Kristin Armstrong, Taylor Phinney named to Olympic cycling team
Taylor Phinney was admittedly heartbroken when the individual pursuit, his signature event on the track, was scrapped from the cycling program for the London Olympics.
Rather than rue the decision, though, Phinney turned his attention to his road career.
He won a national time trial championship in 2010, joined the powerhouse BMC Racing Team that carried Cadel Evans to the yellow jersey in the Tour de France last summer, and then took the opening time trial at this year's Giro d'Italia before hanging onto the pink jersey two more days.
Perhaps more than anything, it was that performance in Italy last month that wrapped up the 21-year-old Phinney's spot in the Olympic time trial and road race. He was among 21 riders picked by USA Cycling on Friday for the team heading to the London Games next month.
The road, track and mountain biking teams are set. The remaining three riders on the 24-rider squad will be decided Saturday, when the BMX trials are held in Chula Vista, Calif.
"It's been a stressful last couple of days for me," Phinney told The Associated Press during a phone interview Friday. "I'm really honored and excited to have this opportunity."
Levi Leipheimer, the defending time trial bronze medalist, and five-time Olympian George Hincapie were the most notable names missing. Their absence comes only days after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed new doping charges against their former teammate, Lance Armstrong.
It was unclear whether the charges factored into the decision to omit either rider. USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson was not immediately available to comment.
Newly crowned road national champion Timmy Duggan, promising youngster Tejay van Garderen and sprinter Tyler Farrar made the team along with veteran rider Chris Horner.
Still, it was Phinney whose name immediately stood out among the selections.
The son of Olympic medalists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, Taylor had emerged as one of the best individual pursuit riders in the world, and would have been among the favorites in the event had the IOC not scrapped it when it overhauled the track cycling program.
Rather than switch his focus to another track event, Phinney moved exclusively to the road, where his performance last month in Italy showcased his immense potential.
"That definitely helped my chances for getting on the road squad, getting the full Grand Tour under my belt and that amount of racing in my legs," he said. "As for the time trial, I just had to make my case with the selectors."
Phinney's case may have been helped by the fact that he won't be riding the Tour de France, which concludes less than a week before the opening ceremonies in London.
"I have the whole month of July to really hone in on my position," Phinney said, "and what I need to do to be up there with the best and hopefully medal."
Kristin Armstrong will be trying to defend the time trial gold medal she won in Beijing after coming back from a brief retirement and the birth of her son, Lucas.
She has dominated just about every time trial that she has entered this year, but her spot on the team was thrown into question when she broke her collarbone during a crash May 24. Armstrong showed up a day later to cheer her teammates at the race in Idaho - along with sending a message.
"I did want to show USA Cycling, I wanted to show my competitors, and if the selection committee was watching, I wanted to show them," Armstrong told the AP. "It might take me out for a few days, but it's not going to keep me down."
Amber Neben will join Armstrong in contesting the time trial and road race, and Shelley Olds and Evelyn Stevens will also take part in the road race.
Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch, Jennie Reed and Lauren Tamayo make up the women's pursuit team, with Hammer also competing in the omnium. Hammer is a former individual pursuit world champion who switched to the multi-discipline omnium when her signature event was eliminated from the program.
Bobby Lea will ride the men's omnium and Jimmy Watkins the men's sprint.
Todd Wells and Samuel Schultz will compete in men's mountain biking over a course in Hadleigh Park, east of London. Georgia Gould qualified for the women's team by ranking in the top 10 in the World Cup standings, and will be joined by Lea Davison in the competition.
David Herman and Arielle Martin have already qualified for the BMX team by virtue of their No. 1 positions in USA Cycling's power rankings. One men's spot will be awarded to the winner of Saturday's trials, and the final men's and women's spots will be discretionary nominations.
"We have a strong team going to London with a solid combination of experience, leadership and young talented athletes who are all capable of standout performances," USA Cycling Vice President Jim Miller said in a statement. "Each member of the team is deserving, we're proud to welcome them as a part of Team USA and look forward to a promising Olympic Games."