Last Friday, USA Cycling published an announcement about the Olympic Long Team for Rio 2016 (Rio is Rio de Janeiro Brazil, the host city of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games...figure we should start with the basics!). If you missed the release, you can find it here.
The "Long Team" selection is the first round of cuts that USA Cycling makes for the Olympic Team, so it isn't a guarantee of actually making it to the Olympic Games. For mountain bike, they selected eight women and seven men from which they'll further pare down to just two each for the final "Short Team." That final announcement for the Olympic Team doesn't happen until June 24th, 2016. The Olympic Games mountain bike race isn't until mid-August.
So how do I make it from the Long Team to the Olympic Games? Here I'll summarize the process for the women's team for those that are interested in following along this year. The higher the criteria on the list, the higher priority it gets in qualification.
- Top-5 at the 2015 World Championships - none of the riders on the list achieved this, although Lea Davison was very close. So this is no longer a means to qualify although riders results from this race can factor into discretionary picks for the team.
- Top-3 at one of the following 2016 World Cup events:
- World Cup #1 - Cairns, AUS - April 24th
- World Cup #2 - Albstadt, GER - May 22nd
- World Cup #3 - La Bresse, FRA - May 29th
- Top ranked rider in the World Cup as of June 20th (as long as they're ranked in the Top-10 overall)
- If spots remain, then the USA Cycling Selection Committee makes the final decision based their "Principles of Athlete Selection." The committee can consider athlete performances from any UCI races, although the more competitive races will likely carry greater weight. The 'competitiveness' of each event can be loosely defined by their UCI status. Here's a list of most important to least important: World Cup > Pan Am Championships > UCI HC > UCI C1 > UCI C2 > UCI C3. These are the following UCI races in the United States (and the Pan American Championships) that are scheduled before the June 20th deadline, and their respective weight/rank:
- Bonelli Park Pro XCT #1 - March 12th (UCI C3)
- Pan American Championship, Argentina - April 2nd (Pan Am)
- Fontana City Pro XCT #2 - April 2nd (UCI C3)
- Bonelli Park Pro XCT #3 - April 9th (UCI HC)
- Sea Otter Classic Pro XCT #4 - April 16th (UCI HC)
- Missoula XC Pro XCT #5 - June 18th (UCI HC)
I believe this is a fair and equitable selection process that USA Cycling has put together. It rewards exceptional performances at the World Cup, while also leaving quite a bit of flexibility for the Selection Committee to fill any remaining slots. Also of note, we are concurrently still earning our team's starting spots in the Olympic Games. Those spots will be finalized in May although we are on track to earn the maximum number of starting spots: two.
Personally, it's very motivating to find myself on the Olympic Long Team list for a second time. In 2012, I was a discretionary add to the team and, while it was still a big deal, I understood that it wasn't likely I would go. This time around, things feel different. I've set myself up for a real chance at the Olympic Games and have a great team of people to help me get there. At the same time, we're keeping this opportunity in perspective. It's not now-or-never in our book. TJ and I are continuing to learn and prepare for what's ahead. We are going to do our absolute best this year but, no matter the outcome, there will be another year after that. The reasons we continue to improve and push ourselves go beyond the Olympic Games, and it'll be another challenge this year not to lose sight of that.
Huge thanks to everyone that's played a part in this adventure!