Controversy in US Olympic selection as Armstrong makes women’s team while national champion is left off

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June 24.

It was a date the American Olympic hopefuls eagerly awaited…or dreaded. The day USA Cycling would announce its full team selection for the Rio Olympics.

The announcement, however, came a day early. Today, USA Cycling announced its 21-member Olympic roster with two-time Olympic time trial gold medalist, Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16-RideBiker), and Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), bronze medalist at the 2015 UCI World Championship road race,  headlining the women’s road team.

Joining them on the road team are discretionary selections Mara Abbott (Wiggle-High5) and Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans).

Guarnier had already punched her ticket to Rio last fall when she earned bronze at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond. Guarnier is currently second in the World UCI rankings and continues to prove that she may very well be America’s best chance to win a medal in the Olympic road race as she leads the UCI Women’s WorldTour and defended her stars-and-stripes jersey last month.

Hotly discussed discretionary selections

The selection for the three remaining spots was hotly discussed, Jim Miller, vice president of athletics at USA Cycling, told CyclingTips.

“There were a lot of tough selections and the women obviously were a tough selection…Everybody wants to go to the Olympics and because of the prestigious nature of it we have an obligation to fully vet all our criteria and all our nominees and potential nominees. They work hard to get to this point and we have an obligation to make sure we are nominating the best team we can,” said Miller. “We have a selection criteria for an athlete to make an automatic selection and we have a discretionary selection criteria for how the selection committee has to objectively make subjective decisions. For every athlete we go through bullet point by bullet point.”

Guarnier’s Boels-Dolmans teammate, Evelyn Stevens, set a new world hour record in February and has been an integral part in the trade team’s dominating performances this season. Stevens is the second highest ranked American rider in the UCI rankings, and as a proven time trialist and hill climber, she will be a valuable asset to the American Olympic team in the road race as well as in the individual time trial.

The selection of Mara Abbott and Kristen Armstrong, however, may spark some controversy.

There are 10 American riders listed higher in the UCI rankings than Abbott, but she is among the best hill climbers in the world. Given that the Rio road course is very hilly and challenging, her selection is not all too surprising.

Armstrong goes while Small is left off

And while any number of women could have made their case to make the team, a notable absence from the roster is national time trial champion, Carmen Small.

Despite a glowing palmares and showing great form this season, Armstrong was clearly outperformed by Small at the national time trial championships last month, where the latter earned her second national time trial title.

But Armstrong, now 42-years-old, is the two-time defending gold Olympic medalist in the individual time trial and Rio will make her
fourth consecutive Olympics.

The fact that she is coached by Miller does create a glaring conflict of interest for the vice president.

“It is [a conflict of interest] and to be honest I recuse myself from all women’s road and time trial selections outside of sending the call and sending information to the selection committee and setting up the call,” Miller said. “I am not a voting member of the selection committee.”

Chance of appeal

When asked if he expects an appeal from any of athletes left off the roster Miller said, “I don’t know, everyone kind of takes charge of it on their own. There is a process in place for the USOC and gives athletes a re-course if they feel that something was done inappropriately.”


FULL 2016 U.S. OLYMPIC CYCLING TEAM

Road
Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team): Men’s Road Race, Men’s Individual Time Trial
Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team): Men’s Road Race, Men’s Individual Time Trial
Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team): Women’s Road Race*
Mara Abbott (Wiggle-High5): Women’s Road Race
Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team): Women’s Road Race, Women’s Individual Time Trial
Kristin Armstrong (TWENTY16 p/b SHO-AIR): Women’s Road Race, Women’s Individual Time Trial

Mountain Bike
Lea Davison (Specialized Factory Racing)
Chloe Woodruff (Team Stan’s NoTubes-Pivot)
Howard Grotts (Specialized Factory Racing)

Track
Sarah Hammer Women’s Omnium*, Women’s Team Pursuit
Kelly Catlin (NorthStar Development): Women’s Team Pursuit
Chloe Dygert (TWENTY16 p/b SHO-AIR): Women’s Team Pursuit
Jennifer Valente (TWENTY16 p/b SHO-AIR): Women’s Team Pursuit
Ruth Winder (United States National Team): Women’s Team Pursuit
Matt Baranoski (Custom Velo): Men’s Keirin
Bobby Lea (Custom Velo): Men’s Omnium

BMX
Nic Long (Haro Bikes-Dans Comp)*
Corben Sharrah (Daylight Cycle Co.)*
Connor Fields (Chase BMX-Monster Energy)
Alise Post (Redline USA)*
Brooke Crain {Haro Bikes-Dans Comp)
*automatic nomination

CyclingTips has reached out to Carmen Small for a comment and will update the story as new information become available.

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