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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
Stop No 4. of the 2001 mountain-bike World Cup has been cancelled and there is no word yet on whether the event will be rescheduled. The season’s first triple — cross country, downhill and dual slalom races were all to be contested — was originally slated for July 7-8, in Whistler, British Columbia, but organizers backed out, citing financial concerns.
The cancellation follows a complicated stream of events that according to event organizers TEAM Management, began when the UCI instituted a new rule in April of 2000, requiring first-time “triple” World Cup organizers to get their contract with the UCI signed by the event’s venue — in this case the Whistler/Blackcomb resort and the municipality of Whistler. This led to the creation of an entity dubbed the W3, which was comprised of the Whistler/Blackcomb, the town of Whistler and Tourism Whistler.
According to Marika Koenig, a spokesperson with TEAM, a partnership between the W3 and TEAM was proposed, but the W3 declined. This led to negotiations between the two groups regarding ownership of the event in 2001 and 2002 (when the UCI awarded the event to Whistler there was an option for a second year).
“The W3 wanted ownership of the event and wanted us to be the event organizers,” Koenig said. “That would have been fine, but they wanted us to run the event with a budget that we didn’t think would work. The budget they submitted to us was about half of what we thought was necessary. It was missing some very fundamental things like adequate prize money and allowances for security. We’ve worked on World Cup races before and know what they cost. You can’t cut corners six months out from an event.”
Koenig added that TEAM didn’t even get a copy of W3’s proposed budget until early December. Then, after TEAM made their concerns about the budget known, the W3 backed out of the event all together, writing in a letter to TEAM, “The financial risk is simply too high.”
At this point the UCI reportedly stepped back in to try to save the event, telling TEAM it could go forward without the W3. But TEAM opted against that. “Time just ran out and we weren’t willing to take the risk either,” Koenig said.
From the W3’s standpoint, they simply felt TEAM was asking for too much money to put on the event. “We were not in the position to provide unlimited dollars,” said Rob McSkimming, managing director for sports programming at Whistler/Blackcomb. “I think we all tried very hard to come to some sort of agreement but it just didn’t happen. We’ve been involved in almost every kind of winter World Cup event, and no that isn’t going to transfer exactly to this kind of event, but we still thought the budget we were proposing would have worked.”
Now with less than six months until the Whistler race was scheduled to take place, the UCI must decide whether or not to try to salvage the event. So far cycling’s world governing body hasn’t been willing to comment on the situation, saying only they will have an announcement “shortly.”
Koenig believes keeping the event alive will be difficult saying, “It would be my guess that no one in North America will be willing to take this on on such short notice. To make it happen [the UCI] is going to need to find someone willing to make a very large investment.”
Koenig added that she thought had the UCI not changed the rules in April, none of this would have happened. “I don’t think we’d be in this position if they hadn’t installed those new requirements. We could have done this on our own.”