Jennifer Valente

U.S. dedicates women’s team pursuit world title to Kelly Catlin

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With “KC” stickers on their bikes, the U.S. women’s team pursuit team took gold at the world track cycling championships. They did it in remembrance of former team member Kelly Catlin, who died by suicide last March.

“This one is super special,” said Chloe Dygert, who earned Rio Olympic silver on a team with Catlin. “This is our first world championships since Kelly. To win here, for her, it means a lot. It’s very emotional. We had her in our hearts this whole time.”

Dygert, Jennifer ValenteEmma White and Lily Williams clocked 4 minutes, 11.235 seconds to defeat Olympic champion Great Britain by nearly two seconds in the final in Berlin.

A new-look U.S. pursuit team is jelling at the right time, five months before the Olympics.

“This is an accomplishment, but we’re going to put it behind us,” said Dygert, knowing the U.S. has never won an Olympic women’s track cycling title. “We have way more to do. This is a stepping stone. Olympics is what matters. This is training, basically.”

The team pursuit is a 4000m event where heats have two teams positioned exactly opposite of each other on the track. Times are determined by a team’s third finisher.

The U.S. — world champion in 2016, 2017 and 2018 — dipped to seventh place in 2019 without key team members Catlin and Dygert.

“We don’t talk about it every day, but if there’s something going and it reminds us of Kelly, we’re not afraid to talk about it,” said Dygert, who missed part of 2019 after a May 2018 road cycling crash that caused a concussion. “Kelly, bring her up, there’s jokes, everything. Kelly’s here. Kelly’s with us all the time.”

The U.S. team that prevailed in Berlin included two newcomers in this Olympic cycle in Williams and White.

“I’m 25, and I’d like to think that I’m still young, yet somehow I’m the oldest on this new team,” said Valente, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado. “Because of all the new faces, people don’t really know what were capable of, and we think that works to our advantage.”

White started riding track in March 2018 after experience in road cycling and cyclo-cross. She made her track worlds debut last year as part of the seventh-place U.S. team. The Americans clocked 4:23.721 in 2019, more than seven seconds slower than in the same round in 2018 and 12 seconds slower than the American record set in Wednesday’s qualifying round.

Williams, this year’s rookie team member, converted from being a mile runner at Vanderbilt.

“We do have great relationships on and off the bike, and that’s huge for this time around,” Dygert said. “I feel like before Rio, this environment wasn’t as healthy as it is now. And that’s definitely a game-changer.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Rachel Thompson contributed to this report from Berlin.

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MORE: Track cycling worlds TV, live stream schedule

Jennifer Valente takes silver in world cycling championship scratch race

Jennifer Valente
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Jennifer Valente won the first medal for the U.S. team in the world track cycling championships Wednesday in Berlin, finishing second behind Dutch cyclist Kirsten Wild in the scratch race.

Wild won the mass-start event for the third time, having taken gold in 2015 and 2018, and her seventh world championship in all track cycling disciplines. She also took silver in the 2016 world championship road race.

Valente also joined Chloé Dygert, Emma White and Lily Williams in women’s team pursuit qualifying, posting the fastest time of the day and easily qualifying for the semifinals on Thursday. The U.S. team has been in transition with the retirement of Sarah Hammer and the death of Kelly Catlin, who committed suicide in March. Hammer, Catlin, Dygert and Valente took silver in the 2016 Olympics.

READ: Dygert aims for road and track double in Tokyo

The Netherlands took two of the three gold medals on Wednesday’s program, beating Britain to win the men’s team sprint. Germany beat Australia to win the women’s team sprint.

READ: Track cycling broadcast and streaming schedule

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Kristin Armstrong, Taylor Phinney round out U.S. Olympic cycling team

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USA Cycling filled out its 21-member Olympic team Thursday, and making the cut was two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong. At 42 years old, she will become the oldest U.S. Olympic female cyclist of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

Armstrong was not a lock to make the team despite winning gold in the women’s time trial at the 2008 and 2012 Games. She will turn 43 on Aug. 11, one day after the women’s time trial in Rio. The women’s road race is Aug. 7. Armstrong placed 35th in the road race four years ago, and 25th eight years ago. Her Olympic debut came in the 2004 Athens Games, where she finished eighth in the road race.

“I feel that I’m still podium capable,” Armstrong told Cycling News last month. “I feel I’m still the most consistent time triallist in the U.S.”

Armstrong was a discretionary pick for the women’s road team along with Mara Abbott and Evelyn Stevens (2012 Olympian). Megan Guarnier had already clinched a berth with a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships.

Highlighting the men’s road team is Taylor Phinney, who’s set to make his third Olympic appearance. It’s a well-deserved berth for the 25-year-old, who endured a long recovery from a severe crash in the 2014 USA Cycling National Road Championship. He suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula and was out of racing for more than a year. Phinney returned to competition in August 2015, and last month won this third time trial national championship.

Phinney placed fourth in both the time trial and road race at the London Games. He competed on the track in the Beijing Games, finishing seventh in individual pursuit.

In Rio, he’ll be joined on the men’s road team by 32-year-old Brent Bookwalter, who’ll make his Olympic debut. Top American cyclist Tejay van Garderen withdrew from Olympic consideration earlier this month due to Zika virus concerns.

The U.S. BMX team will be led by Nic Long and Alise Post, who both competed in the London Games and previously earned Rio berths with World Championship podium finishes. Corben Sharrah also previously had a spot after winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Brooke Crain and Connor Fields, who will both make their second Olympic appearances, were the discretionary selections announced Thursday.

The U.S. mountain bike team will consist of Lea Davison (2012 Olympian), Howard Grotts and Chloe Woodruff. No U.S. mountain bikers earned automatic selections through previous competitions.

The U.S. track cycling team was announced in March and includes Matt Baranoski, Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert, Sarah Hammer (2008 and ’12 Olympian; two silver medals in London), Bobby Lea (2008 and ’12 Olympian), Jennifer Valente and Ruth Winder.

MORE: Nic Long, Alise Post make U.S. Olympic team after BMX Worlds medals