2006 Junior World Champion and Current Australian National Downhill Champion Tracey Hannah made up her mind to sit out the 2008 World Cup Season. "This year I have decided not to attend the World Cup Series," said Hannah in a statement. "To clear up some things..., it is not because I do not love riding. I am not quitting. I am not finished with this sport."
"I arrived home from the 2007 racing season in September, with a large credit card bill and with perhaps the false expectation that after doing as well as I did I would be getting a better deal from sponsors - a deal that might cover my living expenses whilst I train 100%... This didn't happen."
"To the people that are working every day, and struggling to pay for bikes and gear and just want to ride, the offers I have received are awesome. To most people, I would be considered so lucky. I have had offers of all expenses paid to race World Cups, gear, bikes, accommodation, training facilities, etc. That's great! But it still costs me to race and I have less than no money."
"I have made the difficult decision to not travel this season because I am a professional. I want to be the best and if every effort is not getting put toward that then I must refuse these great offers. At the moment that is how it is, the sponsorship and support that is getting offered to female mountain bikers is less than what I need to be competitive."
Hannah started racing BMX when she was younger, including her first nationals at age 4.5. She commenced downhill mountain biking when she was about 12, following in the footsteps of her brother. "When I was 14, I raced my first MTB [Australian] National Championships. I finished with a second place in elite women. From that year on, [I] have been National Champion five times."
She started racing in the US four years ago, but stayed home for the 2005 season because she "couldn't fund two years in a row of overseas racing and the sponsors didn't offer the support that I needed." Instead, she focused on the Australian National Series and the Australian Championships.
2006 saw her back in America winning the NMBS. At the World Championships in New Zealand as a junior, she took home the gold medal and the right to wear rainbow bands for life. 2007 was her first year racing as an elite rider on the World Cup circuit and she won one round and took third overall plus earned third at the World Championships in Fort William, Scotland.
"There is not the support for the hard work and time spent training in the off-season. I am at home working everyday still paying off my credit card bill from racing overseas last season. Whilst still putting every effort, and time, that I have into training. It isn't working. Going at it like this is going half-hearted. If I am racing at a World Class level, then I must put every effort into working hard toward the top, because there is no time to waste when competing in a high class."
"To be the best in the world is a full time job. I don't want to go back overseas and come home with a second place knowing that I could have done more toward being number one. To race to my full and best potential it takes professionalism."
While she is off the World Cup circuit for 2008, she will keep busy, with an eye toward her future. "I am planning to do a Business Marketing course to learn how to sell brand 'Tracey Hannah', thus making me a better prospect to potential sponsors. I am continuing to put a lot of effort into training and working to pay my bills."
Hannah's candid announcement puts into light just how hard it can be financially to make a successful professional career off-road. "Athletes need the funds to support themselves in the off-season, just like it would be a job. I want to be overseas racing having put all my effort and hard work into being number one. I want to train and race to my full and best potential, and at this time it is not possible.