Sam Bennett, one of Ireland’s most promising young riders has said the decision to strip him of funding via the Sport’s Councils International Carding Scheme has come as a ‘kick in the teeth’.
Bennett, 22, has been riding with the An Post Sean Kelly team for several seasons now but learnt at the Cycling Ireland Awards dinner recently that he was to be axed from funding for 2013.
“It was a kick in the teeth,” said the Carrick-on-Suir native. “I’ve always done my best and I’ve always put in 100% any time I’ve put on the jersey. I was talking to some officials at the Cycling Ireland Awards dinner and was trying to see what the deal was for next year but they were basically saying that the pros aren’t getting the carding so why should I.
“They’re reasoning, as far as I can see is, ‘I’m no longer U23, we don’t need you’. So I thought well, I’m still only 22, I’ve always put in a great effort. Any time I was wanted to go anywhere to race, I went — even if I wasn’t up to it. Like the time we went to Canada for the Nations Cup when I was dying sick, I still went – yet the race set me back a lot.
“At the Worlds this year I was determined to do well – even though I was injured. I still put on the Irish jersey and gave it everything I could, and still pulled out a result. I’ve always done my best and then to hear, ‘well you’re not U23 anymore, we don’t need you.’ I thought, ‘well, I’m not trying to be arrogant but I still see myself as being young and being part of Ireland’s cycling future.’
Crucially, Bennett did not fit the criteria and when contacted by the Irish Examiner yesterday, CEO Geoff Liffey iterated that point. “Sam Bennett is a professional road rider. He didn’t make the criteria. Results are all that count. It’s black and white, you either hit it or you don’t. Dan Martin or Nicolas Roche didn’t get it either. Martyn Irvine and Eoin Mullen would qualify, Caroline Ryan would qualify, and the majority of the paralympic squad (qualify). It’s really more targeted to the Olympic squad towards the next Games,” he said.
And that criteria is something Bennett was less than happy about. Not only is it exceptionally difficult to attain, he made a decent stab off it, despite being injured. The carding criteria specified places 1-3 in the Europeans (he was 7th), and places 1-5 in the Worlds (he was 10th) would warrant funding.
“That criteria is practically impossible to fulfil,” said Bennett.
“I often wonder who sets it – 1.1 races are a very, very high standard. You only have to see who wins them, usually ProTour riders and if I do win them, well, I’ll probably get a Pro-Tour contract anyway. The Dwars Door Vlaanderen is a 1.1 ranked race for example, – If I win that, I’ll probably be ProTour, in which case I won’t need funding anyway!
“I didn’t really know what to say when I heard I was being cut. What more can I do, I thought? I was shocked. At the end of the day, I didn’t meet the criteria but who on the road is getting carding and what do they have to do to get it?
He admitted the cut will make life extremely difficult. “I’m still developing and this money means everything. I’ve just had two operations. I’m living in Belgium. I’ve had to pay physios and stuff like flights. All that adds up along with day-to-day living costs too to consider. You’re under pressure for money all the time when your mind should be in other places. This year I want to step it up to get a ProTour contract but what do I do? That money could really help me achieve that aim.”
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