Cycling Ireland has opted to skip the 2022 UCI Road World Championships to be held from September 18-25 in Wollongong, Australia, with the federation emphasizing the need to take a more selective approach to competition participation because of the rising cost of traveling for events post COVID-19.
“In the face of hugely increased costs for targeted High-Performance events already completed and planned for the remainder of 2022, competing in Australia will stretch our resources far beyond what has been anticipated this year,” High-Performance Director, Iain Dyer said.
“The UCI Road World Championships is also an event where success is far from assured. For the road riders, attending the European Championships in all categories this year was a significant commitment and one we felt we could manage effectively. The World Championships in Australia is a different proposition altogether.”
Ireland is not alone in facing budgetary issues with Cycling New Zealand, which lost its major sponsor last year, asking athletes to help fund their own campaigns according to a report on independent New Zealand news site Stuff.
Cycling Ireland placed its priority on the European Championships where it fielded athletes in the road, track and BMX events in August.
In the road race, national champion Alice Sharpe finished 29th in the women’s race and Sam Bennett finished fifth, supported by national champion Rory TownsendRyan Mullen, Eddie Dunbar, and Matthew Teggart in the men’s race.
Dyer acknowledged the rising expense of fielding teams to post-COVID-19 races, and the aim for Cycling Ireland to focus its efforts more strategically on major events.
“It bears mentioning that going forward, the High-Performance Unit will need to be extremely focused on achieving our strategic aims in major championship events across all disciplines. With the spend on all events becoming so high post-Covid, it’s important that a projected outcome from attending an event is linked to key development aims, a qualifying process, or Olympic and Paralympic success,” Dyer said.
“It is not a given in future that we will attend everything we qualify for or take up all our allocated quota slots. We have already seen this year several nations make strategic decisions on attending events based on available resources and budgets, so clearly, we are not alone in this respect, and are managing it in a similar manner,” he said.
Cycling Ireland’s strategy also includes balancing opportunities across programs and disciplines with Dyer stating that elite road programs are not the only priority. He noted an emphasis also on junior and under-23 road and track races such as Tour de l’Avenir, where Ireland’s Archie Ryan finished fourth overall, and junior Track World Championships.
“Equally, there may be other times where we dial up our activity in other disciplines or categories because strategy dictates it is a more appropriate use of resources,” he said.
However, the decision to opt out of the World Championships also means up-and-coming riders like Archie Ryan will not gain experience in the under-23 men’s events at the Worlds.
“They would certainly be very keen to go. And with the crop they have there, there is talent coming through,” said Sean Kelly, expressing his disappointment regarding Cycling Ireland’s decision not to race Worlds in an interview with Cycling Weekly (opens in new tab) with specific reference to the under-23 men.
Adding to detail of the post-COVID-19 costs, Cycling Ireland’s Chief Executive Matt McKerrow noted the magnitude of the rise in flight and accommodation costs.
“This decision has not been taken lightly – and reflects the need to be certain we can stand over the value and benefit of expenditure right across the sport. With the exponential cost increases in attending events post Covid, including some we’ve experienced already this year where flights and accommodation have escalated by some 70-80% on previous editions, we’ve taken the decision to prioritize resources to other high-performance event and development activities at this time,” McKerrow said.
In Ireland’s medal history at the World Championships, Stephen Roche won the elite men’s road race world title in 1987 and bronze in 1983, Sean Kelly bronze in 1982 and 1989, and Seamus Elliott silver in 1962. In other events, Ryan Mullen secured bronze in the under-23 men’s time trial in 2014 and Mark Scanlon won the world title in the junior men’s road race in 1998.
“It’s great to compete at the World Championships because you’re there with all the other big cycling nations and you’re representing your country,” Kelly told Cycling Weekly.
“I feel that we [Ireland] should have more numbers there in the professional peloton, but for some reason or another we don’t. I feel that the government and the sports council of Ireland are not really pushing much into cycling.”