'It's disappointing': Sean Kelly on Ireland choosing to skip World Championships

The Irishman says he often had to pay for himself at the event

Sean Kelly
Kelly (left) with fellow Irishman Stephen Roche at the 1987 Tour de France.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly has said it is “disappointing” that Cycling Ireland has opted not to send a team to next month’s UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia.

Kelly, who won two bronze medals in the men's road race during the 1980s, told Cycling Weekly: “It’s great to compete at the World Championships because you’re there with all the other big cycling nations and you’re representing your country.

“I feel that we [Ireland] should have more numbers there in the professional peloton, but for some reason or another we don’t. I feel that the government and the sports council of Ireland are not really pushing much into cycling."

In a statement shared on Monday (opens in new tab), Cycling Ireland cited rising costs and pressure on resources as key factors in its decision to forgo this year's event.

“When I did my first Worlds in 1977, I wasn’t going to do the Worlds because Cycling Ireland wasn’t sending anybody," Kelly said. “There were a lot of times where I had to pay for my own [cost] later, because I reckon I had a chance to get a medal or do a good ride, so it was either my team who paid for me or I had to pay myself.”

When asked about Ireland’s chances of winning at next month's event, Kelly said he felt most disappointed for those in the under-23 ranks. “They would certainly be very keen to go,” he added. “And with the crop they have there, there is talent coming through.”

Cycling Ireland's announcement came just a day after Archie Ryan secured Ireland’s highest ever result at the Tour de l’Avenir, placing fourth in the overall standings at the nine-stage under-23 race. 

In the statement from Cycling Ireland, chief executive Matt McKerrow said: “This decision has not been taken lightly - and reflects the need to be certain we can stand over the value and benefit of expenditure right across the sport.

“With the exponential cost increases in attending events post Covid, including some we’ve experienced already this year where flights and accommodation have escalated by some 70-80% on previous editions, we’ve taken the decision to prioritise resources to other high-performance event and development activities at this time."

Cycling Ireland high-performance director Iain Dyer further explained the decision: “In the face of hugely increased costs for targeted high-performance events already completed and planned for the remainder of 2022, competing in Australia will stretch our resources far beyond what has been anticipated this year. The UCI Road World Championships is also an event where success is far from assured. 

“With the spend on all events becoming so high post-Covid, it’s important that a projected outcome from attending an event is linked to key development aims, a qualifying process, or Olympic and Paralympic success.

“It is not a given in future that we will attend everything we qualify for or take up all our allocated quota slots. We have already seen this year several nations make strategic decisions on attending events based on available resources and budgets, so clearly, we are not alone in this respect, and are managing it in a similar manner.”

This will be the first time since 1999 that no Irish rider has competed in an elite event at the UCI Road World Championships, and the first time since 1976 that there will be no Irish representation at all. 

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