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Riders drove hard out of the start vying for position before the course narrowed — world road champ Peter Sagan worked his way into the front few riders in a matter of minutes. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comClouds over Rio served as a reminder of heavy overnight rains that made for a slick course. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comAfter the battle for positions at the start, the race began to sort itself out. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comFavorites Nino Schurter and Jaroslav Kulhavy found themselves at the front before long. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Sagan got off to a hot start, but a puncture derailed his medal hopes. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comGuam’s Peter Lombard took a nasty fall on one of the more technical sections of the course. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comJulien Absalon, in his farewell Olympic ride, couldn’t quite hang on with the leader’s, though he did deliver a top 10 performance when all was said and done. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comSchurter, a bronze medalist in 2008 and silver medalist in 2012, pulled away in the final lap to seal his first ever Olympic gold. Kulhavy finished as runner-up. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
The Swiss rider was understandably excited. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comCarlos Coloma was pumped to nab a bronze medal. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comExcitement turned to overwhelming emotion for the third-placed Spaniard on the podium. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comSchurter, Kulhavy, and Coloma comprised the men’s mountain bike podium after six laps on a tough course in Rio. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Read the full article at Gallery: Schurter nabs Olympic MTB title in Rio on VeloNews.com.

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29 riders contested the women’s cross-country mountain bike race at the Rio Olympics Saturday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comSwitzerland’s Linda Indergand jumped out to an early lead. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comIndergand held on out front for a little while before being reeled in. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comPauline Ferrand-Prevot of France crashed near the midway point and then abandoned the race. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
22-year-old Jenny Rissveds powered clear of the field near the end of the fourth of five laps. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comRissveds built up a sizable advantage before rolling into the final straightaway, where she celebrated his success with fans along the barriers. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comRissveds claimed the victory, 37 seconds ahead of second-placed Maja Wloszczowska. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comRissveds couldn’t quite believe what she’d just accomplished. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Wloszczowska claimed her second career silver medal — she was runner-up in Beijing in 2008 as well. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.comRissveds, Wloszczowska, and Canada’s Katharine Pendrel stood atop the final podium. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Read the full article at Rio Gallery: Rissveds claims Olympic women’s MTB title on VeloNews.com.

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado (VN) — It is late May … Do you know where your national cyclocross champion is?

Stephen Hyde, the two-time defending U.S. ‘cross champion, has spent this month riding and racing mountain bikes across the western U.S. in preparation for the next chapter in his pro cycling career. Hyde, 31, wants to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in cross-country mountain biking for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I said, ‘Hey I don’t want to miss the opportunity to do something with mountain biking,’” Hyde told VeloNews at the Grand Junction Off-Road Saturday. “It was my dream, it was what I wanted to do, and I have the opportunity to do that so I really want to push that.”

Hyde’s 2018 mountain bike campaign began May 4-5 with modest results at Utah’s Soldier Hollow ProXCT race, where he finished seventh in the short track and 14th in the cross-country. Hyde then finished 24th at Sunday’s second round of the Epic Rides Series, held in Grand Junction. Two days earlier, he won the short track.

Hyde’s off-road campaign includes 13 mountain bike races this season, culminating with the Mont Sainte-Anne World Cup, August 11-12. It is Hyde’s first foray into mountain biking’s pinnacle series, and will likely show him how far he needs to improve in order to compete against the world’s best.

“Next year if [Mont Sainte-Anne 2018] works out, we’ll go for the whole World Cup series, taking the first World Cup in South Africa on after ‘cross worlds,” he said.

To transform from North America’s male ‘cross racer of reference into an Olympic hopeful, Hyde said he’ll need to become more accustomed to the longer races. A typical World Cup cross-country race is anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes longer than a typical cyclocross effort. It’s not an impossible transformation: Belgian star Sven Nys competed in mountain biking at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.

“He has the power for sure,” said 2016 Olympian Howard Grotts (Specialized). “It’s just the different levels of intensity, going flat-out between every corner, kind of off and on the bike [in cyclocross] is a little different than doing two- to four-minute climbs and then techy descents [in XC mountain biking].”

