They’ve been completing virtual challenges all spring after COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the races that were supposed to be qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games and then caused the postponement of the Olympics themselves.
But now three Utah cyclists have something real to chase.
USA Cycling on Thursday announced the selection of its Olympic long teams in road, track and mountain biking. Park City mountain bikers Haley Batten and Keegan Swenson and Murray road cyclist Tayler Wiles were among the picks.
Selection to the teams put the athletes in line to compete in the Tokyo Games, which will now be held in July and August of 2021. Athletes can be added to the long team through May 2021. All three Utah cyclists would be making their Olympic debuts if selected.
“Obviously the delay of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was a challenge, but we will be sending an even stronger team next summer and we could not be more excited,” Rob DeMartini, USA Cycling’s President and CEO, said in a press release. “It is so inspiring to see these men and women who have worked their whole lives for this moment and to get one step closer to their Olympic dreams.”
Swenson, 26, won the elite men’s title in cross country at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships last year. He also finished 2019 as the top-ranked American on the UCI elite men’s cross country circuit at No. 26.
Swenson was one of just two men named to the mountain biking long team. Christopher Blevins of Durango, Colo., who finished 51st in the 2019 UCI rankings, was the other. The USA currently has qualified for just one spot in men’s cross country.
“It’s definitely not anything concrete,” Swenson said in a phone interview from his home in Heber City. “For me it’s just another step in the right direction, but it’s definitely a cool thing.”
Batten, who now lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., is considered one of the USA’s most promising up-and-comers. Just 21, she won the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup U23 event in Nové Město na Moravě in the Czech Republic in May 2019.
Batten finished 2019 ranked No. 48 in the UCI women’s elite standings. In the USA, she trails fellow team members Kate Courtney (3), Chloe Woodruff (15), Lea Davison (20) and Erin Huck (38). Hannah Finchamp (104) was also named to the team.
“This group of women is just persistent and highly ambitious,” Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s chief of sport performance, said about the mountain bike team. “We think they can win.”
A day prior to Batten’s victory, Wiles, 30, claimed her first UCI Women’s World Tour win. Wiles attacked on the second to last climb and went on to win the third stage of the Emakumeen Bira stage race in Spain’s Basque country on a solo breakaway.
Wiles, who now lives in Fairfax, Calif., and rides for Trek — Segafredo, finished 2019 ranked No. 57 in the world and sixth among American women. The other five also were named to the road team: Coryn Rivera (20), Chloe Dygert (23), Leah Thomas (34), Ruth Winder (48) and Krista Doebel-Hickock (56) as well as Katherine Hall (58), Amber Leone Neben (69) and Lauren Stephens (86).
The men’s road team as well as the men’s and women’s track teams were also named Thursday. For a complete list of athletes selected to the long team, visit usacycling.org.