Nothstein favors new system for choosing cycling team

U.S. cyclist Marty Nothstein says the Olympic selection process, based on long-term performance, will provide the best team at the Sydney Games  Credit: Pascal Rondeau
At the recent U.S. Olympic Track Trials, 1996 Olympic silver medalist Marty Nothstein and 1992 Olympian James Carney each won three events, but they didnt qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

One would think that winning at the Olympic trials would garner a spot on the team. But not so, according to the 2000 Olympic selection criteria rules.

Neither Nothstein, who is a world-class sprinter, or Carney, an endurance specialist, met USA Cyclings Olympic automatic selection time standards, a baseline comparison of the winning times expected in Sydney (derived from past years world championships), so both will wait until July 7 to find out if they make the team.

Theyre not alone. No U.S. track rider beat the time cuts at the trials, so all the prospective trackies will have to wait until the U.S. track coaches, Des Dickie and Craig Griffin, announce the team.

For the upcoming mens and womens road trials to be held May 18 and 20 in Jackson, Miss. things are slightly less complicated, but only because one just one male rider will for sure qualify for the team.

The winner of the mens qualifying race knows hes going to Sydney. The womens winner, on the other hand, doesnt get an automatic spot and wont know until coach Henny Top announces the womens road squad on July 19. Mens coach Jim Ochowicz names the four other men to make the road squad on Aug. 1. (Five spots for men, three for women; two each for time trial.)

As for the mountain bike squad, there is no one qualifying race, so U.S. Olympic hopefuls will approach the whole season of racing, including the world championships in June, as one long selection test for coach Stephan Girard. (Three spots each for men and women, to be announced July 14.)

Why all the confusion about selection why not just have a couple races and declare the winners the Olympic team?

The reason is because America didnt win in Atlanta four years ago (two lowly silvers and a bronze).

At the track trials in 1996, upsets changed the lineup of the Atlanta team, which then failed to live up to winning expectations. Despite strong performances at the four-race trials for the mens road team, Chris Horner and Frank McCormick werent selected. Both ways, controversy ensued.

For 2000, American cyclings governing bodies (not to mention American couch potatoes, come Olympic television time) want a bigger piece of the podium in Sydney. So the athletes with the best chance of winning will make the team, according USA Cycling.

The 27-member cycling squad (road, mountain and track) will be based on riders who have proven over the years that they are competitive at high-level, international competition," said U.S. Olympic Cycling Team leader Sean Petty.

Yes, there is an Olympic Long Team, and yes, there are complex if-then scenarios in the selection procedures (a boggling 26 pages long), but in short, the coaches get to pick the team.

Riders do qualify automatically if they are among the worlds best. Two U.S. riders meet those standards: Lance Armstrong, based on his Tour de France win, and Alison Dunlap, based on her top-four mountain bike UCI ranking at the end of last year (and now No. 1 ranking).

Nationalistic pride, direct from USA Cyclings selection guidelines, adds pressure in picking the team. The United States also faces a very motivated, highly funded and very talented Australian cycling home team. Cycling is one of the sports in which Australia plans to harvest medals in 2000.

Nothstein, for one, favors the new system.

"You factor in long-term performance," said Nothstein, a former world champion and silver medalist in the match sprint at Atlanta. "Ultimately, it comes down to a coach's decision, and I think that means we're going to get the best riders for the Olympics."

Cycling coverage on PAX TV:

  • Track cycling, women's road cycling: Saturday, June 10 (9 - 11 p.m. E/PT)

  • Men's road cycling: Saturday, July 1 (9 - 11 p.m. E/PT)

    Olympic cycling information: USA Cycling

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