COLORADO SPRINGS (VN) — USA Cycling gave Olympic hopefuls an early Christmas present Wednesday, detailing a new National Team program that will infuse $1 million annually into their preparation for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
After winning five medals at the Rio Olympics, USA Cycling (USAC) wants to take home seven medals at the next Games. “It’s our man on the moon, these seven medals,” said USAC CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall.
To support its athletes in this goal, USAC sought additional funding from the US Olympic Committee (USOC) to fund a new high-performance national team program. The USOC saw potential and committed $500,000 per year through 2020. USA Cycling’s Foundation matched that amount to bring the total up to $1 million.
Riders qualify for the program with specific results, such as a top-10 at world championships or a national championship win. The national team will support athletes in all cycling disciplines, even those outside the Olympics: road, track, BMX, cyclocross, as well as cross-country and downhill mountain bike. However, cyclocross and downhill mountain bike athletes will not receive cash stipends.
“We are introducing the National Team now to help our Olympic and world championship contenders achieve their absolute best, clarify for all elite athletes how to attain USA Cycling’s top level of support, and create a clear path and goals for developing athletes that aspire to Olympic and international success,” Bouchard-Hall said.
Top performers in the Olympic disciplines (podium finishers at UCI world championships, top-three in the final UCI World Cup, or top-three overall in WorldTour) will be eligible for the “Gold” team, which offers a $25,000 per-person annual stipend. The next tier, “Silver,” affords a $12,500 stipend. “Bronze” will not offer a stipend but includes much of the same support as Gold and Silver, such as travel to events and the myriad performance resources found at USOC training centers.
The National Team will offer each athlete year-round support based on their level of accomplishment and be customized to their individual needs. While the performance standards are consistent across disciplines, there are unique criteria for each discipline and event that an athlete must achieve to be part of the National Team. Being a member of the National Team does not provide automatic access to world championships teams or the Olympics, as those opportunities must be earned according to a clearly defined selection process open to all athletes.
“At first I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, because I’ve raced with the [Team USA] and stayed in Sittard [at USA Cycling’s European base] and been to worlds,” said National Team member Neilson Powless, the U23 national champion and a member of the LottoNL-Jumbo squad for 2018. “But after coming here and understanding what it is all about, it goes way deeper than just being selected for Tour de l’Avenir or you hearing from the national team just at worlds time. It goes a lot deeper in the sense that they’re offering all these resources for us to use 24/7, year-round, which is going to be pretty amazing.”
To launch the national team, USAC named 51 cyclists — 14 BMX, four cyclocross, seven mountain bike, 14 road, and 14 track riders. Each rider works with an assigned performance director to utilize the resources of the National Team and the Olympic Training Center. Among the new performance directors to join USA Cycling is Kristin Armstrong, the three-time Olympic gold medalist in the time trial. She will serve as endurance performance director.
“It’s super beneficial for everybody in their own discipline, their own sport,” said Chloe Dygert, who won silver in the team pursuit on the track at Rio. “Especially having Kristin Armstrong three-time Olympic gold medalist. She knows what it’s like to be in the Olympic for those who haven’t been. It’s really great to have that help and that support.”
In launching the program USA Cycling has outlined clear athlete development pathways for BMX, cyclocross, mountain bike, road, and track cycling to help athletes of all abilities and at any point in their career understand the process and expectations.
“This is a dynamic, performance-based process, and additional athletes can earn their way onto the National Team with their performance,” said vice president of high performance Jim Miller. “Conversely, those athletes named today will have to keep earning the privilege to remain a member of this elite team.”
2018 USA Cycling National Team
Tejay van Garderen