As with USAC’s selection committee, who announced the American’s Worlds Team almost two weeks ago, the Canadian Cycling Federation didn’t wait until the final World Cup to make their decision on who is going to Tabor. The full list is as follows:
The biggest surprise in the selections could be the lack of representation from the Elite podiums of the 2014 Canadian Cyclocross National Championship. Of the six podium finishers, Catharine Pendrel, Mike Garrigan, Maghalie Rochette, Geoff Kabush, Sandra Walter and Michael van den Ham, only Elite Men’s winner Garrigan will be headed to the World Championship in the Czech Republic. By in large, the biggest reason for this discrepancy is the emphasis many of these riders put on mountain biking: Pendrel, Rochette and Kabush are preparing for the trail season ahead.
Aaron Schooler, who rides for a European-based Focus team and spends most of his season abroad, fell around a tough off-camber during Nationals, instigating an early attack by Garrigan which would prove to be the move of the race. Mical Dyck, the only female representation for Canada at Worlds, had a tough mechanical which caused her to fall out of contention in Winnipeg.
Oliver Evans took the win in the Junior race at Nationals, and will be leading a group of five riders in Tabor. Danick Vandale, winner of the U23 race at Nationals, is the sole rider from Canada in his category.
Mountain biking aspirations, however, are not the sole reason for the makeup of the Canadian Cyclocross team at Tabor. Cyclocross Magazine Canadian contributor, Michael van den Ham, explains the financial burdens that cyclists might face when competing abroad. Sometimes, they can be prohibitive enough to sway a top-level rider from racing on the big stage.
A Brief Analysis of Canadian Funding for Team Members
by Michael van den Ham
Much like their American counterparts, attending the World Championships can be a daunting financial task for the athletes selected to represent their country. All the Canadians who go to Worlds pay a program fee, their own transportation costs, and for their kit. The program fee covers all travel and housing expenses once they are in Belgium, the cost of a program director (usually a CCA coach), mechanics, and vehicles. The last two years I went, the cost was between $1500 and $1900. Cycling Canada owns a house in Tilte-Winge, a Flandarian town, so the closer the races are to there, the cheaper the costs for team members. For example, this year everyone flew into Brussels, based the Hoogerheide WC from the Canada house and will spend part of the following week there. They will then drive to Tabor and stay in a hotel leading up to the Championships.
Unlike the USA, there are no levels of funding for the trip and no exemptions for the program fees.
Aaron Schooler, who is racing for the European-based Focus team and didn’t really need the support that Cycling Canada provides, will still have to pay the program fee. The idea is that the Canadian team is a cohesive unit. Everybody is racing together and the younger riders can learn from the older. However, Aaron, understandably, is not too pleased with the set-up. He said, “It’s always hard when I have a fully supportive team in Europe and I get a big bill at the end of the trip from Cycling Canada just to attend Worlds. I doubt if it stays this way I’ll be able to race Worlds after this year which is a pretty big bummer.”
To be fair to the organization, Cycling Canada does try to keep costs down. For example, after initial resistance to last year’s program fees, they switched hotels to reduce the price for everyone. On top of that, Cycling Canada staff members who oversee the trip, the mechanics, and the program director all donate their time for no reason other than they want the project to happen.
Much like the Americans, many of the Canadian riders have fund-raised the majority of their trip. Three of the younger riders from Manitoba (home of this year’s National Championships), Willem Boersma, U23 National Champion Dannick Vandale, and Junior National Champion Oliver Evans, set up a Gofundme Account that raised over $5000. Another Elite rider, Mark McConnell (AKA HotSauce) created, marketed, and sold ‘HotSauce’ branded caps and t-shirts to fund his European campaign.
Ultimately, many of these riders rely on supportive spouses, family, friends, and a local cyclocross scene to attend the World Championships. While the Canadian Cyclocross scene has been supportive in a big way for all those who committed to fundraising, we cannot help but wonder, is this model sustainable? For the riders that have qualified for and attended Worlds year in and year out asking for money every time can be, despite the seemingly endless support from the local cycling community, a draining experience.
The cost proves to be prohibitive for some. Each year, the initial list of people interested in the Worlds Project has dwindled as riders have faced the financial realities and the training difficulties of racing at the world level in February, on a different continent. Until more permanent funding can be funneled towards Canada’s best cyclocross racers, quantitative cyclocross at the international level will remain an illusive goal for Canadians.