Posted by Editor on 06/19/08
The Canadian Cycling Association today released the names of the three men and two of the three women who will represent Canada at the Beijing Olympics in the road events. They are Alex Wrubleski and Leigh Hobson for the women, and Ryder Hesjedal, Michael Barry and Svein Tuft for the men. The third women's spot is under dispute at the moment, and expected to go through an appeal process.
All riders will compete in the road races, with one each selected for the men's and women's time trials. The men's time trial rider will be Ryder Hesjedal, and the women's is to be determined after the National championships, but is expected to be Alex Wrubleski. There is also a good chance that Canada will receive a second men's time trial spot, according the Sean O'Donnell, Manager of High Performance Programs. In that case, O'Donnell says that Svein Tuft will get the nod.
More than in the past, the teams were selected to work in the road races as teams, rather than a collection of disparate riders. All riders have the ability to go the distance on a hard course with a long climb on each lap.
In the men's category, Ryder Hesjedal is an obvious choice, based on his third in the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise race in France, his 8th overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and 60th at the Giro d'Italia.
Ryder sent the following e-mail response to being named to the team:
"I am very excited to be going to my second Olympics, this time in different events then the first! I look forward to doing both the road race and time trial. To recieve this news while training for the Tour de France is a real dream come true!"
(Editor's Note: Hesjedal confirmed that he is headed to the Tour de France - "The offical team selection is after Route de Sud this weekend...as I am not racing [Sud], and preparing for the Tour under the team's direction I would say it is a safe bet....")
Michael Barry is Canada's only ProTour team rider, and is well used to the distances and level of competition that will be faced. He was on Canada's squad for the 2004 Games, and came close to a bronze medal with a last lap attacked that was only caught in the final kilometres. Michael provided the following comments on being selected to the 2008 Olympic squad:
"I am excited to be representing Canada - this is always an experience I look forward to and it is a real honour to wear the jersey, especially at the
Olympics. In Athens, I finished the race with some "what ifs" as I came close to the bronze with a late attack in the race. I was alone, then Merckx caught me, I cramped on the final cobbled climb with less than 2 km to go, and that was it, I was caught by the chasing peloton and the opportunity was gone. So, I know what we need to do to get on the podium, to race well, and I am eager to get back to give it another go."
We have a great team for the Games - the best possible - and as a team I think we can fly the flag prominently in the race. Ryder has certainly proven himself at the highest level and has matured as a cyclist. Sven has achieved some consistent and outstanding results this year and last so the team is a complete one - well, as complete as can be with 3 riders. With the right racing and training prior I know we will all be competitive."
The third member of the men's road team is Svein Tuft, whose UCI Americas Tour win last season paved the way for Canada to get three spots for the men. This year, Tuft has taken a slower build up than previously, but still won multiple gold medals at the Pan Am Championships, plus a stage and the overall title at the Tour de Beauce; the first Canadian to win Beauce since 1995.
We also have a video interview with Sean O'Donnell at Mountain Bike Worlds about the men's selection process, and the selections for the men's and women's time trial, but are having difficulty getting it posted with the internet connectivity in Val di Sole.
On the women's side, both Wrubleski and Hobson had a lock on two of the three spots by their top-5 performances in World Cup races this spring. Wrubleski has multiple Canadian titles both on the road and in the time trial, while Hobson has been a long time mainstay of the national team, who is particularly well suited to the climbing course the riders will face in China.
"I am very excited and honored to be part of the 2008 Olympic road team and represent Canada in Beijing," said Alex Wrubleski. "This is the one event I have been working towards for many years, and now it's less than 2 months away."
The third member of the squad was selected after much deliberation by the selection committee, however, the choice cannot be released at this time. Sean O'Donnell admitted that the third spot was a tough choice.
"I can't say enough about what the women have done this year. Each of them have stepped up and they all worked towards that common goal of getting us that third spot at the Olympics. Certainly Leigh and Alex with their results at the World Cups speak for themselves. The hardest decision was the Committee Choice, and when you go to the Games you want to bring the best team. I think to bring together three [riders] who can work towards a common goal was the most important thing."
"If you look at the riders who were in the mix: Erinne [Willock], Anne [Samplonius], Felica [Gomez], Julie Beveridge ... they were all part of the Olympic pool, and you could probably make a good case for each of them. You pick someone who has number of results to back up her nomination."
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