The announcement of Great Britain's line-up for the World Championships on home turf in Fort William, Scotland, September 3-9 stirred controversy within the British mountain biking community. Notably missing from the list of cross country riders were any elite women.
The list of team members did come with the caveat that more selections could be added following results of last weekend's Swiss Cup cross country round, the 4X national championships, and the national downhill series, but as the home nation, Great Britain is allowed to field up to seven elite women in Fort William, and none were on the initial list.
The consequence of not fielding any elite women for the cross country could be lost spots for Britain at the Olympics in Beijing, a move that could affect existing top and emerging young talent.
One rider upset by the team selection was four-time (and current) national champion Jenny Copnall, who issued a lengthy statement in response to her omission.
"British Cycling has released their selection for the World Mountain Bike Championships, due to be held in the UK for the first time ever in September. Having won the British Championship for the fourth time last weekend, I was certain that I had earned my right to represent the nation at our home World Champs...," said Copnall in a statement.
"I have been the top British finisher in practically every World Cup event that I have raced in the past five years. I am a seasoned professional and have represented my sponsors and country impeccably throughout my 15 year career. I am a well known and respected racer and deserve the right to represent my country once again this September. By failing to send their finest racers to the World Championships British Cycling are also preventing us from gaining Britain a women's place at the Olympics in Beijing. This affects experienced and developing racers alike and is a complete travesty," finished the statement, in which she pointed out that all the other British National champions would have the chance to represent Britain at Worlds.
British Cycling did not respond to Cyclingnews' request for comments. However, the organization indicated a change in its approach to the team selection after many members of the British mountain bike community complained.
In a press release dated August 3, British Cycling's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, said, "We have listened to the many members who have got in touch with us over this issue, plus mountain bike race organisers and the trade. The groundswell of opinion from them was that the Fort William World Championships is a unique event, a unique opportunity to cheer on the leading home riders and that they would like to see a broader participation-based selection than our strict performance-based policy would allow."
British Cycling cited UK Sports strict performance goals for all lottery funded sports which link directly to their funding as an influencing factor in the team's selection. "Following negotiations with UK Sport, British Cycling's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, has agreed a special one-off dispensation for British Cycling to select additional riders for this 'home' world championships," read the press release, which recognized the unique opportunity of a 'home' World Championships.
The team already announced (listed below) will not be affected; however, a special meeting of a sub-group of British Cycling's Mountain Bike Commission will take place this week with news about additional selections to follow. The federation has not provided any hint whether Copnall or other elite women will be added to the team.
Elite Men XC
Oli Beckingsale, Ian Wilkinson
U23 Men XC
Ian Bibby, Ross Creber
U23 Women XC
Junior Men XC
Hamish Creber, David Fletcher, Alex Paton
Junior Women XC
Annie Last, Annabel Simpson, Amy Thompson
Team to be announced pending confirmation from riders
Elite Men DH
Dan Atherton, Gee Atherton, Marc Beaumont, Neil Donaghue, Brendan Fairclough, Steve Peat, Dan Stanbridge
Elite Women DH
Rachel Atherton, Helen Gaskell, Fionn Griffiths, Tracy Moseley
Junior Men DH
Josh Bryceland, Ruaridh Cunningham, Sam Dale, Chris Hutchens, Scott Mears, Joe Smith
Junior Women DH
Elite Men 4X
Dan Atherton, Gee Atherton, Scott Beaumont, Dale Holmes, Will Longden
Elite Women 4X
Joey Gough, Fionn Griffiths
Chris Boyes, Andrei Burton, Daniel Butler, Alastair Clarkson, Chris Doney, James Hyland, Wayne Mahomet, Lois Morgan, Joe Oakley, Robert Poyser, Ben Savage, Duncan Shaw, Ben Slinger, Scott Wilson