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Rodriguez possible replacement
By VeloNews Interactive
Five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has bowed out of this year’s Olympics in Athens according to a team spokesman. The announcement comes just two days after the 2000 bronze medalist was named to the five-rider team that will compete in Greece. Armstrong, who is currently racing at the Tour, said he wanted to spend the month of August with his three children.
Meanwhile, USA Cycling athletics director Steve Johnson said his organization has a short list of possible replacements that includes Floyd Landis, Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer and Freddy Rodriguez, and that a decision would be made in the next two weeks.
“We have some discretionary criteria that we’ll look at,” explained Johnson, adding that results in Europe will outweigh those from U.S. races, not a good omen for Horner who races almost exclusively on U.S. soil. “Our ultimate obligation is to pick the athlete that will best represent the U.S.”
Johnson said that the drop-dead deadline to submit the U.S. roster is July 21, four days before the end of the Tour in which Landis and Leipheimer are also competing. “The USOC is going to want it even earlier than that, so it may be more like July 15,” he added. Rodriguez, winner of the U.S. national title last June in Philadelphia, would seem like the logical choice. He’s won a stage at this year’s Giro d’Italia and is roundly considered America’s top sprinter. But the Acqua & Sapone rider came up short in his last chance to automatically qualify for the team, finishing fourth behind Jason McCartney at the Olympic trials in Redlands last month.
“We’ve got such a great international contingent right now,” said Johnson. “It’s not going to be an easy decision.”
George Hincapie, Bobby Julich and Tyler Hamilton are the U.S. Olympic team’s other three members.
In other Olympic team news, Johnson confirmed that by USAC’s math, cross-country pro Todd Wells has locked up an Olympic spot alongside Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, following Wells’ 10th-place finish at the World Cup in Calgary. Wells had been battling Jeremiah Bishop for the final place, and though Bishop was the top placed American in Calgary in ninth, he is too far behind Horgan-Kobelski in the UCI rankings, making the outcome of this weekend’s marathon world championships moot in terms of team selection.
That is not the case for the U.S. women, though. While Mary McConneloug has a slight advantage over Sue Haywood for the lone start spot, Haywood could turn that around at the marathon race in Austria on Sunday, which carries 200 UCI points for the win.
VeloNews technical editor Andrew Juskaitis will be in Austria covering what will essentially be a five-hour Olympic trials race between McConneloug and Haywood. Check back to VeloNews.com on Sunday afternoon for a full report.