BRITISH cycling chiefs set their sights on topping the medal table in Rio but admitted it was only fair that GB riders controversially not selected will be allowed to appeal.
Yorkshire stars Lizzie Armitstead, Ed Clancy and Olympic debutante Katy Marchant are among a 26-strong squad heading to South America and form part of what British Cycling programme director Andy Harrison labelled a “fantastic blend between youth and experience.”
But selectors have been criticised for omitting certain riders, in particular London 2012 gold hero Dani King and multiple-medallist Jess Varnish – with Mark Cavendish also selected to compete in both the omnium and the team pursuit despite fears over his exhaustive summer schedule.
As the team was officially announced in Manchester yesterday, British Cycling revealed that a special appeal process was now in place for those riders who had been in contention for Rio but, ultimately, not selected.
The sport was rocked earlier this year when technical director Shane Sutton was forced to step down amid a row over discrimination, and three separate investigations are being conducted into various aspects of the organisation, including claims of kit being sold for profit online.
But Harrison and head coach Iain Dyer are both upbeat about the summer with Harrison confident that a squad also featuring Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell Shand should be aiming for the top of the charts in Rio.
Harrison said: “Our team has proved to be the leading nation for cycling in the past two Olympic cycles and our aim is to continue that momentum and be a sports team that Britain can be proud of.
“We’ve seen some good results across the disciplines this season and I’ve every confidence we can step it up once more for Rio. Our medal target at Rio – as it has been and as it will be at subsequent Games – is to go and top the cycling medal table.”
Explaining the situation with the appeal process – which features a panel independent of the original selection panel – Dyer said: “Basically it’s just in conjunction with the BOA and we just felt it would be an equitable thing to do to open up the possibilities of that procedure existing for non programme riders, like it did for programme riders.
“We’ve already been through that process with programme riders and it’s just basically to be able to repeat that.
“But the entire Rio team has to go to an athlete registration process which is mid-July so it’s very much more a process of days rather than weeks. I don’t want to get drawn into individual names, but certainly anyone that is off programme has got that opportunity.”
Cavendish, meanwhile, has refused to rule out the possibility of completing this year’s Tour de France before heading to Rio in pursuit of an elusive Olympic gold.
The 31-year-old, who has won 26 Tour stages in his career, says he has no plans to leave Paris early for extra preparation time alongside his team pursuit colleagues.
Cavendish, who could have just 18 days between the end of the Tour and the start of his Olympic programme, said: “I aim to go to Paris and I will see what happens. Don’t get me wrong, last year the last few days were so crazy-hard and I was in bed for four days afterwards. I can’t really afford that before the Olympics so we’ll take every day as it comes. But I don’t have a plan to stop the tour.”
Although the selection of Cavendish for the team pursuit is regarded as controversial in some quarters, he is likely to play the role of ‘fifth man’ and possibly only appear as a tactical switch for the semi-finals.
Yorkshire’s three-pronged attack will be led by 27-year-old Armitstead in the women’s road race, where she will be supported by Nikki Harris and Emma Pooley.
The Otley star took silver at London 2012 and his since become a world champion.
“It’s an honour to have been selected to represent Team GB in Rio,” she said. “London 2012 was a fantastic event and remains one of my career highlights. I’m looking forward to doing it all again, and hopefully going one better.”
Barnsley’s double Olympic gold medallist Clancy, 31, will bid for glory in the men’s team pursuit - alongside Wiggins, Steven Burke and Owain Doull, with Cavendish providing back-up. Leeds-born Marchant, 23, joins Becky James in the women’s sprint.
TEAM: Men’s Track - Jason Kenny, 28, Bolton; Phillip Hindes, 23, Manchester; Callum Skinner, 23, Glasgowmarhcan; Bradley Wiggins, 36, London; Mark Cavendish, 31, Douglas; Owain Doull, 23, Cardiff; Steven Burke, 28, Burnley; Ed Clancy, 31, Barnsley; Ryan Owens, 20, Aspley Guise, Beds.
Women’s Track: Rebecca James, 24, Abergavenny; Katy Marchant, 23, Leeds; Laura Trott, 24, Harlow; Katie Archibald, 22, Milngavie; Joanna Rowsell Shand, 27, Carshalton; Elinor Barker, 21, Cardiff; Ciara Horne, 26, Harrow.
Men’s Road: Geraint Thomas, 30, Cardiff; Chris Froome, 31, Nairobi; Adam Yates, 23, Bury; Peter Kennaugh, 27, Douglas; Ian Stannard, 29, Chelmsford.
Women’s Road: Lizzie Armitstead, 27, Otley; Emma Pooley, 33, Wandsworth; Nikki Harris, 29, Draycott.
Men’s BMX: Liam Phillips, 27, Taunton; Kyle Evans, 22, Wigan.