Most of Canada’s top cyclists will be conspicuously absent from the World Road Championships in Wollongong, Australia, from September 18-25.
Posted at 5:00 am
After Hugo Houle, who had advertised his package in Press On the eve of the arrival of the Tour de France, Michael Woods, Guillaume Boivin and Antoine Duchesne preferred to skip their turn. They regret having to bear the cost of the plane ticket to get to the event.
The tiredness of the season, the long flight to the antipodes and the need to score points to avoid relegation from his professional team Israel-Premier Tech (IPT) are three reasons given by Houle to explain his withdrawal.
But the Canadian federation’s request to travel at his expense particularly annoyed him, not to say shocked him.
“We don’t see the point”
“Cycling Canada can’t afford to send athletes,” the Tour stage winner reiterated in an interview Thursday. So it’s totally at our expense. Of course, that doesn’t interest me. Guillaume Boivin rejected the invitation, Antoine Duchesne also. If we have to pay, we don’t see the point [d’y aller]. It will be interesting to see who is going to subsidize the federation. »
One thing is for sure, therefore, it will not be his teammate Boivin. Best Canadian with a 17me place on the highly selective Leuven route last year, the 33-year-old had, however, expressed a strong desire to redeem a difficult season on another circuit that suited him in Australia.
” Yes, [ça m’intéressait], but apparently in Canada we don’t have money to pay for plane tickets and things like that for our athletes, he said by phone on Friday. »
“So I decided I didn’t want to pay out of pocket to go to the World Championships. At the age we’ve reached, we’ve already paid off in our careers [pour participer à de tels évènements]. »
With the seasons we’ve had and the results we’ve had in recent years, it seemed a little disrespectful to ask us to pay. I decided not to go there because it’s expensive, but also on principle.
Following his crash on stage three of the Vuelta, Woods, another IPT member, prefers to focus on the Italian classics, including the Vuelta a Lombardia on October 8.
“With the long trip to Australia, it would be difficult to run well in Italy,” said the bronze medalist at the 2018 World Cup and fifth at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. “Also, it’s less motivating [d’y prendre part] knowing that the race is entirely financed by the runners. »
retained for costs
Duchesne had said yes on the sidelines of his second Tour de France. But his broken finger in a fall in the second stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, on August 24, changed his mind. Relatively battered, the Groupama-FDJ member is doing his best to be as fresh as possible at the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec and Montréal on September 9 and 11. It is not impossible that he will finish his season at the end of the race at Mount Royal.
That said, Duchesne admits to being “a little behind schedule” because of the cost of the trip.
“I find it quite crazy,” he said from France. Especially if we take into account the performance that elite men have achieved in the last four or five years. They always told us that we didn’t have a budget because we weren’t acting. There we act and we still do not have a budget. »
I understand there are crashes, but I can’t wait to see how many people from Cycling Canada are invited there to shake hands…
with his 23me place in the standings of nations on August 16, Canada will qualify four entrants in Wollongong for the elite men’s road race on September 25.
“If half of the top guys decide not to go, it shows that the Canadian team, deep down, doesn’t care about the results,” Duchesne said. We will send those who wanted to pay and with that we will do. Later, they will say that there are no results. »
Especially, he adds, that Canada should be part of the “outsiders” for the podium with representatives like Woods, Houle and Boivin. “It hasn’t happened for several years. I understand that it is an expensive world championship and that everyone has to pay their share, but the fact is that it is the number one event and that we have drivers to win. It’s still a shame. »
Canadian champion Pier-André Côté hesitated before accepting a long-known selection. It was only decided on Wednesday. The representative of the American formation Human Powered Health was also cooled by the high cost of the trip.
“It’s hard, I was really undecided,” admitted the Lévis athlete who will line up this Sunday at the Maryland Classic. “Spending $5,000 on a plane ticket for a one-day race, everyone wondered. That’s why so many people refused. I had to think about it. »
Since he receives funds from Sport Canada to absorb these types of expenses, he judged “in principle” that he could not refuse this invitation for his second Elite Worlds. His teammate Nickolas Zukowsky, from Sainte-Lucie-des-Laurentides, will accompany him to Wollongong.
Canada is not the only cycling nation to be deprived of its best riders. Ireland canceled its participation entirely due to high travel costs and a tight budget. New Zealand will also have to do without some of its professionals in Europe who refuse to bear part of the cost of the plane ticket, according to a recent article on the specialized site cyclingtips.com.
Cycling Canada ensures that it is doing everything in its power to reduce the fees charged to athletes to participate in its various international projects in all disciplines.
“To date, a number of athletes have opted out of this year’s World Championships due to professional team commitments,” Scott Kelly, the federation’s head of sports, said in writing. We are also aware that cost is a concern for athletes. We are also concerned. »
“This year’s World Road Championships in Australia are incredibly expensive and speaking to many other national cycling federations, we are not the only ones facing these higher costs,” he added. We are committed to fielding teams in each category and with a larger team this incurs additional costs. »
Cycling Canada has earmarked $110,000 for Wollongong Worlds (accommodation, staff, transportation and baggage), or one-third of the road competition’s annual budget. Kelly expects that number to rise “given the rising cost of almost everything related to international travel.” If athletes in the elite category must pay for their flight, those in the junior and under-23 categories must also pay $1,250 in “project fees”.
“We continue to look for ways to provide additional funding for this year’s World Championships. And we continue to be forthcoming and transparent with athletes about the challenges associated with these elevated costs,” he concluded.
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