Just days before Saturday’s women’s world championship road race, Canada’s team received a boost with the announcement that Lex Albrecht would be added to the squad. Albrecht, who claimed six wins this year, finished second at the Liberty Classic, came fourth at the Grand Prix de Gatineau, and claimed sixth at the Winston-Salem Women’s Cycling Classic, all UCI events, had to fight for her place, not on the road, but in arbitration, after Cycling Canada initially left her off of the team. Citing sporting reasons, the Canadian federation had chosen to bring only three riders to the championships, despite the six spots on the start line that Canadian women had earned through the year.
Feeling wronged, Albrecht decided to dispute that decision. “When I received my non-selection, I made an appeal through Cycling Canada. Once they received my payment of $250 that they require to make an appeal, Cycling Canada appointed a case manager who chose a judge to hear our case. There was a very long conference-call hearing where I represented myself against Cycling Canada. I had somebody on the line to support me, as did the representative from Cycling Canada. Neither of us had a lawyer. I presented my statements and arguments against the points that Cycling Canada had brought up during previous communications, as well as in a letter that they had drafted to justify their decision to the judge,” she explained.
Albrecht lost that first appeal, a decision she did not agree with. “When I received the result of the appeal, I was not satisfied that all of the points that I had brought up and that I considered very important, had been taken into account. This is because the decision was based strictly on whether or not Cycling Canada had breached their selection procedure, which is quite subjective. However, there were many points beyond that one criteria that I found were very important to take into consideration regarding my non-selection,” she said. Albrecht ultimately decided to bring her case to arbitration with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. “I believed in what I was fighting for, and decided to proceed with my appeal. I had the choice of going through a mediation process or an arbitration process. I chose arbitration, especially because of the short time frame, and because I believed that my arguments were strong,” she explained. Once Albrecht’s arbitration case was opened, Cycling Canada decided to fold. In a press release on Tuesday, the federation announced, “Cycling Canada has determined that the time between now and the women’s road race this Saturday would not allow for the appeal process to be completed in time to allow Albrecht to be a positive contributor to the team had she been successful in her second appeal. The athlete will now travel to Spain immediately to join the team to benefit from the maximum amount of team preparation time in advance of Saturday’s race.”
Of course, this is not how Albrecht would have liked to prepare for a world championships. “The lead up was not ideal but, on the bright side, I got to spend a nice block of time at home having fun. I spent a lot of time on my motorcycle, a new hobby that I love, and I did keep my training up.”
Nevertheless, through the whole process, Albrecht held her head high. “I wanted to be very careful to follow all of the rules and stick up for myself in a way that was fair for everybody. Nothing was done in an underhanded fashion. I reiterated sincerely during my appeals that I was not appealing out of spite, or with any sense of animosity or resentment,” she told us.
Now, all that is left is the racing. In Spain, on Friday, Albrecht remarked, “I want to be able to play my role as a teammate, depending on what the team strategy will be.” Karol-Ann just became became World Champion in the team time trial and scored sixth in the individual time trial while Leah has had an off-the-wall good season, and Jöelle’s form is excellent as well. I feel good too, so I think Canada has some great chances to have an excellent result. However, with only four riders, it may be challenging to devise a team strategy that will stand up to larger teams such as the Netherlands, who have eight riders.” Canada could have had six.