Hayley Simmonds celebrated a second straight British national time trial title on Thursday, but on Friday she had to stomach the news that she won't be going to Rio this summer to represent her country at the Olympic Games. Having not, she says, been personally informed of the decision, the 27-year-old hit out at British Cycling, accusing the federation of 'unprofessionalism' and of failing athletes by not giving them "fair opportunity to utilise their talent".
Simmonds was hoping to be Britain's representative for the hilly time trial in Rio, which would also mean being part of the three-woman squad for the road race, led by Lizzie Armitstead. The selectors instead opted for Emma Pooley, who has recently come out of retirement but only raced two events prior to the national time trial, where she was a minute slower than Simmonds over the 34.7km course. Nikki Harris is the third member of the team.
Dani King, herself disappointed to miss out, questioned the sense and fairness of British Cycling's selection process before the squads were officially announced, and Simmonds issued a similarly stinging statement on Friday.
"What I would like to highlight is the very unprofessional manner in which British Cycling have handled the selection process, especially regarding how I have had to find out about my non-selection for the Olympic Time Trial and Road Race," she said, opting not to comment on the merit of the selections themselves after King questioned how Pooley - "someone who has only ridden a couple of races" - could have been included.
"Since early October last year I have known that I was on the Olympic long list and I have had a lot of contact from auxiliary staff within the organisation covering a range of Olympic pre-requisites (ranging from logistics to extra anti-doping education)," continued Simmonds. "What has been sorely lacking has been any reliable contact with relevant members of British Cycling coaching or performance staff.
"Never has this been more apparent than in the last two weeks (the period when we knew the selection would be made) and nobody at British Cycling has made any attempt to contact me officially, or otherwise, to inform me of my non-selection. It is very hard to communicate just how heartbreaking it is to find out you are not going to the Olympics from a combination of leaked newspaper articles, conversations at the Nationals HQ and today's public announcement on the internet."
Simmonds, who has been a dominant force on the British domestic time trial scene in recent years, ended with a damning suggestion that British Cycling, which has been repeatedly buffeted by scandal in recent weeks and months, is not fit to allow its pool of athletes to get the best out of themselves.
"I can't think of any possible justification for an organisation to operate in such an unprofessional and disrespectful manner," she said.
"Given my own experience and from what has been written in the press in the past weeks and months, I find it hard to believe that any athlete not on one of BC's programmes can have any faith in being given fair opportunity to utilise their talent at an international level, irrespective of how many National Championships they win, and by what margin."
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