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Kristen Faulkner files legal challenge to USA Cycling’s Olympic women’s road selection

U.S. rider Kristen Faulkner has filed a legal challenge to USA Cycling's selections for the Olympic women's road race.

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U.S. rider Kristen Faulkner has filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to challenge USA Cycling’s selection of the women’s road team for the upcoming 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.

The complaint, under Section 9 of the USOPC bylaws, includes a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association.

VeloNews was able to see details of the documents filed with the USOPC, and Faulker confirmed her challenge in a call.

“At the end of the day I just want a fair system,” she told VeloNews. “I want a fair process that is transparent.”

A representative from USA Cycling declined to comment.

Faulkner, who races for Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank, was one of 10 women selected to the Olympic long team for the road race in Tokyo, and her rapid rise through the sport spoke to future international success. Faulkner began her professional cycling career in 2020, and that season she won a stage at France’s Tour de l’Ardeche, and was 11th overall at De Brabantse Pijl. In 2021 Faulkner’s progression in UCI Women’s WorldTour racing continued, and she was the highest-placed American rider at Gent-Wevelgem (7th) and the Tour of Flanders (10th).

Faulkner is the highest American woman in the current 2021 UCI Women’s WorldTour rankings at 20th place. She was the third ranked woman in the UCI World rankings as of May 25.

USA Cycling’s Olympic decisions have come under legal scrutiny in the past. In 2016 riders Amber Neben and Carmen Small both filed arbitration suits against USA Cycling regarding the selection of the U.S. women’s road team.

On June 10 USA Cycling announced its lineup for Tokyo, and Faulkner was not on the list of chosen athletes. Chloé Dygert, Ruth Winder, Coryn Rivera, and Leah Thomas were chosen to participate in the women’s road race, and Amber Neben was chosen for the individual time trial.

On May 28 USA Cycling held a media call with Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s head of sports performance, and Jeff Pierce, USA Cycling’s director of athletics, to discuss the selection criteria and the selection process.

“The objective is to maximize Team USA’s medal objectives,” Pierce said. “We’re going there to win medals and to perform.”

USA Cycling has automatic criteria for all events — Dygert was the only rider to automatically qualify in the road race — and then criteria to help guide the committee charged with naming the remaining athletes to the team. According to USA Cycling’s criteria for the discretionary choices, the selection committee is to weigh three qualities when assessing each athlete: whether a rider is a medal-capable athlete; the athlete’s best-predicted finish; and whether the athlete is one who maximizes team performance.

In the call, both Miller and Pierce stressed the federation’s efforts to make the process transparent to athletes. Faulkner told VeloNews that she felt the process was lacking in transparency.