Roche hoping for no Olympic selection surprises
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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Roche hoping for no Olympic selection surprises

by Shane Stokes at 9:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Olympics
Believes himself and Dan Martin are logical choices for two of the three places

Nicolas RocheWith three riders due to be told this week that they have been selected for the Olympic road race, Nicolas Roche is hoping that the criteria laid out by Cycling Ireland doesn’t lead to other riders being picked instead of him. While the Irishman is one of the country’s top two road competitors, the selection criteria laid out plus a relatively quiet start to the season for Roche sees other riders ahead of him in the calculated points ranking.

“I obviously would be very disappointed if I wasn’t going there,” Roche told VeloNation in recent days, “and I think it would be a non-realistic team. I think if myself and Dan [Martin] are not on the team, then I honestly don’t think it would be fair, because if we have three spots today, it is because of what we have done over the past few years.”

That criteria was revised and published last December. Laying out the structure, Cycling Ireland stated that only rider who had scored UCI points [other than those achieved in the 2011 national championships – ed.] between January 1st 2011 and May 31st 2012 would be considered.

Of those riders, points would be given for top ten finishes in WorldTour, HC, 1.1/2.1 and 1.2/2.2 events, with the higher ranked events counting for more. However for stage races, the final GC would not be considered, with performances on a single day of competition being declared of interest only. It means that if a rider finished eleventh in the Tour de France or any other major event, that performance would not be deemed worthy of consideration.

Martin raised concerns earlier this year over what he felt were clear anomalies in the criteria. For example, fourth place in a single-day WorldTour event such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège would yield 39 points; victory in a 1.2 ranked UCI race would actually be rated higher, at 40 points. Similarly, fourth on the stage of a Grand Tour would be worth 32 points, the same as a stage win of a 2.2 event such as Ireland’s An Post Rás.

“Basically if an Irish rider wins two stages in the Rás, which is very possible with the guys we have at home now, he is potentially going to the Olympics before me or Nicolas,” Martin said in March, expressing his concerns.

While no Irish rider did win a stage of the Rás this year, high placings racked up by David McCann and Sam Bennett in the race plus other similarly-ranked events have meant that they have clocked up many qualifying points. As a result it is understood that Martin, 21 year old Bennett and 39 year old McCann are all ahead of Roche, who is fourth in line.

Omega Pharma Quick Step’s Matt Brammeier and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare) who, along with Martin and Roche have competed at the highest level in this and previous seasons, haven’t scored any points under the criteria this season.

Cycling Ireland selectors have however put aside up to 100 points to be allocated in relation to an assessment of each rider’s suitability to the Olympic course. This gives scope to over-ride the points gleaned through results alone; Roche hopes that this sees him get the nod.

“I honestly can’t see who is better fitted from such a type of course than I am,” the Ag2r La Mondiale rider said, adding that he didn’t want to speak too much about the process. “If it comes to it that I miss out because I only do world class races and because I have been preparing nice and quietly for the Tour, and they instead send a guy who was two times fifth in amateur races or in the Rás or whatever, then I think Irish cycling is stepping backwards.

“I am hoping that doesn’t arise. I would be disappointed not to go. There is a possibility with the criteria they came up with that they could select other riders, but I would be honestly disappointed not to be part of the team.”

In truth, it’s very hard to see a rider of Roche’s calibre to be passed over, particularly as he has taken top three finishes in stages of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in the past, and won a stage of the Tour of Beijing last autumn.

In presuming that he and Martin will indeed get the nod, the big question is who will be the third rider on the team. Brammeier and Deignan have the most experience at competing against WorldTour riders, but Bennett and McCann have fared much better under the selection criteria.

The lineup is expected to be announced on Thursday, with the successful riders being told today that they are heading to London 2012.


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