Update: Canada Reverses World Champs Team Decision, Selects 3 Elite DH Women

Aug 17, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  
Welcome to Canada eh.

Last Friday, Cycling Canada announced a 51-rider team for World Champs in Val di Sole later this month. The team included both cross country and downhill riders from juniors to elites. The catch? There were no elite downhill women.

The outrage was exactly what you'd expect when a sport governing body for one of the most MTB-rich nations on the planet announces a team — Canada's most fully-funded World Champs downhill team in several years — that doesn't include any elite women.

Cycling Canada explained that it had offered spots on the team to the top three riders based on its selection criteria, but all declined due to scheduling conflicts. Those riders were Casey Brown, who is running the Dark Horse Invitational freeride event then heading to Audi Nines, and Miranda Miller and Georgia Astle, who will both be racing the next EWS double-header the week after World Champs. The selection criteria didn't specify what would happen if the riders selected declined.

Social Distanced fist bumps.
Casey Brown was named in the initial selection and Vaea Verbeeck in the second round, but neither are able to attend World Champs.

The main point of confusion is that the communication from Cycling Canada hasn't been entirely consistent. As many riders did not have the opportunities in 2020 and 2021 to race internationally and thus earn points to qualify for the team, the selection essentially came down to the Canadian National Championships results, where the top three riders would make the team. Vaea Verbeeck knew that and reached out to Cycling Canada in July to ask whether the selection would roll down the Nationals results list if the first riders named to the team couldn't go. She planned to race Nationals, but she knew she couldn't attend World Champs if she qualified, so she wanted to make sure she wouldn't be taking a spot from another qualified rider if she happened to place in the top three. In short, although she ultimately placed fourth at Nationals so wasn't one of the initial riders named to the team, she anticipated and hoped to avoid almost the exact situation that played out.

The person she reached out to at Cycling Canada was in charge of travel logistics, but had no involvement in the selection process, so the answer Vaea received was a guess that turned out to be incorrect. "Hey Vaea, that's super considerate of you!" the Cycling Canada representative wrote. "You would not be taking someone's spot, we would simply ask the next person in the results and keep going down the list as long as they finished within the top 8."

In reality, the DH working group in charge of writing the team selection criteria simply hadn't considered that the three women selected wouldn't be able to go. There was no plan to roll down the results list; no backup plan at all, really.


Will the selection criteria change for 2021? Almost definitely. The selection criteria aren't fixed, Cycling Canada's Chief Sport Officer Scott Kelly said, and are written each year by a volunteer group from the downhill world. Unlike all the other disciplines, downhill has a set of criteria written by people within the racing world. While they were written this year to be clear and objective, they clearly left something to be desired in terms of flexibility. "For people who write criteria for a living, you put a little asterisk in there. You put a roll-down or you do something that doesn't put you with your back against the wall," Kelly said. "But the way this is written, it was just, top three, no provision for roll-down, just super, super strict. The downhill working group did nothing wrong, it's just they wrote tough criteria that they couldn't back out of."

Given that Cycling Canada says it aims to improve diversity and representation within racing, there's clearly some work to be done and there's a fine balancing act between setting objective standards and having enough flexibility to make the right decisions when unforeseen circumstances arise.

Rachel Pageau is over in Europe racing at Maribor. She has now been named to the Canadian team.

In light of the backlash to the original team selection, Cycling Canada decided to roll down the list of eligible women to the next three riders: Vaea Verbeeck, Jennifer McHugh, and Rachel Pageau. The organization has also added to the junior roster Gracey Hemstreet, who sat out of Nationals with an injury but has shown that she can clearly compete at the top level. She was the fifth-fastest junior woman down the course at Maribor, her first World Cup, and is on the rider list for Proving Grounds.

