Kristin Armstrong will have an opportunity to chase her third consecutive time trial gold medal in Rio, perhaps the final chapter in a decorated cycling career spanning four Olympics and two brief retirements.
Armstrong was chosen for the U.S. Olympic roster Thursday, joining a powerhouse women’s road team that includes world bronze medalist Megan Guarnier, Evie Stevens and Mara Abbott. However, it doesn’t include reigning national time trial champion Carmen Small of Durango.
“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 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 contesting 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 WorldTour 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.”
Taylor Phinney and Brent Bookwalter were chosen to compete in the men’s road race and time trial.
Phinney was fourth in both disciplines at the London 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 – his teammate on the BMC Racing trade team – believes the three-time Olympian is almost back.
“Taylor has made it look easy, the genetic phenom he is,” Bookwalter said. “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.”
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 in October.
Van Garderen will instead join Rohan Dennis in leading the BMC team at the Tour de France, which begins next weekend. Bookwalter will support them, but Phinney was left off the squad and should be rested for Rio.
Howard Grotts landed the lone U.S. men’s mountain bike spot ahead of Stephen Ettinger and Russ Finsterwald, while 2012 Olympian Lea Davison and Chloe Woodruff were awarded women’s spots.
Their selections came 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.
The U.S. track team was announced in March: Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert, Sarah Hammer, Jennifer Valente and Ruth Winder will contest the women’s team pursuit with Hammer also riding the omnium; Matt Baranoski will race the keirin; and Bobby Lea was chosen for the men’s omnium.
“I do think we’re one to be scared of,” said Dygert, who helped the pursuit squad set a world record earlier this year. “But we can’t go in there thinking we have this down. Every team is working just as hard. We have to go in there as prepared or more prepared than we were for London.”