For 2012 Olympic hopeful mountain bikers, 2011 is an important year. It's when their performances will help them qualify for the US Olympic Long Team. USA Cycling released its complete 2012 Olympic Games team qualification guidelines on Tuesday. Following up on Olympic Long Team selections due at the end of this year, the final Olympic team selection of up to three men and two women will be announced on June 15, 2012.
Throughout most of 2011, the nation's best racers will be vying for a spot on the Olympic Games Long Team. Up to 10 men and 10 women will be selected based on performances between January 1 and December 1, 2011. A racer can earn a spot on the Long Team by finishing in the top 10 at the 2011 cross country mountain bike Worlds in Champery, Switzerland, or by finishing in the top 10 at any World Cup during the Long Team Qualification Period.
A racer can also earn a spot by being ranked in the top three at the end of the US Pro XCT series. Space still permitting, racers with a ranking in the top 60 of the world as of December 1, 2011 will be eligible for the Long Team. Should more than 10 racers meet the aforementioned criteria, World Cup rankings will be the decider. If 10 racers do not meet the criteria, USAC may select additional nominees per its "Principles of Athlete Selection" guidelines.
Making the Long Team is just the first step toward making the final Olympic team. The best way to get a spot on the start line in London, England, is for a racer to finish in the top five at the 2011 Worlds and then prove to the selectors that he or she is maintaining his or her form thereafter. Should more than one man or woman meet this goal, the top athlete will be chosen.
Another way to make the final team is to win a cross country World Cup event during the final qualification period of January 1 to May 22, 2012, and then prove to selectors that form has been maintained accordingly. Should more than one man or woman meet this criterium, the rider with the highest World Cup ranking gets the nod.
If places are still open on the final team, racers who finish in the top five in a World Cup during the final qualification period will be considered with the World Cup ranking again serving as the decider. After that, selectors will look to the top ranked US racer in the World Cup as of May 31, 2012, but only if that rider is in the top 15 overall.
Should the automatic final team selection criteria enumerated above somehow not suffice to fill the squad, USA Cycling may invoke discretionary criteria. Discretionary criteria include factors like medal capability, recent history of strong international competition, capability of enhancing future team performance and future medal capability.
All mountain bike Olympians must reach the age of 19 in the year of the Olympic Games.
Once selected to the final team, riders may voluntarily withdraw from the team or be removed upon certification of injury or illness. Violation of the USAC code of conduct or any doping infractions of protocols by the IOC, IPC, PASO, WADA, IF, USADA and USOC are also grounds for removal.
The 2012 Olympic Games are scheduled for July 27 - August 12 in London, United Kingdom.
In 2008, Georgia Gould, Mary McConneloug, Adam Craig and Todd Wells represented the US in Beijing at the Olympics. All four racers are still actively competing on the international circuit. Factoring in other experienced and younger races, the battle for the 2012 team will likely prove another tough one.
Key dates and numbers in US Team Selection for the 2012 Olympic Games
Long team qualification period: January 1 to December 1, 2011
Long Team max size: 10
Long team nomination: December 1, 2011
Final team qualification period: January 1 to May 22, 2012
Final team size: Max of 2 (women) or 3 (men) based on how many places the US qualifies as a nation
Final team nominated: June 15, 2012