Hyde has already begun working with his coach and physiologist to dial in his training for mountain bike racing. The challenge they face is to prepare Hyde for longer races without hampering his cyclocross abilities.

“What’s our minimum effective dose of doing this and but also being good for ‘cross, because I don’t want to limit myself in ‘cross,” Hyde said. “I don’t want to take anything away from [cyclocross] until I have to.”

Hyde has also spent plenty of time refining his technical skills on the mountain bike. Grotts believes Hyde is already well-equipped to shred the trails.

“Riding with him [in Grand Junction], he’s very technically proficient,” Grotts said. “He’s not lacking at all — ‘cross prepares you really well for that.” Hyde’s eighth-place result at 2017 mountain bike nationals seems to back that up.

Stephen Hyde was an unfamiliar face in the start grid at the Grand Junction Off-Road, but he quickly made his presence known, winning the fat tire crit on Friday. Photo: Dave McElwaine

But making an Olympic team isn’t as simple as fine-tuning a training plan and riding a bunch of singletrack. USA Cycling has yet to confirm the final qualification standards for the Tokyo 2020 Games, but in past Olympic cycles, only a brilliant result, such as a podium at world championships, would guarantee a start. Otherwise, the governing body usually makes a discretionary selection to pick its Olympic rider. So, Hyde has to earn some big results in the next two years of mountain biking.

“It’s kind of an inopportune time to try, although we do have more riders at the World Cup, so hopefully we get more [start] spots. They’ve tightened it up; it’s going to be very difficult,” he said.

Grotts agrees that the odds aren’t good for the U.S. to get more than one start spot in the men’s cross-country race at the 2020 Games. The competition to make the Games should be as intense as ever.

“If we really got our act together and did everything right, I’d still say even then we’d have a 50-percent shot,” he said, explaining how difficult it is for American men to get the results needed to boost the country’s overall ranking, which leads to more start spots. “It’s just tough to be in the top-seven countries. We have to have three riders that are just crushing it for two years basically.”

Hyde said he’s started talking with current and retired pro mountain bikers, and the consensus is that he shouldn’t buy his flight to Tokyo just yet. However, he trusts his group of friends and confidants that have steered him into his successful career as a pro cyclocross racer. So far, the team thinks he is on track.

“I trust their opinions, I trust that they’re going to tell me, ‘Hey Hyde you’re full of it, it’s not going to happen,’” he said. “I just feel like the people around me that I really, really trust aren’t going to let me waste my time.”

And Grotts, although he’s just starting to get to know Hyde as a fellow competitor, agrees that the ‘cross champ has a chance.

“It’s a little different sport, but if anyone can do it, I think Stephen could pull that off,” Grotts said.

Read the full article at Cyclocross champ Hyde chasing Olympic MTB dream on VeloNews.com.

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This weekend’s Rio mountain bike races will look quite different from the epic loops, long climbs, and natural singletrack many racers know and love. Elite cross-country racing is not what it used to be, and some pin the blame on the Olympics for giving road racing’s dirtbag brother a tight-cropped haircut, forcing it into a format that’s shorter and less organic.

Has any Olympic sport evolved as much as mountain biking in the last 20 years? It seems unlikely. Tinker still has his dreads, but the Olympic-format XC race courses are now blazing-fast 6km laps (Atlanta was 10.6km), which are much more spectator-friendly. But the change has led to a bit of an existential crisis for some riders and fans.

“Now it’s kind of a long BMX race. Just explosive with a lot of technical stuff,” says Tinker Juarez, who raced in the Atlanta Games. “It’s good or bad. Maybe good for the spectators; it’s a harder chance for riders that have true power and everything to not show their real abilities.”

The shorter format is the World Cup standard as well, and according to Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, 2004 Olympian, that’s a good thing. “World Cup cross-country racing is experiencing a lot of success. They’ve honed in on something that’s a good strategy. It’s fun to watch.” But does a spectator-friendly course lead to a better experience for the average rider? Based on the dwindling MTB participation numbers in traditional XC and a comparison between the NORBA NCS of yesteryear and today’s ProXCT, probably not.

