Cycling Australia announced this week that it will terminate its cross-country mountainbike development program to better fund athletes in other disciplines who have Olympic medal hopes.
“This has been a very difficult decision to arrive at and one that has come after a considerable period of review,” Graham Fredericks, Cycling Australia CEO, said in a relase. “The key reason for this decision is the stretched resources available for our High Performance Programs.”
The financial situation led to the decision to focus Cycling Australia’s current resources towards programs with greater Olympic medal prospects, Fredericks said.
Australian cyclist Cadel Evans, the reigning World Champion on the road, started his career as a mountain biker in his country’s development program 14 years ago. He later won two World Cup championships on the dirt and represented Australia at the Atlanta and Sydney Games in mountain biking, where he posted top-10 finishes.
He told the Australian Associated Press that he is disappointed by the Cycling Australia’s decision.
“They know how things (in terms of funding) are going to go and it’s always medal potential,” Evans told AAP.
“But as someone who was introduced into the sport of cycling through mountain biking, I’m a bit disappointed.
“I look at all the different forms of cycling as ways of drawing talent into the sport.”
Cycling Australia’s current level of funding has been rolled over for the past three years and this has meant the organization has had to absorb significant increases in the cost of international travel for competition, athlete training and preparation, Fredericks said.
“Federal Government funding in 2009 was approximately $1 million less than in 2008 and there is no indication this will change in the future,” said Fredericks. “As a result all High Performance programs have been stretched to maintain operations at a standard that is capable of continuing to produce medal results in Olympic events.
“We are being very pragmatic about using the limited resources we have in targeting athletes and programs with very genuine medal prospects in London in 2012,” Fredericks said.
Fredericks said Cycling Australia will continue to work with the mountain bike community to develop and grow the MTB discipline with the hope that the program may return in the future. Going forward, three mountain bikers will now receive support from Cyclcing Australia’s high-performance program – Rowena Fry, Gracie Elvin and Paul Van der Ploeg.
Performances by Australian mountain bike riders at UCI World Cups and World Championships will qualify for positions at the London 2012 Olympics. On current nation rankings, Australia should qualify at least one male and one female athlete.
The shuttering of the mountain bike program is effective Dec. 31, 2009.