The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are only days away, and mountain bikers are gearing themselves up for what could be the biggest race in their careers. Unfortunately for world champion downhill rider, American Aaron Gwin, downhill cycling is not an Olympic sport. There are just two cross-country races. The women’s is being held on Saturday 11 August, followed by the men’s race the next day. The course is at Hadleigh Farm in Essex, around 35 minutes east of the Olympic Stadium. The circuit is 3.1 miles (5km) long and on open hillside, and not a forested area typically favored for cross-country events. This will increase visibility for spectators. The USA has nominated a mountain biking team of eight men and nine women to compete against the world’s best for Olympic gold.
Flying the Stars and Stripes for the women are five time national champion, Lea Davison; Georgia Gould, who also competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing; Heather Irmiger, whose husband Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski is also competing; Mary McConneloug, a veteran Olympian from 2004 and 2008; and Katie Compton. All five women received automatic nomination based on their recent season’s performance. Joining them are two discretionary nominees Willow Rockwell, two-times bronze medal winner at the World Championships in 2009 and 2010; Krista Park; and Judy Freeman.
The nominated male team includes Todd Wells, who competed in Beijing in 2008; and Sam Schultz, who is the youngest nominee at 26-years-old. Schultz has had a great 2012 season so far, coming first in the 2012 Mellow Johnnys Classic; and second in the Short Track Cross Country, and third in the Cross Country at Sea Otter 2012. Also nominated are Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, who competed in Athens in the 2004 Olympics; Jeremiah Bishop; and 2008 Olympian Adam Craig. Discretionary nominees rounding out the hopefuls are Stephen Ettinger, the USA U23 Mountain Bike Cross Country national champion in 2011; Spencer Paxson; and Michael Broderick.
Final places are based on UCI rankings from 23 May 2011 to 22 May 2012; with 50 male, and 30 female competitors being eligible. Based on the current UCI rankings, it’s likely that Todd Wells and Sam Schultz will be the only two men actually able to compete. Lea Davison and Georgia Gould are strong possibilities to make the final USA Olympic team; with Heather Irminger, now in 33rd place, a slim possibility. The teams will be confirmed next week.