Carmen Small has ended an eight-month experiment with track cycling and the team pursuit, a project she saw as her best chance of riding in the Olympics next summer. She will instead attempt to make the Rio squad in the individual time trial or road race.
The Olympics aren’t worth being unhappy, Small told VeloNews on Tuesday, just days prior to finalizing a contract with Bigla Pro Cycling to return to road racing full time. The team officially announced Small’s signing Friday morning.
“It was a rough year doing it and it was just very up and down,” she said of her time with the U.S. national track program. “Plus, I missed the bike. I missed being outside, I miss the long rides, and I missed racing. I missed road racing a lot.
“I had to really ask myself, what was more important: going to the Olympics or being happy doing it? I would rather fail at going, not go, and be happy rather than go and be miserable the whole entire time.”
Small will return to European road racing within weeks, with a likely start at La Course on the Champs-Élysées in late July.
“This year when I got back into it, I realized how much better I felt doing it and the thought of team pursuit gave me anxiety just thinking about going to the team camps,” she said.
Small is already qualified for the world championships in Richmond. If she finishes in the top three in Richmond she’ll earn an automatic spot in the Olympics.
“That’s the goal right now,” she said. “I feel good enough about my chances that I think I could bring home a medal from Rio.”
Small, Evelyn Stevens, and recently un-retired Kristin Armstrong are the three favorites for the United States’ two Olympic time trial slots.
Small made headlines in mid-June when she entered the professional men’s race at the North Star Grand Prix. She successfully finished the five-day stage race, and came out of the week satisfied.
“Being a role model for these young girls is incredible,” she said after the race. “That’s something that you don’t think much as an elite athlete. You don’t think that you’re a hero of these young kids but you are and you don’t notice it until you are up there doing this kind of stuff so that was really an incredible experience.”