Small heartbroken over missing out on US selection for Rio Olympics

US time trial champion Carmen Small (Cervelo Bigla) has expressed her utter disappointment over not being selected for one of the four spots available on the US national team headed to the Rio Olympic Games in August. In a Twitter post on Saturday, two days after USA Cycling announced their four-woman team, Small said she that was simply heartbroken.

“I'm truly overwhelmed by the support & personal messages I have received in the last two days, what an amazing community. My heart is broken,” she wrote.

USA Cycling announced the selection on Thursday afternoon. According to the national federation’s press team, none of the nine riders on the long list, except for automatic nominee Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), knew who would secure the remaining three spots available as per the nation's four-woman quota.

The long list included Small, two-time Giro Rosa winner Mara Abbott (Wiggle High5), Kristin Armstrong (Twenty16-Ridebiker), Amber Neben (Bepink), Shelley Olds (Clance), Coryn Rivera (UnitedHealthcare), Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), UCI Hour Record holder Evelyn Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) and Tayler Wiles (Orica-AIS). All of them found out at the same time as everyone else, including the press.

Guarnier secured her place on the Olympic team by placing third at the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia last September. There were still three spots available for the road race and two for the time trial. However, the two riders competing in the time trial must also race the road race.

USA Cycling’s selection committee announced the remaining three spots; Abbott for the road race, and the final two spots for the road race and the time trial went to Stevens and Armstrong. The road course in Rio is expected to suit strong climbers like Abbott, and Guarnier, too, because it is hilly with a nine-kilometre climb near the end. The time trial course is also challenging.

Armstrong earned her place based on her past experience and success in three Olympic Games, and as a two-time Olympic gold medallist in the time trial from 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London. She is also a former two-time world champion in the discipline.

Some expressed outrage over the decision to exclude Small from the team, as she displayed an impeccable, winning performance in the time trial at the US nationals in May in Winston-Salem. A bronze medallist at the world championships in 2013, she established herself as a prime contender for Olympic selection by winning the national event by 23 seconds over Amber Neben (BePink).

Armstrong, who came out of retirement this year with her eye on winning a third gold medal in Rio, was a distant third at 1:08 behind Small, and Stevens finished in sixth, two minutes back.

Armstrong stated following the time trial that she was affected by the hot weather conditions that day, but she expressed optimism about her chances of making the Olympic team. The week before the national championships, she placed second overall at the Women’s WorldTour’s Amgen Tour of California.

In a press release from Twenty16-Ridebiker, Armstrong said, "I am honored to be representing Team USA at my fourth Olympic Games. I feel prepared and am really looking forward to the challenging time trial course that Rio has on tap.

“We have a very strong road team and feel confident that Team USA can put our stamp on this event. Thank you to all of my TWENTY16 Ridebiker sponsors and teammates and to my Boise, Idaho supporters, this is really a team effort and I will proudly represent."

Armstrong will next race with her trade team at the Boise Twilight in Idaho and UCI stage race Cascade Classic in Bend Oregon as preparation for their Olympic races. 

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Kirsten Frattini
Women's Editor

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.