By Fred Dreier
Santa Barbara, California’s Adam Duvendeck turned heads with his eighth-place finish in the men’s sprint at the Los Angeles round of the World Cup, held January 17-20 in Carson City, California. The result stood as the top finish by an American male sprinter throughout the entire meet, and set the 26-year-old Duvendeck up as a strong candidate to represent the United States at the Beijing Games.
A five-time national champion, Duvendeck went to the 2004 games in Athens. Currently he is one of three American male sprinters aiming for the 2008 games, along with Giddeon Massie and Michael Blatchford. But how many spots the United States earns for the games has yet to be determined. The United States opted not to field a team for the three-man Team Sprint in 2007-08, a decision which will likely affect the number of Olympic spots.
“You have to be a top-10 team sprint team and then you’re able to take two riders,” Duvendeck said. “It makes it a little more difficult for us.”
The three must now try and earn the United States a sprinter’s spot for the games based on performances at World Cup races and the world championships. The United States’ nation ranking after those races will be the factor that decides if it receives sprinter spots for Beijing.
USA Cycling’s decision not to field a men’s team sprint is in-line with the national track program’s recent shift in focus. Instead of spending money to fill every event, the program is focusing its efforts on athletes who have realistic chances at medaling. Since Marty Nothstein’s gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in the Match Sprint, the United States’s sprint program has gradually dwindled in international clout.
“In the past we would qualify enough riders for every bike race, so we would bring enough athletes to fill every bike race, even though we’d bring people that everybody knew weren’t going to be competitive,” said USA Cycling’s track director Pat McDonough. “They were just in the cabin filling up space. That’s expensive.”
The governing body’s other move was to end the long-standing resident sprinter program at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Duvendeck was part of that program from 2000-2002, but admitted that his performance improved once he left.
“I moved back to Santa Barbara and worked with my old coach Rory O’Reilly, and I found I worked better away from the program,” Duvendeck said. “I think that was something we saw across the board — even Marty and Erin Hartwell weren’t that involved in the training program.”
Duvendeck retired from racing following the 2004 Olympics but returned in 2006. Like many track sprinters, he found life more challenging than his endurance brethren, who can find paying jobs on professional road racing teams. With dwindling support from USA Cycling, Duvendeck and his Canadian training partner Travis Smith decided to find their own sponsors and start a team.
The UCI now allows riders to enter World Cup races as part of trade teams. After the 2006 USA track national championships, Duvendeck hit the road searching for sponsors. He found gear, bodywork and nutrition sponsorship, and a primary cash donor from Dr. Howard Marans, an orthopedic surgeon in Irvine, California.
The two launched the Momentum Cycling team in early 2007 with four team members — Smith, Duvendeck, American Olympian Jennie Reed and Josiah Ng of Malaysia. Duvendeck, Reed and visiting Massie live at the team’s house in Long Beach, a short drive from the ADT Events Center velodrome in nearby Carson.
“Momentum has become our insurance policy. USA Cycling has their objectives when it comes to selecting athletes to race,” Duvendeck said. “I was selected to ride [with the national team] at [the December 1-2] Sydney World Cup, but I wasn’t chosen for [the December 7-9] World Cup in Beijing. That was an important race for me to go to, so I went with Momentum. It’s been a way for me to take control of my own destiny.”
Right now Duvendeck hopes that destiny involves a plane ticket to China.
You can read more about the Momentum Cycling team in upcoming issues of VeloNews.