Phinney, Guarnier headline 2016 US Olympic team

by Michael Better


USA Cycling announced Thursday the full squad of athletes competing in the cycling events at the 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro this August. Three-time Olympian Taylor Phinney, two-time Olympic gold medalist in the individual time trial, Kristin Armstrong, and bronze medalist at the 2015 road world championships in Richmond, Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) headline a team that includes 10 Olympic veterans.

“This has been something we have been working towards for the last two quads to be honest,” Jim Miller, vice president of athletics at USA Cycling, told CyclingTips. “We think we are at a point where we have a lot of athletes who are maturing or who are at that age where they can produce these kinds of results.

“At the same time we have a coaching staff that has been together for six to eight years, sometimes longer, and all have Olympic games experience and all have been to that venue so they know what to expect. We think we have a coaching staff that can lead, but also put us into position maybe do something unprecedented.”

The women’s road team always seems to deliver at the Olympics however, and the 2016 games should be no different. The selection for the team was a hotly discussed topic heading into the season with a multitude of riders vying for one of three available spots. Guarnier had already secured her ticket to Rio by automatic selection, courtesy of her result at the world championships.

Mara Abbott, Evelyn Stevens, and Kristen Armstrong will accompany Guarnier, the current Women’s WorldTour leader, on the hilly road-race course in Rio. Stevens and Armstrong will also ride the individual time trial.

Armstrong, competing in her fourth consecutive Olympics is the two-time defending gold medalist in the event. Being coached by Miller created a glaring conflict of interest for the vice president.

“It is 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.

Though any number of women could have made their case to make the team, a notable absence from the team is the 2016 US women’s individual time trial champion Carmen Small.

“To be honest, 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,” Miller said. “[The athletes] work hard to get to this point and we have an obligation to make sure we are nominating the best team we can. 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.

“So at the end of the day, we end up going through every discipline and every event bullet point by bullet point and do [the athletes] check the boxes, do they not check the boxes until these are the nominees for this event.”

Small is able to appeal the decision to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) should she choose to do so.

The men’s road team only earned two spots for Rio and Phinney will be joined by his BMC Racing teammate Brent Bookwalter. Phinney captured fourth in both the road race and individual time trial at the 2012 Olympics in London and Bookwalter will be making his Olympic debut.

“Making the selection for men’s road prior to the Tour de France is a nightmare,” Miller said. “You have no idea what is going to happen in the Tour, you have no idea what is going to happen in the first week. Making the decision prior to that is like ‘oh man that is a no win,’ but [the USOC] have to turn in the names to the IOC.

“They have a process which they work through when they receive names and based on the timeline for things that have to happen for them as well, outside of maybe men’s soccer I believe, I don’t think any entry was given any sort of exemption on submission date.”

Miller had asked the USOC for an exemption regarding nominating the men’s road and mountain bike teams.

Howard Grotts is the lone men’s mountain bike selection, while 2012 Olympian Lea Davison and Chloe Woodruff will represent the women. The mountain bike selection comes a week prior to the world championships being held in the Czech Republic possibly giving these athletes a boost of confidence.

The Olympic track team, which was announced in March, goes to Rio with expectations abound. The women’s team pursuit flew to an unprecedented gold medal at the world championships in February. Sarah Hammer, Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert, and Jennifer Valente look to further their success from the world championships with a solid performance in Rio. Hammer will also ride the women’s omnium event, which she rode in London and captured the silver medal in.

U.S. BMX riders also hold stellar medal potential at Rio with Nic Long and Alise Post both riding to bronze medals at the 2016 BMX world championships in Medellin, Colombia. Connor Fields, seventh at the 2012 Olympics, will also travel to Rio having earned a discretionary selection.

The road races and individual time trials open cycling competition at the 2016 Olympic games Aug. 6-7 at Fort Copacabana and Aug. 10 at Pontal in Barra, respectively. Track cycling begins August 11th at the Rio Olympic Velodrome in Barra and wraps up August 16th. Action then moves north to Deodoro for BMX August 17-19 at the Olympic BMX Centre, and mountain bike helps close the Olympics August 20-21 at the Olympic Mountain Bike Centre.

“It is the Olympics and winning world titles is difficult, but winning Olympic titles is another story all together,” Miller said. “That said we believe we are in a position where we have really good teams and really good riders and we think we are capable of doing something exceptional.”

Miller added, “It’s tough and their certainly a pressure cooker, but I think we can do something good.”

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 (U.S. 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

All nominations to the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee.

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