Pageau, who has been racing World Cups this season, finished 6th at Canadian Nationals, and is already over in Europe for Maribor, said she has mixed feelings about the whole situation but is thankful to have been named to the team.

bigquotesIt's been quite a whirlwind of emotions and I'm still having mixed feelings about this situation. It's been quite difficult feeling like I didn't deserve a spot at Worlds from my federation. As an athlete, there are always doubts and insecurities linked to all the sacrifices we make, so news like that was hard to swallow. On the other hand, the amount of support I received from the cycling community through social media was overwhelming. I'm hoping I can keep working with Cycling Canada for many more years and build on this. I've always had a good relationship with them and I love representing my country. I strongly believe the Canadian downhill women's scene is growing fast and strong! I'm here for it!!Rachel Pageau

Cycling Canada does take accountability for the misstep and said that the conversations that came from this are the necessary ones. "Mistakes were made, obviously, but it was not vindictive or meant to fuel all this outrage," Kelly said. "I mean the discussion that people are having is the proper one, for sure. How do we get more elite women at a World Cup level?" He emphasized that Cycling Canada has focused on providing opportunities for juniors and improving funding for the team as a whole, but missed the mark on just how to make sure that equity was extended to elite women.

"[Cycling Canada] is really made up of a lot of people from the off-road community that are actually trying to make a difference," Kelly continued. "It sucks when there are little bureaucratic missteps like this that can be remedied. It takes things like this where you learn and you regroup and you move forward. There's always a solution, but it's good to have the discussion."

Author Info:
alicialeggett avatar

Member since Jun 19, 2015
745 articles

  • 155 5
 So happy to see these women get the opportunity at World Champs. I'm certain they will make Canadians proud. This PR crisis for Cycling Canada is another example of the lack of process, systems, and formality to make strategic decisions while achieving performances at the highest level and fostering long-term athlete development. Since my junior years, I've seen so many athletes with the potential denied opportunity to develop that eventually end up retiring or quitting. We have private youth cycling clubs in every province and countless kids pursuing cycling at every level, with reasonable federal budgets to accommodate their development. The lack of leadership continues to disappoint, and we need significant change and accountability.
  • 33 1
 This biggest question is during preparation to release the rider list (press releases, social media, etc) that did not include any Elite DH Women, how did NO ONE go "Hey, how do we not have any representation in this category?"

I'm glad this misstep has been rectified. However, it was not because of CC suddenly becoming self aware of it's own fallacies, but because of public outcry. You ladies continue to have to fight an uphill battle for recognition and it is a load of BS. Know that while Cycling Canada is too busy chasing their own tail, cycling fans across Canada are rooting for you
  • 4 0
 By denied, do you mean lack of individual sponsorship to afford to attend the events, or something different? Is there a path for talent that doesn't involve industry support, separating racing from marketing?
  • 9 1
 Emily Batty for president of Cycling Canada! Why not right?!?
  • 43 1
 I only knew about this from RippersLounge and Vaea Verbeeck, so thanks to those people for calling it out in a admirable fashion and making this happen. Rad when a calm voice turns over bad decision making.
  • 40 6
 No Gwin?!?
  • 29 77
flag emarquar (Aug 17, 2021 at 9:51) (Below Threshold)
 He's too busy trying to get CA's governor recalled for the high crimes of thinking masks, lock downs, and vaccines are a good idea.
  • 25 8
 @emarquar: I don't think that's the reason so many people want him gone, maybe do a little more research instead of trying to stir the pot.
  • 10 2
 @trevor201: can confirm. I know folks on both sides of the aisle and there are many different reasons people want him out.
  • 31 19
 @DylanH93: @trevor201: You'll be sorry with whatever yahoo replaces him! His term is up in a year or so, vote him out! The recall is a total waste of money engineered by butthurt Retrumplicans. DV button is to your right.

P.S. Show me a Republican on the ballot who gives a rat's ass about the environment.
  • 21 4
 @emarquar: But he doesn't believe those things. When public schools were remote, he kept his kids in in-person private school. When businesses, including wineries were being shut down, his wineries remained open. When all restaurants were shut down, he dined in-person at the most elite restaurant in the state, indoors, without masks.
  • 2 4
 comment of the day
  • 48 0
 In the context of the article, I think there are other reasons that Gwin wasn't selected for the Canadian elite womens DH team and the worlds.
  • 11 13
 @hamncheez: Of course not: (1) He is rich (2) He is a politician. What kind of Utopia do you think this is?

All that tit-for-tat BS is a smokescreen- all politics is corrupt. At least he has pushed an agenda that isn't about 100% 'Use It All Up and F the rest' like most other politicians. Republicans, mainly.

You aren't even in CA, so please focus on saving your dying Great Salt Lake. Were you happy that trump opened up Bear's Ears. Maybe we should strip mine the entire Grand Escalante Staircase or whatevs.

