British Cycling has released their selection for the World Mountain Bike Championships, due to be held in the UK for the first time ever in September. Having won the British Championship for the fourth time last weekend, I was certain that I had earned my right to represent the nation at our home World Champs. It is with great sadness that I now have to report that I have not been selected to represent Great Britain at an event that has been my definitive goal this season, and a target ever since the announcement was originally made that such a prestigious event was to be held on British soil. Indeed, no female rider will be representing Britain in the senior cross country event, despite there being a full home nation allocation of seven places available.
It is my belief that this is the first time that a host nation has opted for non representation in a race at their World Champs. After the recent National Championship our senior women’s category also stands alone as the only category where both the Champion (myself) and the runner up (Scotland’s Ruth Mcgavigan) have not been selected to ride at Fort William. In other words, all our other National Champions will have the honour of representing their country in this race.
Now, had my recent win been a misnomer one may be able to understand the logic of British Cycling’s decision. However, this was the fourth time that I have won the British Champs, the third time consecutively. And it is not just National Championships where I have proven my ability as Britain’s leading senior female racer. I have won the National Series four times and am leading it again this year. I have represented Britain at numerous World and European Championships since 1998. I have been the top British finisher in practically every World Cup event that I have raced in the past five years. I am a seasoned professional and have represented my sponsors and country impeccably throughout my 15 year career. I am a well known and respected racer and deserve the right to represent my country once again this September. By failing to send their finest racers to the World Championships British Cycling are also preventing us from gaining Britain a women’s place at the Olympics in Beijing. This affects experienced and developing racers alike and is a complete travesty.
British Cycling’s selection document for the World Championships supports whatever arbitrary decision they arrive at. While it is stated that international results will govern selections, the team that has been chosen includes at least one rider that has not raced in a single World Cup this year. This rider has performed admirably on the national circuit and this, quite rightly, has gained him a place on the team. But how can domestic results be the basis for selection of one senior rider and not be the basis of selection for the next?
I firmly view my non selection as an attack not only on me but on our domestic mountain bike scene and on my rivals over the years since it devalues what we have all sought to create and all of our achievements. How can we possibly expect the women and girls within our wonderful sport to aspire to be a champion if the champion herself is disregarded? Such aspiration and perception of just reward is what drives standards and ultimately raises our status on the international stage.
This decision is unfair and unjust. Unfair for me because I want to have the opportunity to race Fort William as though my life depends on it, with my home crowd behind me. Unfair because I have tried so hard to be a role model to inspire others and now my role is being wrongly limited. Unfair for all those who have supported and believed in me for so long and who now share my bewilderment at a reasonless decision. Unfair for my fellow female racers on the UK scene who feel the shockwave every time I am dealt a new blow. Unfair for the organisers of the event who are seeking to put on a show of British mountain bike racers to which I will now be unable to contribute. But perhaps most shattering of all are the wider repercussions and long term effects that this decision represents.