26 Sunday Jun 2016
What is it with National Governing Bodies like USA Cycling and British Cycling taking riders who are coming out of retirement and not performing to their previous standards over younger riders who have proved themselves to be on form and the better riders when competing head-to-head this year?
First USA Cycling chooses Kristin Armstrong over Carmen Small, who beat Armstrong by over a minute at the US National Time-Trial Championships.
Then British Cycling chooses Emma Pooley over Hayley Simmonds, who beat Pooley by over a minute at the British National Time-Trial Championships.
There is something seriously wrong with the selection process if the discretionary picks allow for this. While I don’t know enough about the structure of British Cycling to really see and comment on what changes need to be made there, it is obvious to me that the selection process at USA Cycling needs to be overhauled to remove any hint of conflict of interest, but also to build a real team, and not just a “team” of individuals.
Part of this process should be preventing any officer (vice president or higher) of USA Cycling from having any coaching relationships with athletes. It’s not good enough to recuse yourself from the selection process; if you coach *any* athletes directly, you should have NO involvement in the decision-making process at the national governing body, and vice versa.
Another part would include bringing back Olympic trials, or naming Olympic year events as automatic selection events. Megan Guarnier earned her automatic selection by virtue of her third place at the World Road Race Championships last fall. She confirmed her quality with a second consecutive win the US National Road Race Championships as well. Carmen Small won the US National Time Trial Championships. Evelyn Steven set the World Hour Record at the end of February.
A third aspect would be building the strongest team; not just a team of the strongest riders. This last part would likely still be controversial, as it brings some subjectivity back into the process, but the team needs to be built as a unit and selections made thusly are far easier to justify.
Evelyn Stevens will work for her trade teammate Megan Guarnier in the road race, and would also be a good backup medal contender (say in a long breakaway, for example). Mara Abbott might be “medal capable” but this is a long shot against European competition, and will she sacrifice herself to work for Guarnier, who has the best chance to win? My gut says no.
Kristin Armstrong has not shown this year that she still has what it takes to win a medal in the TT; and has shown absolutely no interest in the road race at all. She will do nothing in the road race but start … she’ll save it all for the TT and contribute nothing to the RR, hampering the ability of the team to get a result. This is a poor selection.
Carmen Small has shown this season that she is on form and a better time trialist than Armstrong in head-to-head competition, is medal capable in the time trial, and will contribute to supporting Megan Guarnier in the road race as well.
The only USA Cycling selections that I personally agree with fully are Guarnier and Stevens. Abbott is a maybe, but I still tend to skew against her selection. Armstrong should never have been selected.
If I were the selection committee, I would have named Small and Stevens as the TT riders, and thus half of the road squad. Then along with automatic qualifier Guarnier, I would name a workhorse support rider; someone strong would would give everything in support of the team, someone who has shown that she is strong enough to race with and against the world’s top cyclists, someone who is young enough to participate in multiple Olympic Games using the experience acquired this year to help develop towards 2020, someone like Tayler Wiles.
USA Cycling seems to have forgotten that while there is only an individual medal winner in road cycling, it is still a team sport; and by not creating a team that will work cohesively as a unit, they’ve actually hurt their chances of bringing home medals.