Waaa waaaa Gavin didn't wear a mask! waaaa waaaaa. I thought you Naked Freedom-Hole Rights advocates approved of that. Whew that was damn good coffee after lunch. FIGHT ME.
  • 9 9

1. I was raised in California. Once I turned 18 and started working I quickly fled (the only governatorial candidate I've ever voted for in my life was Arnold Schwarzenegger)
2. Yes, all politicians are corrupt. But its clear from his behavior that Newsom, despite daily briefings on the raw numbers, despite what he says publicly, is not afraid of the virus. He isn't scared of it or he wouldn't dine indoors without a mask on. If you're scared of bears attacking children at schools, would you then continue to send your children to school?
3. I'm not Republican and voted against Trump both times (I voted for Arnold because I thought it was cool that a body builder was governor). That being said, 'Use It All Up and F the rest' is 100% the platform of the DNC. Their policies are all about taking money from people via theft (taxation) and spending it on politically connected entities, which is why all the megacorps support Democrats. Republicans are just Democrat-lite, or they are just Democrats that are less savvy at corruption.
  • 4 11
flag suspended-flesh FL (Aug 17, 2021 at 14:24) (Below Threshold)
 @hamncheez: Dude the French Laundry room he was in and has 2 walls, technically is was outdoors but that is a moot point not worth arguing. Newscum is pro-environment. No republican is that I am aware of.

As I am fond of saying the Dems and Reps are 2 cheeks of the same ass. The 'Democratic" system is a joke.
  • 6 3
 @suspended-flesh: "Show me a Republican on the ballot who gives a rat's ass about the environment."

Show me a Democrat who cares about the environment.

The #1 polluter in America is the Military. When the DoD sent the Democratically controlled congress a budget request near $ trillion, congress sent it back and said it wasn't high enough.

Most federal employees are Democrat. The complete and total land management failure of the Federal Government in Western states like California has led to these insane annual forest fires, which emit enormous levels of CO2. It is abundantly clear that privately managed land has a better environment than publicly managed land. This was made especially clear in and around Yellowstone National Park in the early 90s. Publicly managed land could better be called DNC managed land.

Up until 5 or so years ago, the #1 cause of death from pollution was lung damage from people in poor, 3rd world countries burning charcoal and animal dung indoors to heat their homes and cook their food. As global poverty continues to decline (see the UN millennial goals), more people in 3rd world countries got access to Fossil Fuels to heat and cook with. This has dramatically reduced the number of deaths from pollution. The official position of the DNC is to move us away from fossil fuel use, and promote this policy across the globe. This might be manageable for a rich developed country like ours, but it is a death sentence for poor countries climbing the economic ladder. Wind and solar simply aren't mature enough (wind probably never will be) to replace fossil fuels anytime in the next 50 years.

I could go on.
  • 5 1
 @suspended-flesh: how about you show me a politician that gives a rats ass about anything but their bank account
  • 7 2
 @hamncheez: To be fair, you guys have built a society in which even thinking about reducing military funding is a political death sentence.
  • 5 0
 @boozed: THATS NOT TRUE wait never mind it is.

The USA Federal budget is the biggest honeypot of all time. To put it in perspective for non-Americans, lets look at Afghanistan (since its in the news). It has been an utter disaster. After 20 years of war, pouring biliions into infrastructure, loosing billions to graft and corruption, the total cost has been about $2 trillion. The Iraq War was more expensive per year, totaling at about $1 trillion over 8 years.

As high as this is, the DoD spent over $1.5 trillion just developing the F35 joint strike fighter.
  • 2 2
 @suspended-flesh: Are you referring to that time when you mocked Trupf for saying "rake the forests"? That sounds "pro-environment" to many outdoorsmen.

