The United States hasn't won an Olympic medal in mountain biking since Susan DeMattei won bronze at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the first time mountain biking was including in the Olympics. There haven't been any more medals since then, but this year, the US has qualified to send four mountain bikers to London for the 2012 Olympics and winning a medal seems possible.
"I think all of them, especially Georgia [Gould], are within a shot of the medal," said Marc Gullickson, Mountain Bike & Cyclo-cross Programs Director of USA Cycling. "They are all capable. It's nice to say that because after the first two World Cups, I would not have said that."
Georgia Gould, Lea Davison, Todd Wells and Sam Schultz will represent the US after they were named to the team on June 15. Earlier this season, the four racers weren't exactly tearing it up on the World Cup circuit, and Wells had to sit out a round due to injury.
"Everyone was training super hard over the winter to get on the teams," said Gullickson. "You'll see some of those riders who were flying earlier dropping off. In the end, it's probably good that Georgia and Lea came in to the season at the speed they did. It seems like they've reached their good form now instead of earlier."
"All four seem to be on good form," he said after the two men and two women went one-two in their respective cross country races at the US Championships. "It was nice to see them all convincingly confirm their selections at the last two World Cups and nationals."
Gullickson noted that all four had had positive races at the most recent World Cup in Windham, New York. "It's good for them to have had that. It's not the last World Cup race before the Olympics, but it was before this block of training before the Olympics. I think it puts them all in a good frame of mind. I think they're all super happy with their fitness. Now it's a matter of them staying healthy and maintaining that fitness."
The trick will be to keep their momentum. "They have to make sure to rest enough and not overdo it on the training."
Schultz and Wells raced last weekend at the US Pro XCT in Missoula, Montana, and all four except for Davison will race the final World Cup in Val d'Isere, France, this coming weekend.
"Lea will take the World Cup off. That's a nice wild card for the team because it's a different preparation than the rest of the team," he said. "Georgia is doing the World Cup, and I think most of the elite women will. It's nice to have someone who might come out of a training block faster into the Olympics."
The entire US team will head to southern Germany after the Val d'Isere World Cup. They'll train and rest up in the lead-up to the Olympic Games prior to heading to London.
"It's a nice place to stay with great training. I think Canada is doing something similar in France. It will be a similar time zone and they can regroup there and get ready for the big week."
"As always the case, we North Americans have this extra leg of travel that the Europeans almost never have. Luckily our athletes are used to it and know how to deal with it pretty well."
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