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Olympic selection news for August 6
Sunderland's appeal unsuccessful
Australia's Scott Sunderland had his Olympic chances completely disappear on Friday after his appeal to be considered for the men's road team was rejected by the Cycling Australia Independent Appeals Tribunal. A disappointed, but not surprised Sunderland said in an open letter to the Australian media that the appeal "was a matter of professional pride, not a way to actually gain selection."
"I knew beforehand, even if my appeal was successful, the tribunal could only advise the selectors to review the team respecting the selection criteria. I also was aware of the fact, that, if this was the case, the selectors more than likely would have re-selected their initial team. Such is their right."
The three member panel was made up of Geoff Strang (former AIS high performance manager), Deborah Healey (Chair) and Kevin Nichols. The selection committee is comprised of Shayne Bannan (based in Italy), Alex Fulcher and Dave Sanders (both based in Australia). During the hearing, Sunderland gave evidence via telephone from his home in Belgium in between racing commitments. The appeal was actually based on technical grounds, as there are no grounds for an appeal based on discrimination or merit. "The only grounds of appeal were that the Nomination Criteria had not been followed." (Clause 7.1 of the athletes agreement).
The technical aspect that Sunderland was appealing was the fact that there was no climber in the team "...the two remaining places must include a sprinter, a hill climber and domestiques". To refresh: the Australian men's road team consists of Nathan O'Neill (TT), Stuart O'Grady, Henk Vogels, Robbie McEwen and Matthew White, with Dave McKenzie and Jamie Drew named as reserves. The team named above does not include a climber, with six of the seven being sprinters or sprinter/rouleurs, and one time trialist (O'Neill). Vogels and White were nominated as fulfilling roles as team climbers.
Sunderland is a proven climber (KOM in last year's Bank Classic) and a proven domestique, as well as being the most experience Australian professional in Europe. At last year's World Championships in Verona, he was the last Australian in contention in a very tough race. While the Olympic road course is probably not quite as hard on paper as the World's, there are several aspects of it that suit climbers, especially the technical descent/ascent of Macpherson St/Bronte Rd to be done 13 times. For this reason, other strong cycling countries (Italy, France, USA, Spain, and Germany) have all selected at least one climber, sometimes more than one. Italy, with their preselection of Bartoli, Pantani, Casagrande, Bettini and Di Luca (although Tafi might take Di Luca's spot) have not gone for the heavyweights!
However, these aspects were dismissed or not considered by the tribunal, and the sprinters will stay. Getting over the mountains in the Grand Tours does not a climber make (with no disrespect to the others abilities). A one day race tends to be raced differently to a flat stage of a tour and with only five members per team, a chase/sprint leadout will be hard to maintain. That is not to dismiss the chances of Vogels, O'Grady or McEwen but some strong teamwork will be necessary, and Sunderland is well known and respected in Europe for this. September 27 will decide things one way or the other.
Despite his non-selection, Sunderland remains positive for the future, concluding his letter "Despite my disappointment over this, I am now focusing fully on the job I have been doing successfully for so many years now and that is to bring wins to my team by ensuring the best rider in the team is properly supported."
Laurence Leboucher rebounds
After she won the French National titles today, Laurence Leboucher has nearly guaranteed herself a place in the French MTB team to go to Sydney. Despite missing the World Championships in June due to a borken collarbone, Leboucher came back to win the Tour de la Haute-Vienne and then the Nationals. The other member of the French women's team will likely be the second placed rider today, Sophie Villeneuve. The selection has yet to be made firm, but these two riders have the best form at the moment, after Sandra Temporelli has been disappointing.
The men's race will likely see a win to Miguel Martinez provided nothing untoward happens.