Obvious child of state-worker parents is obvious.
  • 3 4
 @hellanorcal: Yes I mocked trump. The forest is unrake-able. My kids are the child of state worker, not me.
  • 4 3
 @hamncheez: Mother earth will 'manage the land' not the forest-rakers. LOL

Earth bats last and we have 2 outs and 2 strikes in the top of the 9th. I suggest you don your Rally Cap.
  • 9 0
 boy this thread went downhill in a hurry
  • 10 0
 @pinkbike is there anyway you can delete the American politics from this Canadian article? Pretty dumb
  • 1 1
 @theedon: Sorry about that. I am benching myself for a week.
  • 2 1
 @suspended-flesh: personally I'm voting for Larry Elder, along with a bunch of people I know from both sides of the political aisle. It's really not a dem vs rep issue. It's more about sending a clear message to all politicians of "maybe its time to try something different. Even if they royally f*ck up, it can't be worse than it is now." Honestly I wish both sides would start getting rid of some of these politicians who've been in government for half their lives and bring in some outsiders with new ideas. We'll see how it all goes down.
  • 1 1
 @DylanH93: That's disgusting. Media clown 'outsiders' never do anything but try to enrich themselves. Except maybe Jesse Ventura. Elder is a POS. Good luck with 'sending a clear message'.
  • 22 1
 This is great news, but given the fact that most of these people will be traveling to Europe in approximately 48 hours, the timeframe provided for the riders to organize the logistics of travel during a pandemic that requires so many hoops to jump through, as well as the cost that's involved on such short notice, as a Canadian, I am thoroughly unimpressed with Cycling Canada.
  • 2 0
 Did they all just not race in Slovenia?
  • 2 0
 @G3V162F is right. Pageau and Hemstreet just raced Maribor (though the former had a DNS due to injury). Hemstreet is a very good bet for the junior podium, making the whole situation that much more ridiculous.
  • 12 1
 MTB is a total afterthought to these large national cycling organizations. See also: USA Cycling and Gwin fiasco from last week.
  • 8 0
 In all honesty, its DH thats an afterthought. National sport federations put more funding into Olympic sports in Canada. A lot of the funding they receive from the federal government is specifically for Olympic and Paralympic classifications such as Road, track and XC. And money from programs like Own The Podium have to be used specifically for the events that earned the funding. DH budget would come from separate fund raising and or the athletes themselves. In a lot of instances Cycling Canada charges the athletes to compete at worlds for Canada. They have done this for CX in the past as well.
  • 3 1
 I'm out of the loop on what happened with Gwin. Got a link?
  • 13 4
 @unfknblvbl: Gwin has come forward in a statement saying he identifies as a refrigerator. Cycling USA is struggling to classify him for what catagory he will be racing in moving forward.
  • 3 0
 @unfknblvbl: He assumed he was automatically in so he didn't apply to be on the team (The national champion gets an auto invite, everyone else has to send an application)
  • 11 3
 For those that are crying foul over "gender inequity". This has NOTHING to do with gender. The same rules applied to men and women. The only difference is that the three qualifying Canadian men accepted the invite to represent Canada at World Champs. The three women that qualified DECLINED the invitation. If the three women invited accepted the invite, none of this would be a story at all as all three women would've been included in the list of athletes going to World Champ and we'd all be none-the-wiser.

The ONLY thing wrong with Cycling Canada's rules here is that they didn't have a "back-up plan" if all three declined. This would be the same issue if all three men declined the invite. So it has nothing to do with Cycling Canada and how they treat women.

The only issue with Cycling Canada her is that their "back-up plan policy" was non-existent. And even their eventual response is a bit off...they named Vaea to the team...who finished 4th...but has already told them she wasn't able to attend before entering the Nationals race...so their response/back-up policy was to invite a rider who has already informed them they can't go...

So is the cycling community asking Cycling Canada to send #5, #7 and #8 top Canadian Female DH Riders (out of a total of only 9 at Nationals) to World Champs? Essentially, just entering the race equated to an invite to World Champs by default (please don't take this comment as any form of minimizing these athletes hard work to get to a point of being able to enter a National elite-level of racing. It is purely speaking to selection criteria process.). I get that we want "inclusion" and "fairness", but seriously...shouldn't there also be minimum performance standards required to represent the country on an international/elite level of sport? Shouldn't #5, 7 and 8 finishers have to put the work in to get to #1, 2, 3 to be able to get that invite?
  • 3 0
 Yes, 100%. Cycling Canada is retarded for not planning alternates, but only that.
  • 1 0
 Rachel and Vaea have the talent and race world cups. There was a discussion on what to do with the top 3 declining with the committee not budging until the public spoke up.
What would have happened if the top 3 men declined?
  • 2 1
 @da1994canucks: Ask who is on the DH committee? If you look you find find former racers, guys and girls. Maybe the DH committee was nervous about sending inexperienced DHers to race Val De Sole, the most intimidating and terrifying track on the circuit.
  • 1 0
 @kclw: Rachel and Vaea race world cups.
DH Working group: Joel, Tara Mowat, Gabe, Shandro, Mark Wallace, Miranda.
  • 2 0
 @da1994canucks: No one knows what "would have happened" if the top 3 men declined. We can only all speculate, and that is not fair to CC. We cannot compare their actual actions vs. our speculative assumption of what they may have done in a parallel situation.

