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Australia terminates High Performance Mountain Bike Program

Tasmania's Rowena Fry deep in thought

Tasmania's Rowena Fry deep in thought
(Image credit: Evan Jeffery / evanjeffery.blogspot.com)

Cycling Australia is ending its Mountain Bike Cross Country High Performance Program effective December 31, 2009. The cut is a result of budget shortfalls after Cycling Australia's funding has rolled over for the past three years while costs of international travel, training and preparation have gone up.

"This has been a very difficult decision to arrive at and one that has come after a considerable period of review," said Cycling Australia CEO, Graham Fredericks on the organization's website. "The key reason for this decision is the stretched resources available for our High Performance Programs."

"Federal Government funding in 2009 was approximately one million dollars 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.

Cycling Australia saw some increase in commercial sponsorship support, but prospects for additional funding were insufficient to sustain the current program.

"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."

That means cross country mountain biking, with only two medal events - the men's and women's races - is out of luck. Cross country racing is the only Olympic mountain biking discipline.

Fredericks thanked the Tasmanian Government and its Institute of Sport for its significant program support as well as other sponsors. He promised that Cycling Australia would continue working to develop and grow the mountain bike discipline with the hope that the program may return in the future.

As part of the transition, Head Coach Neil Ross will remain in the High Performance network and potentially oversee training programs for cross country athletes. He will coach the Olympic mountain bikers for the 2012 Games in London and will also be involved in additional duties to be confirmed in coming weeks.

Just three athletes will continue to receive support from the Cycling Australia High Performance Program in 2010: Rowena Fry, Gracie Elvin and Paul Van der Ploeg. Support beyond 2010 for these and any other athletes is to be determined.

The Australian cycling governing body will continue to administer the Australian mountain bike team at worlds each year; however, it is considering completed the Dirt Roads to London female talent identification program. Fry was one such athlete to come out of the program that also served to increase the depth of national-level competition.