“I think traditional cross-country has really been suffering in the last few years in the U.S. but there’s definitely some events that have managed to have great participation,” says Georgia Gould, bronze medalist in 2012, referring to participant-centric but less spectator-friendly races, like Whiskey 50.

She does add that the tight format is important for mountain biking’s once-every-four-years chance to draw a broader audience. “The Olympics is the one event that we have in our niche sport where we can showcase ourselves to the world,” she says. “It’s important that the race looks cool and exciting.”

The good news is that, by standardizing a format for top-level XC, competitive mountain biking may have actually been given a better chance to blossom.

Even as recently as the 2004 Games, mountain biking looked more, well, mountain bike-y. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

But mountain bike racing’s new success won’t resemble the bacchanalia of six-figure sponsorships, media interest, and exponential growth of the 1990s. To go from the inaugural UCI worlds in Durango, Colorado to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in just six years was euphoric but also fleeting. ESPN and ESPN2 would regularly air major races, sometimes in primetime; the tear-out baseball cards in Sports Illustrated for Kids often included mountain bike stars of the era.

We can’t go back to that time, but we don’t need to. (And anyway, I don’t want to subject myself to grunge music once more.)

If XC’s modern permutation, a 90-minute dash around a glorified cyclocross course, is too quick for your tastes, you have options. The National Ultra Endurance series boasts 14 events this season, featuring some of the top 100-milers around the country, like the Shenandoah 100 in Virginia. Similarly, Epic Rides put up a massive $100,000 prize purse this year for its three-race series of middle-distance events, featuring the Whiskey 50 in Prescott, Arizona. Or for those who like it less “pedally,” there is the Big Mountain Enduro series, with six events across the Mountain West.

But don’t put that hardtail on eBay just yet. If USA Cycling’s eight-event Pro XCT (half of which are in California) won’t work for you, there are a number of cross-country hotbeds, even 20 years after Atlanta. The Wisconsin Off-Road Series (WORS), started in 1992 (take that, Olympics!), has 10 events that draw hundreds of riders each weekend throughout the summer.

Would we have such a dizzying array of enduros, stage races, or 100-milers to choose from if it wasn’t for the 1996 Games? It’s easy to imagine why riders and race organizers would seek out ways to branch out. Fortunately, the question, although inscrutable, is now moot. This off-road variety means we can watch exciting pro races and still have a great time when we tie on a number. Plus, we no longer have to ride 26″ wheels, rim brakes, 580mm-wide bars, or neon spandex (well, not usually).

Read the full article at The surprising influence Olympics had on mountain bike racing on VeloNews.com.

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado (VN) — It is late May … Do you know where your national cyclocross champion is?

Stephen Hyde, the two-time defending U.S. ‘cross champion, has spent this month riding and racing mountain bikes across the western U.S. in preparation for the next chapter in his pro cycling career. Hyde, 31, wants to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in cross-country mountain biking for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“I said, ‘Hey I don’t want to miss the opportunity to do something with mountain biking,’” Hyde told VeloNews at the Grand Junction Off-Road Saturday. “It was my dream, it was what I wanted to do, and I have the opportunity to do that so I really want to push that.”

Hyde’s 2018 mountain bike campaign began May 4-5 with modest results at Utah’s Soldier Hollow ProXCT race, where he finished seventh in the short track and 14th in the cross-country. Hyde then finished 24th at Sunday’s second round of the Epic Rides Series, held in Grand Junction. Two days earlier, he won the short track.

Hyde’s off-road campaign includes 13 mountain bike races this season, culminating with the Mont Sainte-Anne World Cup, August 11-12. It is Hyde’s first foray into mountain biking’s pinnacle series, and will likely show him how far he needs to improve in order to compete against the world’s best.

“Next year if [Mont Sainte-Anne 2018] works out, we’ll go for the whole World Cup series, taking the first World Cup in South Africa on after ‘cross worlds,” he said.

