EXCLUSIVE By James Bryce
A GROUP of expat mountain bikers are suing the Spanish Cycling Federation claiming ‘racist’ policies are preventing them from competing.
The seven cyclists claim that they were mistreated when they attended a competition in Madrid last month.
Despite competing before – and forking out hundreds in entrance fees – they insist they were banned from the annual National Championships just hours before it began.
“The organisers were obviously happy to take our money when we registered, and haven’t given it back,” said Phil Coates, 20, who works at a bike shop in Marbella.
He and friend Felix Aldred, 16, spent ‘several hundred euros’ travelling to Madrid on July 30 to attend the competition.
But as the pair took part in practice runs prior to qualifying, they were confronted by an official who told them they were not allowed to compete.
“She told us we couldn’t because we weren’t Spanish and ripped the numbers off our bikes,” said Coates, who has lived in Spain for 15 years and is completely integrated.
“She was really rude towards us, it was really unprofessional.
“We had been training really hard for a month and it was an expensive ten hour round trip,” he added.
“It was a massive blow.”
In total, seven British competitors have now issued denuncias to the federation over its ‘racist policies’.
The mother of Felix, Lisa Aldred, told the Olive Press: ‘This smacks of racism. These boys have lived here for years and competed before.
“Perhaps it has something to do with Felix beating the Spanish champion recently.”
When contacted by the Olive Press, a spokesman for the Federation said: “While we are not aware of this specific case, our policy has always been that only those of Spanish nationality are allowed to take part in any cycling discipline.
“If they wish to complain they should do so directly to the event organisers, Laetus Sport, or by following the federation’s complaints procedure.
“We regret that a lack of knowledge of the regulations has led to this unfortunate situation,” she added.
However Coates – who has been ranked as high as second for downhill racing in Andalucia – hit back, insisting that the event’s entry policy made no mention of the need to be a Spanish national.
“The only entry requirement on the poster for the event was that you had to be registered with the International Cycling Union, which we are, and it doesn’t say anything about being a national on the website either,” he said.
“It seems pretty racist.”