Two days after releasing the 51-rider roster of Canadians for 2021 mountain bike world championships, Cycling Canada announced four further riders would be selected for the team. The change includes three elite women in downhill and one additional junior woman.
“Cycling Canada has a responsibility, above and beyond the confines of high performance sport, to both promote and encourage cycling in Canada,” the organization shared in its announcement, adding “Canadian athletes’ success on the world stage inspires the next generation of Canadian athletes and fielding a team that does not include a single Elite female athlete does not move us closer to that goal.”
New riders selected
With the change, three elite women are now selected for worlds based on their results at Canadian downhill national championships which were held recently at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
Rachel Pageau (Chicoutimi, Que.), Jennifer McHugh (Fernie, B.C.) and Vaea Verbeeck (Coldstream, B.C.) are all now selected and will have the option to race. Pageau is already in Europe for the second half of the World Cup season. It’s unclear yet if the other riders will have time to get to Val di Sole, as worlds start in 9 days.
Gracey Hemstreet is also now selected for the junior women’s downhill team. Hemstreet missed selection due to injury. The Sechelt, B.C.-based rider is clearly back on pace already, though. Hemstreet finished fifth in junior women at a World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia on Sunday.
Positive change after public response
The additional selections are a positive change from Cycling Canada to the public response to the initial selection. Several athletes, including past national champion Vaea Verbeeck and u21 enduro national champion Julia Long, as well as other spoke out against the way the selection process worked.
In announcing the new additions to this year’s national team, Cycling Canada reiterated that the selection policy was followed correctly and restated the importance of a clear and objective selection criteria.
“The selection criteria for the 2021 World Downhill Championships for both Elite men and women was clear and objective,” said the release, which can be read in full below. “Overwhelmingly, the ask from athletes has been for clear and objective criteria and it is the High Performance Committee’s role is to ensure that selections are done in accordance with the posted criteria.”
“However, it is also very clear that there are extenuating circumstances,” the announcement continues. As a result, Cycling Canada added the additional athletes.
It’s good to see Cycling Canada taking steps to improve representation in the elite women’s field and listening to feedback to the riding community. There’s a huge pool of talent in Canadian mountain biking right now. Hopefully this positive change continues in to future seasons.
Cycling Canada’s full statement on the expansion of the 2021 mountain bike world championship team:
“Cycling Canada recognizes that a healthy cycling nation offers support to athletes of all disciplines and has been working hard to diversify its revenue streams in order to be able to support programs outside of the publicly funded Olympic and Paralympic disciplines. These efforts have allowed additional support for development riders at this year’s Downhill World Championships and we expect this support to increase over time as we remain committed to better supporting Canadian downhill athletes.
As a result of not being able to traditionally support downhill athletes, Cycling Canada formed what is referred to as the ‘Downhill Working Group’; this advisory group is made up of representatives from the downhill community including Trade Teams, provincial sports organizations and both female and male athlete representatives. This group contributes to the creation of selection policies at the beginning of each year and advises on the selection of riders for both world cups and world championships. Selections made by the DH Working Group are then confirmed by our High Performance Committee, which consists of former athletes, a current athlete representative, and representatives from the cycling community. Overwhelmingly, the ask from athletes has been for clear and objective criteria and it is the High Performance Committee’s role is to ensure that selections are done in accordance with the posted criteria.
The selection criteria for the 2021 World Downhill Championships for both Elite men and women was clear and objective. Selection was based on 2020 World Championships results, 2021 world cups, UCI rankings and Nationals and all athletes had the same opportunities to enter races in 2021 and achieve results for selection. This year, three Elite women were selected to attend the World Championships, and unfortunately, all three declined their selection. The criteria clearly states that Cycling Canada is to only select the top three who are not already selected, provided that they finish in the top-8. If those athletes decline, the criteria does not state that selections should be rolled down the results list to pick additional athletes.
However, it is also very clear that there are extenuating circumstances. It is incredibly rare that every qualified athlete in a specific category would decline selection. Cycling Canada has a responsibility, above and beyond the confines of high performance sport, to both promote and encourage cycling in Canada. Canadian athletes’ success on the world stage inspires the next generation of Canadian athletes and fielding a team that does not include a single Elite female athlete does not move us closer to that goal.
In consideration of these extenuating circumstances, and with the goal of increasing female representation at this year’s World Championships, Cycling Canada has made the following decisions:
Cycling Canada will roll down selections to athletes finishing in the top-8 of the Canadian Downhill Championships in the Elite women’s category. This includes:
In consideration of her injury this season, Cycling Canada will also select Gracey Hemstreet as an additional Junior female athlete.”