To transform from North America’s male ‘cross racer of reference into an Olympic hopeful, Hyde said he’ll need to become more accustomed to the longer races. A typical World Cup cross-country race is anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes longer than a typical cyclocross effort. It’s not an impossible transformation: Belgian star Sven Nys competed in mountain biking at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games.

“He has the power for sure,” said 2016 Olympian Howard Grotts (Specialized). “It’s just the different levels of intensity, going flat-out between every corner, kind of off and on the bike [in cyclocross] is a little different than doing two- to four-minute climbs and then techy descents [in XC mountain biking].”

Hyde has already begun working with his coach and physiologist to dial in his training for mountain bike racing. The challenge they face is to prepare Hyde for longer races without hampering his cyclocross abilities.

“What’s our minimum effective dose of doing this and but also being good for ‘cross, because I don’t want to limit myself in ‘cross,” Hyde said. “I don’t want to take anything away from [cyclocross] until I have to.”

Hyde has also spent plenty of time refining his technical skills on the mountain bike. Grotts believes Hyde is already well-equipped to shred the trails.

“Riding with him [in Grand Junction], he’s very technically proficient,” Grotts said. “He’s not lacking at all — ‘cross prepares you really well for that.” Hyde’s eighth-place result at 2017 mountain bike nationals seems to back that up.

Stephen Hyde was an unfamiliar face in the start grid at the Grand Junction Off-Road, but he quickly made his presence known, winning the fat tire crit on Friday. Photo: Dave McElwaine

But making an Olympic team isn’t as simple as fine-tuning a training plan and riding a bunch of singletrack. USA Cycling has yet to confirm the final qualification standards for the Tokyo 2020 Games, but in past Olympic cycles, only a brilliant result, such as a podium at world championships, would guarantee a start. Otherwise, the governing body usually makes a discretionary selection to pick its Olympic rider. So, Hyde has to earn some big results in the next two years of mountain biking.

“It’s kind of an inopportune time to try, although we do have more riders at the World Cup, so hopefully we get more [start] spots. They’ve tightened it up; it’s going to be very difficult,” he said.

Grotts agrees that the odds aren’t good for the U.S. to get more than one start spot in the men’s cross-country race at the 2020 Games. The competition to make the Games should be as intense as ever.

“If we really got our act together and did everything right, I’d still say even then we’d have a 50-percent shot,” he said, explaining how difficult it is for American men to get the results needed to boost the country’s overall ranking, which leads to more start spots. “It’s just tough to be in the top-seven countries. We have to have three riders that are just crushing it for two years basically.”

Hyde said he’s started talking with current and retired pro mountain bikers, and the consensus is that he shouldn’t buy his flight to Tokyo just yet. However, he trusts his group of friends and confidants that have steered him into his successful career as a pro cyclocross racer. So far, the team thinks he is on track.

“I trust their opinions, I trust that they’re going to tell me, ‘Hey Hyde you’re full of it, it’s not going to happen,’” he said. “I just feel like the people around me that I really, really trust aren’t going to let me waste my time.”

And Grotts, although he’s just starting to get to know Hyde as a fellow competitor, agrees that the ‘cross champ has a chance.

“It’s a little different sport, but if anyone can do it, I think Stephen could pull that off,” Grotts said.

Read the full article at Cyclocross champ Hyde chasing Olympic MTB dream on VeloNews.com.

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American cyclists left the 2016 summer games in Rio de Janeiro with five Olympic medals, tying the country’s second-best hardware count since its nine-medal haul in 1984.

The success caught the attention of the United States Olympic Committee, which has agreed to boost USAC’s funding every year between now and the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Now, USA Cycling has an ambitious plan to transform the extra cash — approximately $1 million in total increased funding each year — into an even greater medal count in 2020.

“Seven medals is the goal in Tokyo,” says Derek Bouchard-Hall, USA Cycling’s CEO. “We’ve studied what we should go after, and we will focus on athletes that are on a trajectory to win medals.”

