Here, Sven Nys wins the 2011 Superprestige in Hoogstraten, Belgium. © Bart Hazen
by Kat Statman
With the US and a few other countries finally getting their acts together and starting to name their Olympic cycling teams, it’s to devote a few words to those ’crossers that will be representing their countries this summer in London. On the mountain bike side, Sven Nys was given the nod for Belgium, again; Todd Wells grabbed a third straight Olympic team berth (considering there have only been five, that’s quite the feat); many others including Geoff Kabush await their fate. On the road side, Chris Horner grabs a spot after a rough few media weeks; Zdenek Stybar is still on the waiting list, though with a trip to London a few weeks ago …
If you are not a Nys fan, you should be after this week and the Belgian National Team announcing that he will be one of the two men heading to represent Belgium at the London Games this summer. After a long ’cross season, he took little time to recuperate, lined up at some World Cup mountain bike races and began his attempt to make the Olympic team for the second time, and while he’s no Todd Wells in terms of Olympic team berths, it’s still impressive what he’s been able to do. Not only is it impressive, but once again, Nys did what was necessary when it counted. With the Belgian team refusing to take any rider that did not fit their stringent selection criteria, it all came down to the European Championships. Well, in a mudfest in Moscow, Nys once again showed the World that he’s got it with a 10th place finish. But, will this ruin this years ’cross campaign?
On the American side, well, things are a little different. Unfortunately, we’ve been having a bit of trouble getting any of the riders on the long list to put up decent performances until recently, which meant that if anyone was going to the Olympics it was going to be discretionary. Well, that gave the nod, and a well-deserved one at that, to current National Champion Todd Wells. With a third Olympic berth, that must be a record of some sort for Olympic mountain bike starts, with only five races ever contested (the first won by Bart Brentjens in 1996 in Atlanta). Good luck, Todd, and let’s hope that the American bad luck was only for the spring.
Another key American ’crosser that must be mentioned, as she’s had an awesome season this year on the mountain bike and was given a second Olympic spot for good reason, is Georgia Gould. Congrats, Georgia, now you just have to go fast this coming August!
While so many different countries are trying to select their teams, it is of no surprise that there are many out there that have not made selections yet. Some, like Canada, have a selection pool and we should hear in a few days who made the team. But we all know that with Kabush in the pool and the Canadians getting two spots, that he’s going to London in August, so that’s pretty much a non-question, now it’s just waiting on the rest of the team.
On the road side, there are a few names popping up. While wrapped in a bit of media turmoil right now, Chris Horner definitely got some good news yesterday when USA Cycling said that he would be going to London to represent the US. While the course isn’t really Chris’s thing (not a long alpine slog in France in July), it’s got a pretty good hill that, with the right move and the right group, might keep the sprinters back and send a breakaway home, maybe with Van Garderen in the mix too … ?
But more importantly, though, I have not seen any official announcement but Zdenek Stybar is clearly on the long list (at least) of the Czech racers for the Olympic race. With a trip to London recently to check out the course, it looks like he might be preparing. And with a short hard climb and some hard miles, like Belgian racing, maybe a crafty move late in the race could crown the first ever ’crosser as Olympic road race champion.
All this Olympics talk has me thinking, how cool or not cool would a Winter Olympics ’cross event be? It has been talked about a lot, but to see our racing heroes have the chance to actually duke it out in the sport they love versus this “’cross” pollination … Just musings.