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Analysis: U.S. worlds team takes shape ahead of key qualifying period

  • By Brian Holcombe
  • Published Dec. 3, 2012
  • Updated Dec. 3, 2012 at 12:41 PM EDT
If he gets the green light, Danny Summerhill stands a good chance at a discretionary selection. Photo: Wil Matthews | VeloNews.com

Big bubble for elite men

Trebon and Johnson — who would each be qualified based on their current UCI standings, which could change significantly before January 14 — are technically the least secure in their automatic selections. Still, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which two of the most successful Americans over the last decade could sit out their home worlds. But, as Gullickson reiterated this week, they’ll have to prove they deserve a discretionary selection relative to their countrymen should they fall out of auto-qualifying territory.

“For those guys that haven’t made their mark, it’s going to come down to the remaining big races and we’ll obviously be looking at the World Cups,” Gullickson told VeloNews. “We’ll have a strong contingent at Namur and Zolder and we’ll also look at nationals closely. It’s hard to say [who the discretionary selections will be]. There are a lot of guys that are going to be on that bubble.”

With three open selections at this point for the elite men’s squad, the USA Cycling selection committee may end up with a few very difficult decisions. Riders sitting on that bubble include former worlds silver medalist Jonathan Page, who sits 33rd in the UCI standings today; 29th-ranked Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale); and 47th-ranked Chris Jones (Rapha).

Driscoll and Page, who has twice finished 29th in World Cups this season, but has shown improving fitness in recent weeks, are capable of top-15 results at the World Cup level, which would auto-qualify them by USA Cycling’s fifth criterion. Jones is on the rise of late as well and though he has not yet decided whether he’ll head to Europe after the USGP finale this weekend, the Rapha man is set on seeing through his three-year-old commitment to Louisville.

But it is Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare) that has shown the most upside this fall when he’s been able to hit the national circuit. Summerhill lacks the points he likely would hold if he had full team support for ’cross and at this point it’s unclear whether he’ll make a run at worlds with his neo-pro road contract about to commence with UnitedHealthcare. That should become clearer after the team’s first camp in mid-December. A number of sources tell VeloNews that, if Summerhill continues his recent show of form and commits to worlds, he would be a top pick for a discretionary nod.

Former national champion Todd Wells (Specialized) and newly crowned singlespeed world champ Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant) are also yet to commit to a push for a worlds birth. Craig and Wells may need to win nationals — which is certainly possible, particularly for a motivated Wells — to auto-qualify.

One big question is just how far Page’s 2007 worlds medal and veteran status can carry him with the committee, which the federation has instructed to weigh current medal capabilities and developmental potential when deciding team rosters. Summerhill, Driscoll and Jeremy Durrin (JAM-Focus) are young riders that could garner attention for their long-term upside. It is difficult to imagine, however, a Louisville worlds without Page, who relocated to Belgium following his worlds podium to fully enfold himself into elite European ’cross.

Assuming that one of the three most consistent riders in the U.S. this season — Powers, Johnson or Trebon — wins nationals, the selection committee will almost certainly be faced with choosing half of the elite men’s roster, with Summerhill, Page, Driscoll and Jones holding the strongest shots at making the team at the moment. Yes, that’s four men for three slots.

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Brian Holcombe

Brian Holcombe

Brian Holcombe is the editor of VeloNews.com. Holcombe joined VeloNews in 2009 following years spent introducing students to whitewater kayaking and working in avalanche control, among other more risky ventures. A Master of PR and Marketing Communications, his graduate work at the University of Denver focused on innovation, digital media management and custom publishing. Holcombe is a CSU Ram fan and proud parent, and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride. Follow him on Twitter @FCBrian.

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