Omitting Jonathan Rea from this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards has been branded “a joke” by bike fans locally.
The record breaking four-time World Superbike Champion, who finished in second place at last year’s awards, did not feature on the 2018 shortlist.
The accolade went to Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, who topped a poll featuring driver Lewis Hamilton, footballer Harry Kane, sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, cricketer Jimmy Anderson and winter Olympian Lizzy Yarnold.
Commenting on the Ballyclare rider’s exclusion, Chief Marshal at the North West 200, Cathal Cunning said: “How can four-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea not be shortlisted?
“He was runner up last year. Maybe too scared he might actually win it?”
Motorcycling fan Craig Todd took to Twitter to say: “No Jonathan Rea in the SPOTY2018. Absolute joke.”
Ballyclare councillor, David Arthurs said for Rea not to be shortlisted was “disgraceful”.
However, Jonathan Rea, who attended Sunday night’s ceremony, voiced support for Geraint Thomas on Twitter, saying: “Very well deserved G!”
Addressing Rea’s exclusion, a BBC spokesperson said: “In what has been an incredible year of sport, many contenders were considered and debated by an expert industry panel, who by consensus agreed on the shortlist.”
The shortlist was drawn up by Sir Chris Hoy (former Olympian and SPOTY winner), Barry McGuigan (former boxer and SPOTY winner), Amy Williams (former Olympian and SPOTY nominee), Caroline Barker (broadcaster), Alex Scott (former footballer and broadcaster), Emma Boggis (chief executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance), Claire Tolley (sport features editor, Guardian), David Gurney (sports editor, Metro Newspapers), Howard Wheatcroft (group head of sport, Express Newspapers), Barbara Slater (Director, BBC Sport). Philip Bernie (Head of TV Sport, BBC Sport) and Carl Doran (Executive Editor, BBC Sport).