, the four we will see line up in Val Di Sole are Bec and Dan McConnell, the current Australian XC National Champions who race for Primaflor Mondraker X-Sauce, Cameron Wright, riding for the Giant Factory Off-Road Team, and 16-year old Junior Ollie Davis, who races for the newly launched Union DH team. We may see additions to the lineup, as Meier-Smith has recently signed to a UCI registered team, and Fox is currently overseas racing. AusCycling has indicated that the situation is regularly evolving and the advice could change ahead of August.