The UCI’s announcement on Monday that the 2017 Paralympic Track World Championships will be held in Los Angeles in the first week of March has been met with anger and derision after athletes were given just seven weeks to prepare.
Britain’s Jody Cundy, a seven-time Paralympic gold medallist and 15-time world champion, tweeted that the decision was "a joke” and later appeared on a daytime BBC television show to bemoan the UCI’s move, which he feels could have been motivated by “some hidden agenda”.
The first Para-cycling Track World Championships took place in 2007 but they have not been held on a regular basis, despite having been held in each of the past three years. In Monday’s UCI statement, president Brian Cookson hailed the first ever staging of the Worlds in a post-Paralympics ‘season’ – though they were held in late 2009 – as “notable progress”, but Cundy disagreed.
“For it to be such last minute – it’s literally seven weeks – for athletes preparing, that’s not really enough time,” he said on the BBC. “For organisations and teams to sort out logistics, visas, transport, hotels, flights, you name it – it’s just a bit crazy.”
Cundy revealed that Dame Sarah Storey, an seven-time Paralympic cycling gold medallist who is part of the UCI’s para-cycling commission, “is just as angry as I am”, but said they had no idea what motive might have driven the decision.
“I really don’t know. I just assume there must be some hidden agenda somewhere,” he said, adding on Twitter that he hoped it didn’t have anything to do with money, posturing from Cookson ahead of the UCI presidential elections, or Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Great Britain's Adam Duggleby was one of those to reply to Cundy, confirming that he and his tandem partner, Stephen Bates, who won gold together in Rio, wouldn’t be going to Los Angeles. Irish athlete Eoghan Clifford also doubted whether he’d be able to attend, labelling the short notice "a farce".
“We are conscious that the award of this event comes late in the season for the athletes, teams and parties implicated in the organisation of the event,” acknowledged Cookson. "However, we believe that holding these UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships for the first time ever in a post-paralympic season signifies notable progress and will enable our athletes to benefit from an enriched calendar as the discipline continues to develop.”
His comments, however, were questioned by Barney Storey, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and husband of Sarah, who asked: “’Season’??? What other viable track events are there in this season you talk about?”
Although he bemoaned the manner of the UCI's planning, Cundy, who will still take part in Los Angeles, did nevertheless welcome having a Worlds on the calendar, along with the UCI's desire to make it an annual event.
“It’s one of those things, you have to be positive that we have a World Championships and the prospect that they’re going to do it as a yearly event, which is what It should be – and it needs to be up there for the IPC to count on it as a sustainable event for the Paralympics in the future – but doing it this way is probably not going to give us the best press we ever needed,” he said.