CEO Statement Regarding 2017 National Championships

Posted by mtba, March 16, 2017

In 2014, Cycling Australia entered into an agreement with Tourism Events Queensland that encompassed a number of mountain bike events to be held in Queensland, culminating in the 2017 UCI World Championships in Cairns in September. In this agreement the decision was made to hold the 2017 MTB National Championships in the Gold Coast region.

After the 2016 National Championships, Mountain Bike Australia investigated all venue options within the Gold Coast region with local MTB clubs.

As has been the historical arrangement, it was decided that a combined XCO/DHI/OT National Championship would continue and local Gold Coast clubs were asked to express their interest in hosting the event.

During this phase there was consideration of separate venues for XCO and DHI, but this was not a feasible option in terms of human and financial resources and implications.

Nerang, the site of the 2018 Commonwealth Games cross-country event, was considered but there is no DHI course or OT facilities at the location. There was also no guarantee the XCO course, being built for the Commonwealth Games, would be completed in time for the 2017 National Championships.

Subsequently, MTBA commenced negotiations with the City of Gold Coast and relevant stakeholders to conduct an XCO National Series round at Nerang in early 2018 pre Commonwealth Games.

Upon open discussions with both local clubs, where venues, club capacity to deliver and course suitability were considered, the group collectively agreed Canungra was the only viable option.

The organisers at Canungra have volunteered and worked tirelessly to prepare the venue for these championships and their disappointment in not being able to deliver a DHI event this weekend is enormous and should not be in question.

Until this week, the Canungra venue had received less than 10mm of rain since the start of the year. It would be fair to say that had this event been planned last weekend in fine weather, it would be a tremendous success from a rider and participant’s perspective.

Upon recognising concerns with the potential wet weather, MTBA co-operated with the host organisers to “weather-proof” the site as best as possible. Significant time and money have been invested in ensuring the event could continue.

In respecting the host organiser and landowner’s commitment to the event, MTBA also acknowledged a responsibility to participants and began exploring alternate venues, in the Gold Coast region late last week for downhill.

On Monday weather forecasters predicted heavy rainfall for the region later in the week.

Mt Joyce was not available on Sunday and the venue faced many challenges to be prepared in time, with volunteer and host resources already severely stretched. We were advised in writing that Mt Joyce would be closed upon receiving 20mm of rain.

Illinbah was also considered as an alternative option but was ruled out based on the historical nature of the venue during wet weather.

Therefore at this late stage and for these reasons it was decided to remain at Canungra.

On Monday, Canungra experienced light rains and we commenced reinforcing activities of crossing points and access areas. The rain on Monday was not sufficient for any decisions about postponing the event.

Tuesday saw heavy rain in the morning, and the DHI access road became challenging to drive shuttles up and also posed the risks of sliding on the way down. The road surface was opened up to assist drying but there is considerable clay on the road. MTBA posted a notice on social media about weather challenges. The weather forecasts continued to predict rain but it was hoped the rainfall experienced elsewhere during the day, would again not be experienced at Canungra.

Considerable rainfall fell on site on Wednesday, with more than 30mm recorded by 1pm at the event village. The downhill access road became severely affected and significant concerns regarding vehicle slippage became evident. Riders walking the DHI course also expressed very vocal concerns about the course safety in the wet.

It was becoming a reality that without a break in the weather, the access road would not be able to be used to transport riders up the hill. Even walking up the road was becoming a safety risk. Regardless of the ultimate decision there could be no DHI training onsite on Thursday.

Following consultation with many DHI event organisers and the host organiser in regards to the current and predicted weather conditions, MTBA was left with the unenviable decision of postponing due to the high concern for DHI riders, shuttle drivers, volunteers and spectators safety now, rather than in coming days.

It was a decision not made lightly, nor without consideration and exploration of alternatives. MTBA understand the depth of disappointment and burden this places on people. Our responsibility first and foremost is for the safety of all participants, volunteers and attendees and in this situation, we could not at the time with the current and forecasted conditions, responsibly make the decision to continue with the DHI event.

MTBA recognise downhill as core component of mountain biking in Australia and the decision to reschedule the DHI competition was one of the most disappointing and challenging decisions we have had to make. Safety is paramount, and unfortunately the bad weather created a very dangerous situation which could have placed people at risk.

This statement has been prepared to help people understand the why and how this has come about.

MTBA and host organisers are working tirelessly to deliver the very best National Championships possible over this weekend, in very challenging conditions. Other world and national sporting events are also suffering from event interruption caused by the weather conditions experienced in the area.

Again, I would like to re-iterate, MTBA apologies to riders, families and supporters for the disappointment caused by this decision.

SHANE COPPIN
MTBA CEO

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