The U.S. National Team for the UCI Road World Championships in Melbourne, Australia, is beginning to take shape and youth appears to the theme for another year for the Americans. While USA Cycling vice president of athletics Jim Miller will not announce final rosters for the elite squads until September 20, a number of veterans have already declined discretionary and automatic selections.
According to Miller, Levi Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong and current national road champion George Hincapie each declined invitations to join the national team in Melbourne. Chris Horner, who earned an automatic worlds bid with his overall win at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in April, also turned down a spot in the squad that is expected to support Tyler Farrar’s bid for the rainbow jersey.
“For them it’s a hard year,” Miller said. “The fall is a really hard time of year for guys like that. I don’t think they devalue the event, but I think it’s just really hard to hold form to October 2.”
Men’s team takes a Garmin shape
Farrar, who is the top one-day rider among a group of young pros groomed by the national team program for half a decade, qualified for the worlds team with wins at the Vattenfall Cyclassics in August and the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen in April. The Garmin-Transitions sprinter is currently riding the Vuelta a Espana in preparation for a run at the world title on a course that suits him well.
“We have a lot of good, younger guys that have come through the system that are getting to the point where they can do the job and we can expect them to do the job,” Miller said. “A couple years ago when we didn’t get any of the big names, we went with all the young guys and I think that investment was a good investment.”
Farrar’s trade teammate, and three-time defending U.S. time trial champion, David Zabriskie earned a bid to the team based on his USA Cycling Pro Tour standing. Zabriskie is also at the Vuelta and Miller expected him to commit to the world championships.
The nine-man road race roster, which Miller will announce on September 20, may include a third Garmin rider in Christian Vande Velde, who said earlier this week on Twitter that he was making travel plans for Australia. Unless he were to finish on the final Vuelta podium, Vande Velde would be a discretionary pick, and Miller would not comment on his place in the team.
The final events determining automatic bids for the men’s team are the Vuelta and the USA Cycling Pro Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, on September 18-19. A final podium finish in Spain or a title in Greenville will ensure a place in Melbourne. At this point, Tejay Van Garderen and Tom Danielson are best positioned for the Vuelta podium, and Leipheimer will most likely enter nationals as the favorite in the road race and time trial.
U.S. worlds team automatic qualifiers:
Chris Horner (declined)
Three Giro stage winners for the women
On the women’s side, Evelyn Stevens (TT) and Mara Abbott (RR) earned automatic bids with wins at the elite national championships in Bend, Oregon, earlier this year. Shelley Evans, who qualified when she won the Pan-American road title this spring, will join Abbott and Stevens in Melbourne, giving the national team three Giro Donne stage winners on the roster.
Miller will await the conclusion of the Tour de l’Ardeche to finalize the discretionary selections to the women’s team. Andrea Dvorak, who rode with the national team in Europe earlier this year, started Ardeche with Italian squad Acs Chirio-Forno D’Asolo.
The women have five open roster positions after the automatic selections and Miller said that his staff will determine in the next few days whether to fill all of those spots ahead of a planned 10-day training camp in Colorado Springs before worlds. “Because of the continental championship we have eight, which is a massive team,” he said.
Phinney, King qualify for U23
The men’s U23 roster will include automatic qualifiers Taylor Phinney and Ben King. Phinney, who led the Tour de l’Avenir this week after winning the prologue, earned his place on the team when he won the overall at the Olympia’s Tour. He should enter the time trial in Melbourne as a top favorite. Although he had a heavy crash at l’Avenir and lost a lot of time, he so far has continued the race as training for worlds.
King doubled up with wins in the time trial and road race at the Pan-Am Games and the road race at nationals to punch his ticket.
King and Phinney’s l’Avenir teammates are insiders for worlds selection, which Miller will announce on September 13. He would not comment on the U23 discretionary picks, but l’Avenir is the most significant stage race of the year for espoirs and U.S. riders on the squad include Ian Boswell, Chris Butler, Alex Howes and Andrew Talansky.