Carmen Small looks to take Rio team omission to arbitration

Colorado cyclist Carmen Small will request arbitration to challenge her omission from the U.S. Olympic team in the time trial event, she and her lawyer confirmed Tuesday.

Small, 36, of Durango, won her second national time trial championship in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, last month with a gap of 1 minute, 8.56 seconds over two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong and 1:53.02 over Evelyn Stevens, the other rider selected for the Rio 2016 time trial.

The hearing procedure is defined by Section 9 of the U.S. Olympic Committee's bylaws. A ruling must be made by July 18, the USOC's roster deadline for the Rio Summer Games, which start Aug. 5.

Small's lawyer, Howard Jacobs, said he did not want to go into detail about the arguments he plans to make on her behalf. He said Small is not seeking to replace a specific rider, but rather will contend that the selection criteria were not properly interpreted.

USA Cycling spokesman Kevin Loughery said the federation would not comment until a formal request for arbitration was filed. Armstrong also declined comment and Stevens could not be reached.

In an email to ESPN.com, Small said she was in "shock and disbelief" after the team selections were announced last week. She said her commitment to racing in Europe this season and her decisive win in head-to-head competition with Armstrong and Stevens at nationals should have earned her a slot on the team.

"This showing of my ability in my mind was not just worthy of my Olympic selection, but also the potential to be a gold medal favorite,'' Small wrote. "This time around, I feel that I am the best athlete for the selection.''

Small won a world championships bronze medal in the individual time trial in 2013 and was one of six riders who won back-to-back world gold medals in 2013 and 2014 with the Specialized-lululemon team. (The team time trial is contested by professional, not national, teams.)

The United States has one of the strongest women's cycling contingents in the world and will send four riders to the road race in Rio. International federation rules mandate that the time trial entrants come from that quartet.

This year, three of the slots, including both time trial entries, were discretionary choices, with parameters defined in a dense 23-page document posted on the USA Cycling website. Factors considered include results in Women's World Tour races, past Olympic Games and world championships.

Megan Guarnier was the only rider who met automatic selection criteria when she won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships in Richmond.

There have been several arbitrations by U.S. women contesting major event selections over the last 12 years, most recently before the 2015 world championships in Richmond, Virginia, when Lauren Komanski filed a successful appeal that forced a last-minute roster change.

Guarnier lost her appeal to replace Shelly Olds on the London 2012 road race team.

Some riders and coaches have criticized the discretionary criteria over the years for being overly subjective and reaching too far back in time. USA Cycling officials have consistently defended their rules and said they are written to try to withstand arbitration challenges.

Small wrote that she appreciates the difficulty faced by the selection committee, but added that a convoluted process leaves riders like herself guessing at how to put themselves in the best position for selection.

"I think if an athlete understands why they are not selected and has been through fair process, where everyone is held to the same standard, then we are happy to just work harder,'' she wrote.

Small's coach, Corey Hart, said he supports her decision to contest the selection and said there has been a troubling "absence of transparency" in the process.