KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The cycling team the United States is taking to the Tokyo Olympics is a little different than it would have taken 12 months ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to postpone the Summer Games for one year.
In many ways it’s much stronger.
Among the team members announced Thursday are mountain biker Haley Batten, who has reached the podium in each of the first two World Cup races of the season; Megan Jastrab, the 19-year-old track cycling prodigy who will be part of the favorite women’s pursuit team for the gold medal and who will also compete in the Madison; and Brandon McNulty, the 23-year-old time trial star.
There’s a chance no one was on the squad a year ago, but additional competition and development has given them the chance to join what could be the deepest U.S.-led team in the world. Olympic Games for decades.
“They’re a very good team, to be honest,” Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s athletic performance manager, told The Associated Press in a broad interview. “We qualified a good number of spots, a good group of competing athletes. I think in most cases the gap year was good for us. It gave us a little more time to prepare. . “
Miller guided the national team to 14 Olympic medals in 17 years before leaving USA Cycling two years ago to work for a private training company. But as part of a massive overhaul under the leadership of new chief executive Rob DeMartini, he agreed to return last March and guide the U.S. team in their final preparations for Tokyo.
This four-month sprint to the Summer Games resulted in an accumulation of a year and more.
“It gave me more time to prepare,” Miller said. “When I got there I was watching a few months and we were out of here. We were just going to ‘do what we brought in.’ But that extra year gave us more time to prepare and prepare and put projects in place. more in our assets and in the teams and all that we were able to accomplish. “
It also ensured runners like Batten and Jastrab made sure they would be part of the squad.
Batten recently won the short course and finished second in the cross country race at the Mountain Bike World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. This performance followed a third place finish in the race in Albstadt, Germany.
She will be joined in the three-member women’s mountain bike team by Chloe Woodruff, who finished 14th at the Games in Rio de Janeiro, and Kate Courtney, the 2018 world champion whose overall World Cup victory. two years ago locked his place on the team.
Christopher Blevins, a former under-23 world silver medalist, will be the only male mountain biker.
Jastrab will provide depth to the much-loved women’s pursuit team, which won the 2020 world title with Chloe Dygert, Jennifer Valente, Emma White and Lily Williams – all of whom will race in Tokyo. Jastrab and Valente will also team up in Madison, Valente will ride the multidisciplinary omnium and Maddie Godby will compete in keirin and sprint.
On the men’s side, Gavin Hoover will step onto the omnium while teaming up with Adrian Hegyvary for the Madison.
Dygert, who was seriously injured in an accident last fall, will be busy for the three weeks in Tokyo. The 2019 time trial world champion will join Amber Neben in the time trial, and the two will join Ruth Winder, Coryn Rivera and Leah Thomas as the Americans try to upset the favored Dutch women in the women’s road race. .
McNulty will join Lawson Craddock in the men’s road race and time trial.
In BMX, Connor Fields will try to defend his Olympic title while Corben Sharrah – the 2017 world champion – offers the Americans another contender for the medal. The women’s squad is led by Rio silver medalist Alise Willoughby and includes 19-year-old Payton Ridenour and four-time junior world champion Felicia Stancil.
New to the Olympics this year is freestyle BMX, where American women and men are ranked No. 1 in the world.
Hannah Roberts was among the first riders to qualify for the Tokyo Games when she won her second world title in three years in 2019. The rider who interrupted her streak? Perris Benegas, who will also compete for the United States in Tokyo.
Nick Bruce and Justin Dowell, both of the top five in the world, will represent the men’s team.
“We’re a strong team,” Miller said, “but the big wild card is that we haven’t raced. We’re not that far away from Fall 21, so for the most part, almost all disciplines with the to With the exception of the men’s route, we haven’t raced a lot in two years, so we’ll have to see, but we think we’re bringing a really good team to Tokyo.