Small explains decision to take USA Cycling Olympic team selection to arbitration

'I beat the best and I beat them by a large margin,' says US time trial champion

Carmen Small (Cervelo-Bigla) has hit back at USA Cycling over being excluded from the four-woman team chosen by the federation's Selection Committee to compete in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August. Small has decided to take the decision to arbitration to fight for her place on the team because she believes that she met the criteria to compete in Rio, over other athletes who were chosen.

"I beat the best and I beat them by a large margin," says Small, who won the US time trial championship in Winston-Salem in May. She established herself as a prime contender for Olympic selection by winning the national event by 23 seconds over Amber Neben (BePink). Kristin Armstrong was third at 1:08 behind Small, and Evelyn Stevens finished in sixth, two minutes back.

The Selection Committee had chosen Megan Guarnier, who was automatically selected after placing third at the World Championships last year, and Mara Abbott for the road race. Stevens and Armstrong where chosen to compete in both the road race and the time trial.

Although Small said in an interview with ESPN that she is not attempting to replace one specific rider, it is clear in her recent blog that she is upset that the Selection Committee chose Armstrong.

Armstrong has represented the US in three Olympic Games and won gold medals in the time trial in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, and the world titles in the same discipline in 2006 in Austria and 2009 in Italy. She retired from professional bike racing, returning last year with her sights set almost solely on winning a third gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio. Last year, which was her first year back in the professional peloton, she won the national time trial title and was fifth at the World Championships in the time trial, 20 seconds off the winning time. Stevens was sixth at Worlds, 26 seconds back, while Small was 14th at 1:27 minutes back.

Though she has not raced outside of the US since 2012, she was second overall at the Tour of the Gila (UCI 2.2), won the Pro Road Tour’s Redlands Bicycle Classic and was second overall at the Tour of California, a Women’s WorldTour stage race. All while racing for her domestic team Twenty16-Ridebiker. Following her third place in the US time trial championships, she said she was affected by the hot weather conditions that day and that she was fatigued from travelling from the Tour of California directly to Winston-Salem. But she expressed optimism about her chances of making the Olympic team.

To that end, Small said in her blog, "Perhaps I should of stayed in the US racing for a domestic team and had the potential to win these races. I choose the harder path, the path that had the most potential for real world outcomes in terms of fitness, results, competition and difficulty. USA Cycling has a goal to succeed in international competition on an international stage. Their selection process outlined that but didn’t enforce it. They chose an athlete who hasn’t raced outside the United States since she was in London!

"There were rationalizations – they had just raced Tour of California and weren’t able to recover… it was too humid… Rio is humid, the road race there is just a few days before the Time Trial. If you aren’t willing to go and give it your all for each event and you admit you can’t recover in time to be your best should you really be representing your country in the Olympics?"

USA Cycling CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall told Cyclingnews that the national championships were not an automatic qualifier for the Olympic Games, but they were taken into consideration when making the Olympic team selection.

A friend of Small's set up a GoFundMe page to help offset the costs of the legal fees associated with taking the decision to arbitration. The fundraiser has so far raised more than $12,000.

Read Small's full statement:

Firstly – THANK YOU for everyone who has donated and offered encouraging words. My emotions and feelings have been all over the map. By now you’ve probably read the articles and interviews.

Why am I in need of help some have asked… to be honest and put it simply the cost to challenge (arbitrate) against USA Cycling will be between 1/4 and 1/2 of my annual salary. As a professional female cyclist I don’t have endorsement deals and supplemental income. I certainly don’t earn six figures, I consider myself lucky to be earning 5! Our sport is certainly evolving with more races available live online and sometimes on TV but we are far from where the mens side of the sport is. Simply put I need help to pay the legal fee’s associated with challenging my non-selection to the Olympic team.

I am fighting this selection for the simple fact that all my involvement with USA Cycling and everything I’ve ever been told by them said race in Europe, do the big races, do the hard races and race against the best in the world. This year leading up to the Olympics I took that to heart. I went to Europe before the Spring and came home just before the National Championships at the end of May. I did the hard races, I raced against the best and I had good consistent results.

National Championships is a race with the best professional women in the United States. It’s one of the few times a year we race against one another (it should be considered an Olympic Trials just like Swimming or Track and Field). I took my whole first half of the season and put my full ability on the road and succeeded. I beat the best and I beat them by a large margin. Unfortunately this event isn’t even considered in the USA Cycling Olympic Selection process.

Perhaps I should of stayed in the US racing for a domestic team and had the potential to win these races. I choose the harder path, the path that had the most potential for real world outcomes in terms of fitness, results, competition and difficulty. USA Cycling has a goal to succeed in international completion on an international stage. Their selection process outlined that but didn’t enforce it. They chose an athlete who hasn’t raced outside the United States since she was in London!

There were rationalizations – they had just raced Tour of California and weren’t able to recover… it was too humid… Rio is humid, the road race there is just a few days before the Time Trial. If you aren’t willing to go and give it your all for each event and you admit you can’t recover in time to be your best should you really be representing your country in the Olympics?

All the women who were chosen are fantastic and fierce competitors. Only one of them earned her spot automatically. One of them didn’t even compete in the National Championships. I did all that was asked of me by our National Governing Body for the Sport of Cycling. I’ve done all they have asked for years. I left their track program because it wasn’t for me. I put myself at their mercy every year.

There are personalities there just like everywhere else and it’s been written about and published the conflict of interest the person who oversees the whole athletics operations has. For USA Cycling I have brought home medals twice at the PanAm Championships and once at Worlds. To discount my ability to perform at the international level is complete insanity.

I ask you in the interest of the future of this sport for professional women – help me go to court, help me to change the system. Help me be heard and help me realize my Olympic goals. If I didn’t believe I can make a difference in Rio I wouldn’t go through all of this stress, emotions and chaos.

Thank you, Carmen Small – Olympic Hopeful

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