In last month’s National Cyclocross Championships Fran Meehan took her seventh National Cyclocross Championship title and proved that she is probably the best female Cyclocross rider this country has ever seen. A few weeks previously she raced in Belgium and finished in a very respectable position, on the same lap as World Cyclocross Champion Marianne Vos and World Road Race Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot.
Given the strength of her performances this year it came as a surprise and disappointment to many that Cycling Ireland didn’t send her to the World Cyclocross Championships. The decision was not budget related (both Fran and the Women’s Commission had raised the possibility of funding her trip). The decision was down to criteria that had been set out at the start of the year and had not been met. Unfortunately many people thought the criteria set down were too strict. When we spoke to her Fran outlined just how strict:
“In relation to the qualification criteria set out by Cycling Ireland, I feel that it is far too strict and restrictive. If you are to look at the first race in Diegem, Sven Nys, who is one of the best Cyclocross riders in the world, would not have meet the criteria of top 15 for men! Personally I would have had to beat the world number two, Helen Wyman, to get the top eight placing set out in the qualification criteria by Cycling Ireland. I don’t believe these to be realistic or fair criteria.”
There was more frustration for her when she was informed by Cycling Ireland that she needed to come through a development programme which she feels does not exist:
“Apart from criteria, I was informed that Cycling Ireland couldn’t send a rider that had not come through their development program. This development programme does not exist for Cyclocross!”
The disappointment was confounded by the hard work that she had put in during the season and the results that he had achieved:
“I worked very hard this year and went to Belgium after Christmas and rode against all the women who will compete at the Worlds in Tabor – the only rider missing was USA rider Katie Compton. I had hoped common sense would prevail and I would be sent to worlds. I wanted to a precedent by representing my country on a world stage.”
Despite her frustrations the decision has been made about this year’s World Championships so Fran is looking to the future:
“I think there are a lot of questions to ask with regards to criteria and selection processes for squads. More transparency is certainly required. I think that a review of the criteria at a minimum is required to help improve the situation for women in the future”
The Women’s Commission were also disappointed about the decision. At the first meeting of the year they discussed the UCI’s rankings which paint a pretty dismal picture for the sport of Irish women’s racing. Ireland is ranked 20th out of 26 nations in terms of Cyclocross and 71st out of 73 nations in road racing. In terms of road racing we are ranked ahead of only Ecuador and Kazakhstan. It is a worrying statistic for a developed country with a relatively healthy domestic road racing scene.
In 2015 the Women’s Commission will continue its work on the domestic racing scene and in turn they hope this will feed into an improved presence internationally. They hope to encourage Cycling Ireland to come up with a strategy to develop women’s racing. They also hope to improve communications with Cycling Ireland and to encourage more transparency in the sport, especially when it comes to squad selections and criteria.