New MTB group aims for Irish off-road Olympic qualification

Posted on: October 1st, 2011

Mel Spath and Cait Elliott in the Wicklow hills above Dublin (Photo: Maciej Staroniewicz)

Mel Spath and Cait Elliott in the Wicklow hills above Dublin (Photo: Maciej Staroniewicz)


Some of Ireland’s leading MTB riders have combined their skills and experience to form an agency dedicated to qualifying athletes for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics.

While those Games are still five years away, the new Offroad 2 Rio project wants to immediately target young women with elite performance potential, with a view to helping them develop and qualify for Rio’s off-road event.

While Irish cyclists have always competed at the Olympics in road race and time trial events, Ireland has only ever had three off-road Olympians, current national champion Robin Seymour, Tarja Owens and Jenny McCauley.

National women’s MTB champion Cait Elliott and Mel Spath, who won the British MTB series this year, have now combined to create the Offroad 2 Rio project, aimed specifically at qualifying women off-road riders for 2016.

Both are the first members of the project and are both chasing Olympic 2016 qualification for themselves.

Elliott told stickybottle if the project achieves its objectives, the standard of women’s off road racing will significantly improve in coming years.

“The overall aim is to qualify an Irish woman to go to Rio – be it Mel, me or anyone else,” she said.

“To qualify a place in Rio we would need between three and five people who are racing at world level in 2014, so development would be important. If one of those ends up being better than us and gets the place, then that’s good too.”

“The second aim is to set up a clear high performance path so that riders have clear targets with a chance to represent Ireland and go to the World Championships and so on. At the moment there’s none of this.”

“Rio is the main aim. But we’re trying to work it in a way, that even if it wasn’t successful in qualifying somebody for Rio we will improve high performance MTB.”

The project is being launched at a time of significantly increased participation levels in both road and off road cycling here.

The Elliott and Spath-fronted project aims to identify female talent among those coming into the sport, nurture them to Olympic level and secure financial backing from sponsors.

Spath said while elite off-road riders currently racing were competing without financial backing from Cycling Ireland, they have shown commitment and drive to get to the international stage.

“They have (raced internationally) without any of the funding or expertise that comes with a high performance programme, and without any opportunity to achieve the honour of representing their country.”

“We believe that with assistance these riders have what it takes to perform alongside the best athletes in the world at the most important sporting event in the world, the Olympics.”


(Visit the project website for more information:


Mel Spath & Cait Elliott (Photo: Maciej Staroniewicz)

Mel Spath & Cait Elliott (Photo: Maciej Staroniewicz)