THE lack of a replacement title sponsor of the Mountain Bike World Cup after this year has forced the International Cycling Union to downsize the 2010 edition of the world's most prestigious mountain bike racing series and South Africa, Australia and Canada will lose out.
After having staged a very successful inaugural round of the Nissan UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Pietermaritzburg in April, South Africa has been dropped from the 2010 World Cup schedule.
Australia, a host of a World Cup round for the past few years, and the World Championships later this year, has also been left without a major international event next year.
Canada, traditionally a host of two World Cup rounds, has also been eliminated from the 2010 roster, though the country will have some consolation in hosting the World Championships.
"It's come as a big shock for us," said Alec Lenferna, event director of the Pietermaritzburg event.
"I was phoned by the UCI on Friday to tell me that the loss of Nissan as a sponsor after 2009, with no replacement, forced the UCI to downsize the series virtually only to Europe and Great Britain.
"The United States has been added to the schedule for 2010, but only because the World Championships are in Canada a few days later and the world's top riders and officials will be travelling to North America anyway."
Lenferna was disappointed at not being given any notice by the UCI of the possibility of the Pietermaritzburg round in 2010 being at risk.
"It's a huge blow for mountain biking in particular and cycling in general, not only in South Africa, but in Africa," said Lenferna.
Statistics released by the UCI last week show that the Pietermaritzburg round of the 2009 World Cup drew 2,134billion viewers in 188 countries.
This, combined with the huge crowd support at the event and high standards of organisation and racing, put it on a par with the top World Cup host venues. - Sapa