I'm personally okay with a rule that states: "1, 2, and 3 get the invite. If they decline, we don't send alternates." I believe the most coveted international elite level of sport is a right of passage. You don't get to go there by default. You get to go because you earned the spot. Finishing 5th, 7th out of 9 racers should not default you to go to world champs because 1, 2, 3 and 4 declined. Especially when you see that the finishing times were about 20% slower than the #1. We're not talking about a bench depth in the womens DH field that on any given day, any of the 9 entrants had a chance of winning that day...all separated by a few hundredths of a second. We're talking almost 1 minute slower on a 4 minute course.

I believe the fundamntal question is this:
- Is it a right of passage that you earn through performing in competition? Or is it a right you earn to go by default just because you participated?
  • 2 0
 @neons97: I think you may have a point here. No one said it would be easy, and its very tough for the men out there as well as its a way larger /competitive field. ( Being that the pool of elite men is larger should they not get more representation?) One could argue that they are the real losers here.. Would love to see the original women that were chosen compete. So the question is do we just send women for the sake of representation or should it be based on ability to do well there?
  • 1 0
 @neons97: and if a injury prevented 1,2,3 to go? What’s interesting to note. Athletes pay their way. Btw 20% slower? Vaea and Rachel race world cups. Vaea won nationals in 2019. Check Rachel’s stats. Not that bad at all. End of the day we want athletes to go. We want them to want to go. This needs to be looked at and addressed.
  • 1 0
 @da1994canucks: Id like to see the entire criteria looked at. I dont like it that the selection all came down to one race. ( Kicking horse ) Its not just a male/female thing just sayin
  • 1 0
 @bikesandbeers: agree. Happy however that we do have some Canadian Females at the event.
  • 1 0
 @bikesandbeers: My take is that representation should be earned. And earned should be based on ability.
  • 1 0
 @da1994canucks: I stand corrected. Bad math in my head. Jennifer is 5.0% slower than Casey and Rachel is 8.4% slower than Casey. Not 20%. But none-the-less, they were 14s and 23s slower on a 4.5min. course. That's a lot in national elite-level racing, and will only be amplified in an international competition.

I'm not sure I agree with your position that we want athletes to go at any cost. I believe that representing your country should be something you've earned by being the best in your country. Not by being 8th best and having 1, 2, 3, and 4 not being able to attend.

My point is, I have no issue with the rules stating 1, 2, 3 go, and not having alternates. We also have to consider that the rules were written ahead of time and athletes went in knowing that was the level playing field (sure, Vaea got conflicting info from a non-official source...but she should've checked with the official rules and not someone she had an email contact with that had no authority on the subject). Its not like CC re-wrote the rules after-the-fact to fit a specific narrative that they wanted.
  • 9 3
 yet again proof that the CCA (and all the provincial associations) have Women as an afterthought
ONLY AFTER massive shame and pressure did they reverse their decision.
it should never have come to this in our current times
Shame on the CCA
  • 8 1
 "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"

They had three women picked out with 0 thoughts about alternates.
  • 10 0
 On one hand I agree, someone should have seen the resulting nomination list and thought, "hmm, something's not right here" and corrected the selection process before publishing the rider list.

