By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Last week the top contenders for the few spots on the United States of America Olympic track cycling team met in Carson, California at the ADT Center to make their final case for selection and try to circumvent the process by earning automatic nominations. While Taylor Phinney and Jennie Reed had already secured spots for August's Olympic Games in China with earlier performances, Taylor at the third UCI Track World Cup event and Reed with a bronze at the World Championships, the rest of the spots were to be chosen with a series of timed events.
The Madison and points race used two 3000 metre mass starts over two days, with a minimum time standard to earn an automatic spot. After three met the standard, the fastest would be an automatic selection while the other spot would be chosen from the remainder. Bobby Lea set the fastest time with a flying first 500 metre time of 29.525 seconds and finishing with a 3000-meter time of 3:17.648, earning the spot.
Of the other three – Michael Friedman, Brad Huff and Colby Pearce – both Friedman and Huff met the standard. Friedman rode a 30.359/3:24.229, while Huff rode a 30.466/3:21.740 to eclipse the time standards and remain in contention for the final spot.
In the sprint events, the men rode both a 250 metre standing time trial and a 200 metre flying sprint. Michael Blatchford recorded the fastest 250 metres at 17.973 seconds, beating the 18.01 standard. Giddeon Massie and Adam Duvendeck missed the minimum. Blatchford, Massie, Duvendeck as well as Lea contested the flying 200 metre sprint for an automatic nomination to contest the match sprint and keirin, however none met the 10.38 mark.
While already on the team, both Phinney and Reed attempted world record marks at the selection camp. Phinney set a new junior world record in the 3000 metre individual pursuit with a time of 3:16.589. The record attempt was part of Phinney's training program leading into next month's UCI Junior Road and Track World Championships in South Africa. Reed rode the flying 200 and 500 metre time trials, but did not set world records, though she came within .007 seconds in the 500 metres and did set a new national record. Both her times bested the automatic selection time, despite already having a ticket punched for Beijing.
USA Cycling director of athletics Pat McDonough said that the camp was an illustration of the progress the track program has made since the previous Olympics. "The performances by our athletes over the course of these last couple of days are a good sign of things to come," said McDonough. "The determination and intensity of the competition this week is indicative of how far our track program has come since 2004. To have five athletes meet demanding time standards less than two months from the Olympics means everyone is raising their game for when it matters the most."