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U.S. unveils final Olympic squads

USA Cycling has named the full Olympic squad for road, track, and mountain bike.

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USA Cycling has announced its final team for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where it will hang its medal hopes on a pair of world-beating women’s squads, one in the team pursuit and a second in the road and time trial events.

“We have very good teams, and we’re confident,” said Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s head of athletics. “We’ve been working towards this Olympic games for eight years, we have very experienced coaches, very experienced staff. Everybody has been to the games before, everyone knows the drill.”

The U.S. women’s team pursuit team won a world championship this spring, overhauling Canada in the gold medal round. The women’s road squad will be led by Megan Guarnier, who currently leads the UCI Women’s WorldTour. She will be backed up by veteran Olympians Kristin Armstrong and Evelyn Stevens, as well as by Olympic newcomer Mara Abbott.

Armstrong heads to Rio to defend her London gold in the individual time trial, as well as to act as support in the road race.

Also heading to Rio with a shot at a medal are Vermont native Lea Davison, who has been racing at the front of the women’s cross country mountain bike circuit, and Taylor Phinney, who was fourth in both the time trial and road race at the London games.

Women’s road

Megan Guarnier (Queensbury, N.Y./Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) – Road race
Mara Abbott (Boulder, Colo/Wiggle High5) – Road race
Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho/TWENTY16 p/b SHO-AIR) – Road race and TT
Evelyn Stevens (San Francisco, Calif/Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) – Road race and TT

The U.S. women’s team is among the strongest in the world and will be led in the road race by the current Women’s WorldTour leader Guarnier. She’ll ride alongside one of the world’s best climbers, Giro Rosa winner Mara Abbott, as well as two-time Olympic time trial gold medal winner Kristin Armstrong and current hour record holder Evelyn Stevens.

Given the firepower, the American team’s shot at a medal is almost as high as it is for the women’s team pursuit. “If we race it correctly, I think there might only be one medal left on the table,” Miller said.

The team has been built around Guarnier, who was the only automatic selection. Miller said the team has multiple options. “Megan can make the first group of climbers, and she’s the best sprinter of that group,” Miller said. “If it’s hard enough [the rest] have to chase. That probably eliminates Lizzie [Armistead]. She’s a phenomenal bike racer but has a tough time hanging with the real climbers.”

Miller declined to discuss tactics for the race, but did note that Abbott’s presence will provide the team with tactical options for the long, steep climb the comes just 12 kilometers from the finish line at Fort Copacabana.

Armstrong and Stevens will race the individual time trial, where Armstrong is defending champion.

Men’s road

Brent Bookwalter (Asheville, N.C./BMC Racing Team) – Road race and TT
Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo./BMC Racing Team) – Road race and TT Track

Phinney came back from London with a pair of fourth places finishes, so there’s no question he’s medal capable. “If Phinney has a great day, he can ride a top 5 on this course,” Miller said. “Perfect day, he can get a medal.”

Women’s track

Kelly Catlin (Arden Hills, Minn./NorthStar Development) — Women’s Team Pursuit
Chloe Dygert (Brownsburg, Ind./TWENTY16 p/b SHO-AIR) — Women’s Team Pursuit
Sarah Hammer (Colorado Springs, Colo.) — Women’s Omnium*, Women’s Team Pursuit
Jennifer Valente (San Diego, Calif./TWENTY16 p/b SHO-AIR) — Women’s Team Pursuit
Ruth Winder (Lafayette, Calif./UnitedHealthcare) — Women’s Team Pursuit

The world championship bands on the women’s team pursuit skinsuits will surely provide confidence heading into the Olympic games, as will their new left-side drive Felt pursuit bike. The team will be dissapointed with anything but gold.

Men’s track

Matt Baranoski (Perkasie, Pa./Custom Velo) — Men’s Keirin
Bobby Lea (Mertztown, Pa./Custom Velo) — Men’s Omnium

Don’t underestimate Matt Baranoski, Miller said. The Keirin is unpredictable, and the Pennsylvania native has proven his ability to make finals at the highest level.

“Here’s the thing about men’s Keirin in the Olympic games: It’s a very small field, it’s easier to get through the preliminary rounds into the round of six,” Miller said. “Matt’s already shown in multiple world cups that he’s a talented guy. I wouldn’t put a ton of expectation on him for that, I don’t think it’s out of the question that he pulls something out.”

Mountain bike

Lea Davison (Jericho, Vt./Specialized Factory Racing)
Howard Grotts (Durango, Colo./Specialized Factory Racing)
Chloe Woodruff (Prescott, Ariz./Team Stan’s NoTubes-Pivot)

On the dirt, Davison is the America’s best shot at a medal. The 33-year-old finished 11th in London and has only improved in the last four years.

“Lea is very capable of riding on the podium. She’s shown she’s very consistent,” Miller said. “She has slow builds to her season, but they’re methodical. Where some will try two peaks, she does one. We always wonder where she is early in the season, then at worlds she’s on. She’ll be flying in Rio.”

Grotts, just 23, won his first pro national title in 2015. Rio will be his first Olympic Games.

BMX

Brooke Crain (Visalia, Calif./Haro Bikes-Dans Comp)
Connor Fields (Henderson, Nev./Chase BMX-Monster Energy)
Nic Long (Lakeside, Calif./Haro Bikes-Dans Comp)
Alise Post (Chula Vista, Calif./Redline USA)
Corben Sharrah (Tucson, Ariz./Daylight Cycle Co.)