On the other hand the process only "failed" because some of our fastest riders who registered for Nationals had zero intention of continuing on to Worlds if they qualified. Which leads to a conundrum. Having as many racers as possible at Nationals is great for the sport (and organizers), but if you don't really want to race for the flag at Worlds why enter? Not like its a huge purse or tons of exposure.
  • 7 0
 @pourquois-pas: I don't know about you but I would be stoked to be national champ even if I couldn't race world championships because you have prior commitments that you need to show up for.
  • 3 4
 @pourquois-pas: I agree, Casey Brown raced only the Nationals but was at Pano and Fernie. This is not someone who is interested in racing just someone who wants the status of a National champ.
  • 1 0
 I think confusion could be eliminated with a published 'live' list of qualifiers the moment the National Champs are run, according to the qualification standards. So, if a woman is sixth on the list and then gets third at the World Champs, she moves to 2nd (whatever). That way everyone knows where they sit and what they have to do to make the team.
  • 4 0
 Or maybe she just wanted to go racing with her boyfriend. Give it a whirl for old times sake. Maybe have some fun. No crime in being really Fing good at riding bikes and not giving a shit about racing world cups
  • 1 1
 @theedon: exactly my point, if she doesn't give a shit about world Cup racing why was she even considered? Nothing against her. The CCA really should be putting racers who want to be full-time racers on the team that will benefit from the experience of a World Cup.
  • 4 0
 @d-man: definitely disagree just because she isn't racing at World Champs and if she is not taking someone's spot who cares. If anything it is a good thing for the lower ranked racers as it shows how much you need to step it up to be competitive on the international scene.
  • 2 0
 @d-man: anyone who knows Casey knows that she doesn’t care about status of national champ.
There was a race nearby, she went to race and hang out, won, and that’s all.
  • 1 1
 @mtbman1980: the CCA chose her to be on the team because the National Champ is always chosen. Based on that she did take a spot away.
Not her problem, it's a CCA problem.
  • 2 1
 @peytodog: then why choose to enter the Nationals but not race the 2 other BC cups when she was there too?
  • 1 0
 @d-man: Like it says in this article someone approached CCA and they said they would just go down the list of the top 8. I have seen them in many related social media posts with the top 3 women so I would assume that information would have been shared throughout the friend group. Incorrect info as it turns out.

I don't know if she would have raced knowing she would be taking away that spot either only speculate.

edit. Also as an aside there are only so many races within Canada that you can qualify for UCI points so if she did decide to race at a WC level she would need those points to do so.
  • 1 0
 @d-man: Only she knows why she didn't race there, might have had something to do with schedule, or the fact is was 40 degrees and smokey. They are still a big effort and expense to go to.

I'm stoked that she still goes to some races, and she is an awesome example for people to look up to.

I agree with your points, I only take exception to your assumption that she raced national champs to be national champ, that's not her style. And even it if was- so what.
  • 2 0
 "The downhill working group did nothing wrong, it's just they wrote tough criteria that they couldn't back out of."
So they did nothing wrong, but they didn't do it right... Not trying to rip on people but that could have been worded better.
  • 2 0
 The action taken by Canadian cycling is embarrassing. We know you love bureaucracy but ffs. Seems a very similar experience to how the alpine ski programs are run throughout the country. These mirror what Emily highlights above - very evidently lacking a clear concise strategy / poor management / thoughtless communication. Such a shame where athletes potential and dedication is not put to the best use. Completely unnecessary.
  • 2 0
 It's embarrassing that this narrative continues in Canada around women's sport. Many governing bodies need to give their heads a shake and let the badass female athletes we have in Canada compete. Who knows, they might inspire a generation and bring back the lions share of Olympic medals.... Go get em
  • 4 0
 Congratulations on being selected to represent Canada, your invoice is in the mail
  • 2 1
 It would be more shameful for Cycling Canada to sit on their high horse and stand by their selection criteria like other bureaucratic mess of sports organizations. Being open to feedback, admitting fault and working to fix the problem are good steps and show maturity and humility.
  • 8 4
 still feel like the damage is done. go give 'em hell ladies
  • 4 0
 Stoked we’ll have some elite & jr women competing at worlds.
  • 2 0
 Holy fu.k Canada made this decision not the riders? To say the least cycling is greatly misunderstood by people who don't ride bikes.
People who run Cycling Canada.
  • 7 3
 FFS..........IT'S 2021..... GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER
  • 4 1
 Scott is new to the role. He is a good dude. Give him some time to sort shit out!
  • 1 0
 How good would it be if one of these amazing riders gets a podium after the last minute call up! Miranda did it dark horse style, anyone could do it on the day! Exciting stuff
  • 1 0
 Shameful Frown

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