The plan calls for a restructuring of USA Cycling’s athletics department, including the hiring of new coaches and executives. USA Cycling will also revise its selection process for choosing athletes for both world championship and Olympic events. Finally, USA Cycling will increase focus on the events where the country has traditionally won the most medals: BMX racing and women’s road and track cycling.

“We’re really good at BMX and women’s cycling, and we want to stay really good at those,” Bouchard-Hall says. “Some of our best athletes retired after Rio, and we need to refresh those talent pools.”

IN THE FALL OF 2016 USA Cycling officials went before the USOC to present a budget increase for the four-year run-up to Tokyo. Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s vice president of athletics, asked for the USOC to increase its funding by $500,000 each year, which would then be matched by a grant from USA Cycling’s development foundation. The total $1 million would be earmarked for USA Cycling’s Olympic development programs.

The presentation emphasized America’s recent success at the Rio games, where Kristin Armstrong and BMX racer Connor Fields won gold, and track star Sarah Hammer, BMX racer Alise Post, and the women’s team pursuit squad won silver. Furthermore, the country narrowly missed out on medals in the women’s road race (Mara Abbott) and men’s BMX (Nicholas Long). The USOC agreed to the plan.

“The timing was right,” Bouchard-Hall says. “Not too many national governing bodies got five medals and two fourth-place finishes.”

USOC representatives did not return requests for comment, however the group’s decision to boost USA Cycling’s spending is consistent with its policy to reward medal-favorite sports with cash. According to a recent story in The Sports Business Journal, which referenced the USOC’s 2016 tax filing, the USOC gave the biggest funding bumps in 2016 to medal favorites such as track and field, gymnastics, and cycling, while less successful sports such as shooting, sailing, and water polo saw their funding cut.

The million-dollar infusion will boost USA Cycling’s spending on its high-performance programs to between $4-5 million each year for 2017-2020. Bouchard-Hall believes the increase in cash will allow USA Cycling to move beyond its previous budget-conscious approach to high performance.

“In the past we wanted to have a greater complement of world-class coaches and staff, but it was too expensive,” Bouchard-Hall says. “By virtue of resources, we’ve had to operate by the seat of our pants with very limited people resources.”

In years past USA Cycling has struggled with team selection for world championships and the Olympics. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

IN RECENT YEARS USA Cycling faced repeated legal challenges from athletes who were not picked for the UCI World Championships and Olympic games. In 2016 alone three athletes arbitrated against USA Cycling for its discretionary choice of three roster spots on the Olympic women’s road race team. The challenges were all unsuccessful.

Currently, the organization posts its automatic selection criteria to athletes. For spots that are not automatically earned, a panel of nine retired riders chooses the remaining roster. The discretionary method often leaves the door open for challenges.

“Inevitably, because it’s a selection, somebody’s feelings are going to get hurt,” Miller said in a 2016 interview. “If you ask five people for their opinion on selection, you get five good arguments.”

USA Cycling’s restructuring will likely change the process and criteria by which it makes those selections, Bouchard-Hall says. For 2017 the organization has hired Steve Roush, the USOC’s former chief of sports performance, to help develop a new way to choose teams. Roush should deliver his final report to the organization in the early fall, and Bouchard-Hall believes USA Cycling could see a shakeup to its selection criteria even before this fall’s road world championships in Norway.

There are multiple ideas on the table, including one-day Olympic trials for the men’s and women’s road race, Bouchard-Hall says. He also believes USA Cycling will change the composition of who sits on the discretionary committees. The organization will also improve its communication with athletes who are in the running for these spots.

“Some of those arbitrations could have been avoided with better management and better communication,” Bouchard-Hall says. “We have more talented athletes than we have spots for on these teams. It’s a quality problem, but it’s still a problem.”

USA CYCLING’S FIRST STEP is to reorganize its athletics department, which oversees elite athlete development as well as the administrative efforts around team selection, fundraising, corporate partnerships, and athlete contracts. Each year, approximately 400 elite racers across road, track, mountain bike, cyclocross, and BMX fall under this wing of the organization. In the past, Miller sat atop this pyramid of coaches and administrators.

