The 2016 World Championships have been a historical one for the USA track team after they claimed their first women's gold medal in the team pursuit earlier this week. The US women dominated the competition right from the start and even came close to breaking the world record. After several years of struggling, it was a big moment for the whole team.
USA Cycling chief Derek Bouchard-Hall, who has been in the job since last year, lives in London has been at the championships all week. Like a proud father, he was standing by the podium watching his riders put on their new rainbow jerseys.
"We're unbelievably thrilled. We knew they were going incredibly well but we didn't know they were going that well," Bouchard-Hall told Cyclingnews. "For our programme, not just for our team, but for track cycling in particular and women's cycling, which we're trying to promote, it is really important to our entire cycling federation. We're so excited I can barely stand it."
What makes the performance yet more crucial is the imminent arrival of the Olympic Games in Rio later this year. The USA finished second to Great Britain in the London Olympics when the event was competed over three kilometres but initially struggled over the longer distance. The performance on the same track four years later has proved to the team and the national federation that they can aim higher in Brazil.
"Now we are in the thick of it and we might even be considered the gold-medal favourites. It's an incredibly deep and competitive field and the Olympics is six months away so you never know what is going to happen but for us to be in the thick of it now is huge,” said Bouchard-Hall. “The confidence for the women and our coaches is really helpful. We're going to get a lot more attention now, we're the world champions. Rather than being a medal-capable team, we're a gold-medal capable team and that is a big difference."
The USA's improvement has been down to a much more focussed track programme that has seen investment increase. It has also required riders to eschew any road commitments that they have, something that it going to continue towards the Olympics. The gold medal is proof that the programme is working and USA Cycling would like to push forward with it but Bouchard-Hall, who studied business after his cycling career, will have to crunch the numbers first.
"We're going to try very hard to continue that. It's very expensive to run these programmes and we have limited resources but when we do put the resources into it and have it succeed in this way is incredibly encouraging and it will really help us towards more of them," he told Cyclingnews. "That is our objective is to use this model and to start building out more track disciplines as well. We know we can translate resources into success, this proves it in a really dramatic fashion so let's get more resources and more success, that it our objective."