Colorado cyclists on U.S. Olympic Team
The Aspen Times
Colorado cyclists will represent the United States at the Rio Olympic Games, competing in virtually every Olympic discipline.
USA Cycling announced the final roster for the Olympic Games on Thursday, bestowing the red, white and blue racing kits to road cyclists, track cyclists and mountain bikers.
Many of the Olympic cyclists, including the Colorado riders, have raced in Aspen in recent years.
Boulder native Taylor Phinney was named to the U.S. men’s team for the time trial and the road race.
Fellow Boulder cyclist Mara Abbott, who has dominated the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico in recent years, was selected to the women’s road racing team.
Durango’s Howard Grotts secured the lone men’s mountain biking spot for the U.S. team.
And Sarah Hammer of Colorado Springs, who has frequently trained in Aspen, will be on the women’s track tream at Rio.
Phinney will have U.S. teammate (and BMC pro teammate) Brent Bookwalter of Asheville, North Carolina, alongside for the road race at Rio.
A veteran of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, Phinney visited Aspen last summer on a five-day, Boulder-to-Moab fun bike training ride with fellow pro cyclist Lachlan Morton.
Phinney is the son of two Olympians and is a Boulder High School graduate. His parents are Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney, both former Olympic cyclists.
Bookwalter, originally from Albuquerque, attended Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, helping the team win seven national collegiate titles. The 32-year-old won a stage of the USA Pro Challenge last summer as did Phinney.
Phinney finished fourth in the time trial and road races at the London Olympic Games, but that was before a career-threatening crash at the U.S. road championships in 2014.
He’s been steadily working his way back to form, and Bookwalter believes the three-time Olympian is almost back.
“Taylor has made it look easy, the genetic phenom he is,” Bookwalter told the Associated Press. “I know his comeback hasn’t been without a lot of trials and challenges and he’s still experiencing them, getting back to his old self and original level. But it’s been impressive, racing alongside him.”
Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen was favored to land a spot on the team, but he withdrew his name from consideration because of the threat of the Zika virus.
His wife, Jessica, is due to give birth to the couple’s second child in October.
Van Garderen will instead join Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte in leading the BMC team at the Tour de France, which begins July 2.
Bookwalter will support them, but Phinney was left off the squad and should be rested for Rio.
Among the women, veteran Kristen Armstrong of Boise, Idaho, will have a chance to pursue her third consecutive Olympic gold medal.
The time trial specialist is back on the U.S. roster for Rio, joining a powerhouse women’s road team that includes world bronze medalist Megan Guarnier, Evie Stevens and Abbott.
Guarnier is from Queenbury, New York. Stevens is from San Francisco.
“I feel really prepared and am really looking forward to the challenging time trial course,” said Armstrong, who will turn 43 the day after the Aug. 10 race through the beach area of Pontal. “We have a very strong road team, and I feel confident that Team USA can put our stamp on this event.”
Armstrong stepped away from the sport after winning gold in London, but announced another comeback in time for last year’s world championships in Richmond, Virginia.
She was a disappointing fifth when a podium spot would have guaranteed her spot in Rio, leaving her fate in the hands of USA Cycling’s selection committee.
They decided her medal capability, along with strong performances this year, warranted a spot ahead of rising star Coryn Rivera, sprint specialist Shelley Olds and U.S. time trial champion Carmen Small.
“We do this every Olympics, I think, where you leave someone home or off the TT team capable of challenging. That’s not new,” said Jim Miller, vice president of athletics for USA Cycling and the architect behind the national team. “It just shows you how deep the talent pool is for the women’s team.”
Stevens, the world hour record-holder, will join Armstrong in racing the time trial, while Guarnier will be the captain in a hilly road race that could be among the toughest in Olympic history.
After her podium finish in Richmond, Guarnier has backed up her medal capability with an overall victory at the Tour of California and another U.S. road title. She also leads the Women’s World Tour rankings.
“We can race any number of tactics and expect an outcome,” Miller said. “It gives us a chance to dictate what we want to dictate, but it also gives us the flexibility to adapt to changing tactics.”
Abbott was named to the team as a masterful climber and a six-time winner of the fabled Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Road Race from Durango to Silverton.
Grotts, who has trained in Durango under three-time Olympican Todd Wells, will be the lone U.S. mountain biker in the cross country race.
Lea Davison, a 2012 Olympian, and Chloe Woodruff were named to the U.S. women’s mountain bike team for Rio.
Their selections come a week before the trio competes at the world championships in the Czech Republic.
Connor Fields joined automatic selections Corben Sharrah and Nic Long on the men’s BMX team, and Brooke Crain was chosen to join world bronze medalist Alise Post on the women’s BMX squad.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.