The new plan calls for a split at the top; Miller will continue to oversee the coaching and athlete development wing, while new Vice President of Elite Athletics Scott Schnitzspahn will oversee fundraising, administrative work, and corporate partnerships. Schnitzspahn, 44, joins USA Cycling after working with the USOC as a high performance director.

Underneath Miller, USA Cycling will also hire an undetermined number of new coaches that will work with specific pools of between eight and 12 riders. In the past, USA Cycling hired coaches to oversee specific national teams, such as the U23 road development squad or the women’s sprint track team, for example. The first of these hires, Gary Sutton, was added to USA Cycling in August. Sutton will oversee USA Cycling’s new endurance track program. USA Cycling also hired Kristin Armstrong in late August to work with its endurance riders.

Bouchard-Hall believes this structure focused coaching only on star athletes, rather than on athletes who actually needed coaches.

USA Cycling will maintain its national team structure, however the new coaches will target athletes that require additional training help. The first new coaches will focus specifically on women’s cycling.

With two medalists at the 2016 Olympics, USA Cycling will focus more on BMX. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Additionally, USA Cycling will earmark funds for elite or development athletes who lack the sponsor support to afford to attend international events, such as the Pan American Championships or the UCI World Championships. In many cases, female elite racers or development athletes pay their way to larger international competitions.

“A guy like Taylor [Phinney] already has access to amazing resources and coaching, but a female mountain biker, for example, may not,” Bouchard-Hall says. “We will have these high level coaches to help out with that.”

The influx of new coaches is indicative of USA Cycling’s greater focus on women’s cycling, which is where Bouchard-Hall believes Americans can win the most medals in Tokyo. Of the five Olympic medals won in Rio, female cyclists claimed four.

The renewed focus comes at an important time for American women’s cycling. In the last year Armstrong retired from competition, as did veterans Abbott and Evelyn Stevens. Subsequently, newcomers Ruth Winder, Chloé Dygert Owen, and Kelly Catlin have begun to rise within the sport.

There are other women in the development pipeline that Bouchard-Hall believes could benefit from the extra coaches, development camps, and international racing trips.

“America has structural advantages in women’s cycling,” he says. “When we look at the medals that could come in [Tokyo], it’s mostly going to come on the women’s side.”

Read the full article at USA Cycling’s plan to turn green into gold on VeloNews.com.

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The Madison is back, and BMX freestyle is in. The UCI confirmed that cycling will see two additional medal events for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The popular Madison event was removed from the Olympic program following the 2008 Games, and many have been pining for its return after it was not part of a revamped track Olympic program that was realigned to five medal events (team pursuit, omnium, sprint, keirin, and team sprint).

Its return gives an additional event for the endurance athletes without changing the athletes’ quota, which limits that he number athletes per sport in the Olympic Games. So that means teams will have to slot cyclists between endurance events to stay within the allotment for the two-rider Madison race. Women will race the Madison for the first time at the Olympic level (50km for men, 30km for women).

With the addition of BMX Freestyle — competed on ramps with transitions and obstacles — cycling now grows to 22 medal events across all disciplines, the third largest among Summer Olympic sports.

“The Madison will bring its long-established history and exciting format to the Games, while BMX Freestyle Park has great potential to open the event up to a whole new generation of athletes and fans,” said UCI president Brian Cookson. “In an increasingly competitive landscape for Olympic sport, it is important not only to see our overall quota remain unchanged, but to also welcome the award of four additional opportunities for medals in Olympic cycling disciplines.”

The UCI also confirmed that several quotas previously allocated to men athletes in mountain bike and BMX would be transferred to women, achieving full gender equity in both disciplines.

Read the full article at Madison back, BMX freestyle added to Olympic program on VeloNews.com.

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Next to the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, and even world championships, the Olympics may not have the same prestige for pro cyclists. But the Rio Games provided thrills for fans around every corner of the sinuous, hilly road race course, the tricky mountain bike track, and the velodrome. Here are seven of our favorite stories from the 2016 Olympics.

