In just over a week USA Cycling will decide on its Olympic line-up for the London 2012 Games. While the battle for the nation’s one spot in the men’s time trial is set to come down to a choice between David Zabriskie and Taylor Phinney, former Olympic medallist Bobby Julich believes that the selectors should edge on the side of the younger rider, Phinney.
Julich made the podium in the men’s time trial in 2004 and is now part of Sky’s management team where he focuses on developing and nurturing some of their brightest talent and while he admits that the choice between Zabriskie and Phinney is close, his opinions holds that the US should look at long term success.
"It’s really going to be a tough decision and it’s really unfortunate that we can't bring two guys like we did in 2004 and 2008," Julich told Cyclingnews.
"It’s going to be so hard for the selectors and I don't envy them at all, but I think it boils down to one thing: do you want to keep riding the same horses that you've ridden or do you want to start developing for the future and I think Taylor Phinney can make a good argument for himself. He’s a gamer and can raise his level to win. He did that at that under 23 worlds and at the Giro. Okay those distances are not the same as the pros but I think that’s what we have to start looking at that."
"Talyor Phinney has a huge future and Dave Zabriskie isn't close to retiring either but maybe he would be finished by the next Olympics, so to get a guy like Taylor who has maybe got two or three more Olympics ahead of him, may be this would be the opportunity to put him in there. With all respect to Zabriskie and all concerned, I’d go with Phinney."
Julich acknowledged that Zabriskie has won time trials in both the US and Europe, with stages in all three Grand Tours in his palmares, but also pointed to upcoming races schedules for both Phinney and Zabriskie as possible factors. Phinney has come off the back of the Giro where he won the opening prologue and but for a wrong turn would have probably placed in the final time trial. He is set to skip this year’s Tour, a race Zabriskie is likely to take part in.
"A guy like Dave, who is doing the Tour, he'll be doing quite a bit of work on the front and that will be tough if you're doing that right until the last day. It’s hard to prepare for a specific time trial like that. Although I know that a guy like Fabian Cancellara, all his work on the front will be aimed at being good for the time trial. As will Tony Martin. You’re going to have guys preparing outside of the Tour too, doing super specific work."
Professional US cycling appears to be in a state of transition as Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer, Zabriskie, Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie – bastions for the sport for so long, move ever closer to retirement. Phinney’s generation which includes Alex Howes, Timmy Duggan, Andrew Talansky and Tejay van Garderen have little to no Olympic experience but Julich believes that the men’s road team for the Games should be a balance between the two generations.
"I would bet more on the future development and that’s what we have to start looking at. Levi, Horner, Hincapie, these guys are all contenders for the road team chances but they wont be there for the next Olympics. We’re at a crossroads now with those guys that are 34 plus compared to the guys who are 22 plus. We are starting to get that next generation but it seems we are hanging on a bit to the older generation these past few years with worlds and Olympic selections. They merited those spots but looking to the future you see that changeover coming."
From bronze to silver
In 2011, Tyler Hamilton – winner of the time trial in Athens – handed back his gold medal after he admitted to using banned substances during his career. The move should have meant Viatcheslav Ekimov moved from the silver position to gold and with Julich taking the silver. However Julich appears content with his bronze and is in no hurry to trade for another colour.
"I haven't got a silver medal put it that way. Mick Rogers was fourth in Athens and he’s on Sky too. Last week he was asking about his bronze medal but I’m sorry that’s the medal I have my memories of. It’s the medal my daughter, who is almost ten, touched when I got off the podium. It’s the one I showed all my friends. It would be impossible for me to give that medal back and then accept a new silver one that means nothing to me."