By Dave Skretta
AP Sports Writer
Carmen Small is requesting an arbitration hearing in the hopes that she will be added to the four-member U.S. roster submitted by USA Cycling for the Rio Olympics next month.
Megan Guarnier was the only automatic pick to the team, leaving three places decided by the national federation’s selection criteria. The discretionary picks went to two-time and reigning Olympic time trial gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, veteran Evelyn Stevens and climbing specialist Mara Abbott.
Small issued a statement on her blog explaining her decision to seek arbitration. Among the reasons were that she handily beat Armstrong and Stevens at the time trial national championships, she campaigned in Europe against better competition and that she has a track record of success on the world stage.
“I am fighting this selection for the simple fact that all my involvement with USA Cycling and everything I’ve ever been told by them said race in Europe, do the big races, do the hard races and race against the best in the world,” Small said. “This year leading up to the Olympics, I took that to heart.”
ESPN first reported Small’s decision to seek arbitration. A ruling must be made by July 18.
Small has refused to say which rider on the team she should replace, but she took issue with each of the discretionary picks while also lambasting what she considers an unfair selection process.
She pointed out that Armstrong has ridden entirely in the U.S. against less challenging competition, and that she won the time trial national title while Armstrong finished third and Stevens finished sixth.
Abbott did not compete at nationals, eliminating any chance of a head-to-head matchup.
“Perhaps I should have stayed in the U.S. racing for a domestic team,” Small said. “I chose the harder path, the path that had the most potential for real-world outcomes in terms of fitness, results, competition and difficulty.
“USA Cycling has a goal to succeed in international competition on an international stage. Their selection process outlined that, but didn’t enforce it.”
Small also alluded to a potential conflict of interest involving Jim Miller, the USA Cycling vice president in charge of the national teams. Miller has been Armstrong’s longtime personal coach, though he recused himself from any deliberations involving her selection for the team.
This is hardly the first time USA Cycling’s selection criteria has come under fire.
Last fall, an arbitrator determined that Lauren Komanski should have been awarded a discretionary pick for the U.S. team at the world championships in Virginia. She replaced Allie Dragoo days before the race.
It’s not as if Armstrong, Stevens and Abbott did not earn their selections.
Armstrong was second at the Tour of the Gila, won the Redlands Bicycle Classic and was second overall at the Tour of California. Stevens set the hour record earlier this year and is currently leading the prestigious Giro Rosa. Abbott has the skill set that perfectly suits the hilly course in Rio.
Still, Small believes she has done just as much — or more — to earn a spot, leaving her hopes in an arbitrator’s hands. She said accompanying legal fees could consume half her annual salary, and a GoFundMe page set up to offset the costs had raised more than $12,000 by Tuesday night.
“If I didn’t believe I can make a difference in Rio,” Small wrote in her blog, “I wouldn’t go through all of this stress, emotions and chaos.”