One Puerto Rican against the world Brian Babilonia is Puerto Rico’s first Olympic road race starter since 1996. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

Caley Fretz encountered Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the men’s Olympic road race, a man who was sure to arrive early so he could soak in the experience.

When Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde, and Vincenzo Nibali turn the screws on Vista Chinesa, Brian Babilonia will not be there. He will fight and claw at the peloton’s whipping tail, and he will lose. But he is here, now, standing on Rio’s coast with the same Tyvek number on his back as all the rest. His bike is five years old, his wheels are unbranded, his entourage can be counted by a man with no hands at all. But he is here.

Read more >>

Dan from Nam’ and the accidental time trial Dan Craven looked a bit different than the rest of the Olympics time trial starters, rolling down the ramp on a standard road bike, with no aero equipment. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Dan Craven skipped his post-race massage after the Olympics road race, because he was done racing. He started eating ice cream in the athletes village. He even took a few sips of beer. Then he got a call: A time trial slot has opened up, do you want it?

Read more >>

Oh Rio, Rio — the unbelievable Olympics men’s road race Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Maybe it’s hyperbole to call the Rio men’s road race the best race ever, but damn it was good. Yes, I see you in the back, about to cite an obscure stage from Volta a Catalunya or something — okay, let’s just say the Olympics were the best race of the season.

Read more >>

From Atlanta to Rio, Nash a living Olympics legend Although Katerina Nash didn’t get the result she wanted in London, she was boosted by her friend Georgia Gould’s bronze-medal ride. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Katerina Nash must have dreamed of the Olympics, growing up as a star athlete, attending a sports academy in the Czech Republic. But she probably didn’t picture her debut at the Summer Games. Here’s the story of a woman who has toed the line in 11 different Olympic races, both in the Summer and Winter Games.

Read more >>

Abbott agonizingly close to Olympics medal Mara Abbott took comfort from Kristin Armstrong after finishing fourth at the Olympic road race in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Caley Fretz

They were tidal, Mara Abbott’s eyes, glistening pools that dried out only in brief moments of distraction from the all-encompassing loss. She stood in front of the media and pulled herself together and answered questions until she couldn’t, and we couldn’t, anymore.

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Sagan’s nearly great escape Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The start list said it all in the men’s Olympics cross-country mountain bike race.

On the front line were the five-star favorites: Two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon, defending Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, and soon-to-be Olympic champion Nino Schurter, where they were supposed to be. In last place was uninvited party-crasher Peter Sagan, ranked 900th in a sport that he hadn’t competed in at the highest level since he won a world junior title seven years ago. Sagan was so far off the back, figuratively and literally, he was the lone rider in a line all by himself — start line number seven — behind riders from Guam, Rwanda, Hong Kong, and Lesotho. It was a fitting symbol of just how unlikely the race was going to be.

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Rio Notebook: Reconciling the Olympics bubble Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Caley Fretz

Caley Fretz was in Rio for two weeks. So what was it really like to witness this crazy international sports event taking place in one of the world’s most diverse and colorful cities?

Early each morning, I stepped out the front door of my Airbnb apartment and turned right, walking in the shade of drooping tropical trees past two doormen guarding gates, a high-end pastry shop, and a woman with her small child, asleep beneath a covered stoop on a thin mattress of wadded blankets. I walked one block then another toward Copacabana’s white sands and the big green sign that indicated a media shuttle stop, where I flashed my credential, stepped into a blue tour bus, and sat in plush, air-conditioned, Wi-Fi-enabled comfort as the driver pointed us down special Rio 2016 highway lanes, away from the woman and her child, past stacks of stalled traffic and bright hillside favelas. We sped through a developing city inside a first-world cocoon.

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Read the full article at The seven best stories from the 2016 Rio Olympics on VeloNews.com.

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The world’s best athletes make it all look so easy. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s nightmare season proves it’s anything but.

