June 30/04 11:34 am - Olympic Selection Update
Posted by Editor on 06/30/04
Olympic Selections Update
While the official word regarding who will be representing Canada in Athens for the cycling events will not come out until July 12th, the team is beginning to take shape. Road qualification events ended with Nationals, and Track with the Worlds. Mountain Bike has one more event - the Calgary World Cup this coming weekend. Below are our best guesses on what the team will look like, and the medal possibilities.
This one is easy - Lori-Ann Muenzer. Canada qualified for only two track events at Athens - Women's Sprint and 500 Metre Time Trial - and Lori-Ann is the only rider to meet the criteria in those events. Medalwise, Lori-Ann has a strong chance to medal in at least one of these events.
Canada has three road spots and two time trial spots (taken from the road riders) for the women, and three road spots and no time trial spots for the men. In the women we have six riders who have met the criteria - Lyne Bessette, Genevieve Jeanson, Manon Jutras, Amy Moore, Sue Palmer-Komar and Anne Samplonius. Bessette gets the automatic spot as the top-ranked woman on the UCI list. Palmer-Komar, after her win in the Nationals time trial is also pretty much definite. The third spot will probably go to Manon Jutras after her second place (to Bessette) at the Nationals road race. None of the remaining riders have had enough consistent high placings to put them ahead of Jutras. Jeanson did win the Montreal World Cup, but that's it since her 5th place in the time trial at the Worlds last fall - a long, long time ago in the minds of selectors. She is a proven international performer, but will be difficult to justify for the CCA, since she had a relatively poor (for her) showing at the Road Nationals time trial, which is usually where she shines. Expect Bessette and Palmer-Komar for the time trial, and Jutras to join them for the road race. As for medals - Palmer-Komar is the best sprinter, and has managed to make the small front groups for the final at past Worlds and Commonwealth Games (silver in Manchester), but this is a crap shoot. Bessette is more of a stage racer, but was very impressive in Kamloops. Possibly 1 medal in the two events.
For the men, the only 'for sure' spot is Michael Barry as top UCI ranked Canadian. Prior to Nationals, Gord Fraser was a bit of a longshot, but it will be very difficult to leave him off the team now, after that impressive piece of riding for the national title. The third spot could go to either Eric Wohlberg or Charles Dionne. Both have been consistent performers, with Dionne putting in a couple of very good rides at Beauce, but not being too visible at the Nationals road race. The selectors will also be watching to see if a time trial spot opens up with a higher ranked nation not using one of their starts. This is how Wohlberg got in at Sydney. If there is a strong possibility, that could tip the balance in favour of Wohlberg. It could go either way with these two. The other qualified athletes - Cory Lange (qualified after Tour of Korea win), Dominique Perras and Mark Walters - have not shown the sort of results to put them in contention for that third spot. Any medal will be a longshot, most likely in a field sprint.
Canada has three spots for women, and two for men. Alison Sydor is prequalified, so that leaves two and two to be decided upon from the pool of qualified riders. On the women's side, there are three riders going for those two spots - Kiara Bisaro, Marie-Helene Premont and Chrissy Redden. One spot will automatically go to the rider with the combined best individual result from the first three European World Cups and the best individual result in the two Canadian World Cups. So far, that is Premont, with a pair of seconds. Bisaro is next with a third and a sixth. Redden, who struggled through illness in Europe, has rebounded somewhat with an eighth at Mont Ste Anne, but her best in Europe was 19th. It will take a very strong showing at Calgary (ie, a win) for Redden to displace Bisaro. The women's cross-country is certainly Canada's strongest chance for Olympic cycling medals, and there is a good possibility of seeing two Canadians on the podium in this event.
The men's side is pretty much a mess. Ryder Hesjedal holds the lead for the automatic spot (best combined European and Canadian results), with a pair of 11th places. Below this, there is not a whole lot to choose from. Seamus McGrath has an 8th from Mont Ste Anne, but his best European result is 35th (Madrid). Geoff Kabush has a 10th from MSA, but a 59th in Europe, and Roland Green, who everyone assumed would be a lock on the automatic position, has one finish in four World Cups, a 29th place in Houffalize! Of course, there are reasons in each case - illness, crashes and mechanicals, a mugging (Seamus, a week before Madrid), but what it boils down to is that Calgary has become do-or-die for that second spot. One of the three (Green, McGrath or Kabush) needs a stellar ride to take that starting position in Athens. While the Canadian men haven't made the World Cup podium yet this season (a long time since that last occurred), there is still some incredible talent on tap. A very strong chance for a medal.
Canadians should come away with a minimum of one medal in cycling, and as many as four.