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South African World Cup axed due to UCI sponsor loss

Cheered on by his home-country fans, South African Burry Stander tackles a tough climb at the first round of the 2009 UCI World Cup

Cheered on by his home-country fans, South African Burry Stander tackles a tough climb at the first round of the 2009 UCI World Cup (Image credit: Dominic Bardnardt)

Despite staging a successful inaugural round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg this past April, South Africa was cut from the 2010 World Cup schedule. The lack of a replacement title sponsor World Cup after 2009 forced the UCI to scale back its 2010 edition of the world's most prestigious mountain bike racing series. That means venues like South Africa, Australia and Canada will lose out.

"It's come as a big shock for us," said Alec Lenferna, Event Director of the Pietermaritzburg event. "I was phoned by the UCI to tell me that the loss of Nissan as a sponsor after 2009, with no replacement, forced the UCI to downsize the series virtually only to Europe and Great Britain.

"The United States has been added to the schedule for 2010, but only because the World Championships are in Canada a few days later and the world's top riders and officials will be travelling to North America anyway."

"It's a huge blow for mountain biking in particular and cycling in general, not only in South Africa, but in Africa," said Lenferna. "This continent has been the missing piece in the World Cup puzzle for almost two decades and after only one chance, it gets unilaterally removed with not even an option for us to find a local sponsor to keep it on the schedule."

The 2009 World Cup comprises 12 events in 11 countries. There are eight rounds for each of the three disciplines - cross country, downhill and four cross. The 2010 World Cup will be trimmed to nine venues in eight countries. There will only be six rounds for each of the three disciplines since not all venues host all three disciplines.

South Africa is still hoping for another chance to showcase the world's best mountain bike talent. "We have been asked by the UCI to bid for the 2013 World Championships. And they told me that the 2010 cutback is purely budgetary related and that Pietermaritzburg is on the provisional schedule for 2011 and 2012," said Lenferna. "A lot of work went into securing the rights to host a World Cup here. I'm making sure we do everything in our power to try and save it."

Canada, a traditional host of two World Cup rounds, has also been eliminated from the 2010 roster, although the country will have some consolation in hosting the World Championships.

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