When Ferrand-Prévot abandoned the Olympic mountain bike race last Saturday it was one disappointment too many, the last letdown in a line of poor results dating back most of a year. This Frenchwoman who once seemed unbeatable, who took three world titles in a single year across three different disciplines, is now off the bike. She doesn’t know when she’ll get back on.

“The bike was what I liked most do, but it became my biggest nightmare,” she wrote on her social media accounts on Thursday.

Ferrand-Prévot’s troubles began last winter when she suffered a tibial plateau stress fracture that took her off the bike for weeks. She resumed training “too fast and too hard,” she said, ignoring the advice of her coach. She then moved to southern France for better training conditions, but was batted back by allergens in the new climate.

“After a few weeks of training I felt that I wasn’t myself, that the pedal strokes weren’t mine,” she said.

She abandoned early season races, took three weeks to undergo a round of antibiotics, and then underwent a round of corticosteroids. Under WADA rules, she had to take 10 days away from racing during the treatment.

The fracture and the allergies and subsequent treatment left Ferrand-Prévot on the back foot. Then sciatica, an old nemesis she had thought vanquished, returned.

“Impossible to exceed the 200 watts and it’s getting worse and worse,” she said. “Each workout is an ordeal. I can’t follow the plan, the intensity zones. I roll, but like a cyclo-tourist.”

Still, she had a few minor successes throughout the early sprint season. 11th at Strade Bianche showed she may be returning to form, and eighth at the Tour of Flanders confirmed she was still in the mix.

And despite the relatively poor showings, she was still selected for both the road race and mountain bike race and the Olympics. The races became the biggest deadline of her career, she said.

It was a deadline she would miss. 26th in the road race, a DNF in the mountain bike race. She pulled herself off her mountain bike in tears, avoided the media mixed zone.

“We really never caught up after all the delay, even being very serious,” she said. “These Olympics were the result of a lousy year.”

A lousy year made worse by the pressure of anticipation. Ferrand-Prévot was the next great, the next Marianne Vos. Nine months ago she was the favorite for Rio gold.

“Becoming world champion in three disciplines in one year may be the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she said. It’s easy to forget that a rider of such prodigious talent still needs a bit of luck. She still feels the weight of expectation, and is not immune to the pressure her own results generated.

“It’s hard to take in, since Saturday. Everyone gives his opinion, judges. But I wanted to explain myself,” she said of her social media post.

“I finish my season on abandonment. I don’t know when I’ll get back on a bike.”

Read the full article at A world champion’s nightmare on VeloNews.com.

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LONDON (AFP) — Four-time Olympic champion Laura Trott has expressed annoyance over the questions posed by rivals about British cyclists’ extraordinary performances at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Trott won two gold medals and her fiancé Jason Kenny claimed three golds as Team GB stormed to the top of the cycling medals table with six gold and 12 total medals.

Britain won nine medals at this year’s track world championships in London, having won only three silver medals at last year’s event in Paris, prompting rival cyclists to question their improvement.

But Trott, 24, told BBC radio: “I’m not angry as such, but it is a little bit annoying and frustrating because it is a lot of hard work that has gone into that performance.”

Australia’s Anna Meares and French sprint coach Laurent Gane both said the British cyclists’ success in Rio was hard to understand.

Germany’s Kristina Vogel called it “questionable.”

Trott added: “British Cycling has always been very much an Olympics-based program, so for us it wasn’t about clearing up at the world championships.

“Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice because they were in London, but it’s always been around the Olympics. That’s what our funding is pushed towards, that’s where they spend our UK Sport money.

“If we’d come away and under-performed at the Olympics, we’d have been gutted if we’d cleaned up at London because it would have meant we’d have peaked at the wrong time. I think what a lot of other nations don’t know, and what they don’t see, is the fact that it doesn’t really matter about the world championships. It’s all about the Olympics.”

Trott’s four Olympic gold medals make her Great Britain’s most successful female Olympian.

Read the full article at Four-time gold medalist irked by Britain’s Rio skeptics on VeloNews.com.

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