April 15, 2016 (Ottawa, ON) – While not yet officially announced Cycling Canada has decided not to attend the upcoming Pan Am Road Championships, May 18-22, in San Cristobal, Venezuela due to security concerns. Proximity to Colombia and incidents of cross-border violence, kidnapping, smuggling and drug trafficking have resulted in the Canadian government issuing a regional advisory – “Global Affairs Canada advises against all travel within 80 km of the Colombian border due to the threat of kidnapping.” – more details here. We caught up with Jacques Landry, High Performance Director – Head Coach, at Cycling Canada for more details and the impact on Team Canada and upcoming events like Rio 2016.
How long have you been monitoring the situation and when did you decide not to attend the Pan American Road Championships in Venezuela ?
Jacques Landry: We’ve been looking at this situation for the past few weeks and decided not to attend a couple of days ago.
Do you know of any other countries also not attending for similar reasons ?
JL: The USA is not attending for the same reasons. I don’t know if any other countries are also not attending.
How many athletes was Canada planning to send and for what events?
JL: We were planning to bring seven riders – one Elite woman, three U23 men and three Elite men.
What’s the impact on the upcoming Rio 2016 Games and 2016 Road Worlds in Doha, Qatar ?
JL: It has an impact given the weighting of UCI points. A win at Continental events would give 250 points whereas UCI-2.2 sanctioned races now hold less value. In other words a good ride at Conties outweighs a few good rides at 2.2 races.
There’s no real impact on our situation for the Games, as our road men’s team quota is already established (3) and because some of our women are raking up good points already, we should end up with our planned quota of three spots if all continues as planned.
Is there a contingency plan for the riders that were planning to attend ?
JL: There no contingency plan as we had only identified potential candidates and all are on trade teams already, so it’s business as usual for them.
The Government of Canada’s advisory also mentions the Zika virus – how widespread is this issue and is it a big concern ?
JL: ZIKA not a big concern at this point. If bitten/stung the symptoms are the same as dengue, only exception is for women who are pregnant or want to get pregnant, as there is a linkage to microcephaly.
Is this the first time Canada has pulled out of events in Central or South America ?
JL: In recent history, this is the first time we’ve pulled out of races in South America for security reasons. The safety of our athletes and staff is vital and we’ll be issuing an official announcement shortly.