Great Britain expanded its line-up for the World Championships on home turf in Scotland, September 3-9, after the announcement of the initial team stirred controversy within the British mountain biking community.
"Following discussions with members, event organisers and stake-holders in the Fort William World Championships, British Cycling has extended the number of British riders who will compete at the event in September," read a statement on the federation's website.
The British team for worlds is now up to 57 riders including newly selected male cross country riders: Simon Richardson, Nick Craig, and Paul Oldham. Three female cross country racers were also added to the roster, thereby addressing the concern that no elite senior women were named initially: Jenny Copnall, Ruth McGavigan, Elizabeth Scalia.
Many members of the mountain bike community had responded strongly and publicly when they learned that no senior women had been named to the team. The omission put at risk the number Britain's starting spots for the Olympics. Starting spots will be determined by nations' rankings compiled from UCI events such as worlds.
The UK Sport's strict performance goals for all lottery-funded sports were cited as one of the original reasons for not naming any senior women. However according to British Cycling (BC), "Following negotiations with UK Sport, BC's Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, agreed to a special one-off dispensation to select additional riders for this 'home' world championships," continued the statement. "It was agreed to allow BC to run an additional number of riders in the event outside these performance goals."
"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," said Brailsford. "The groundswell of opinion 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."
After her selection, Copnall said, "While there are wider issues remaining (with regard to team selection), I am very happy that the immediate situation has been resolved and that I can now focus on performing my very best in the race on 8th September. I'd like to thank everyone who has displayed their support for me over the past two weeks. There is no doubt at all that the reaction to my initial non selection by so many and from such a diversity of parts of the cycling community fuelled this change of heart on the part of the governing body.
"One positive is that now we have, for the first time in years, not one, but three women representing Great Britain in the cross country race...," said Copnall. "We have an opportunity to display our very best racers on the biggest stage, hopefully inspiring some future champions along the way."
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.
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