USA Cycling announced in a press release that George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie individually asked to be taken out of the Olympic selection pool. Looking at the list of names one commonality sticks out: they were all members of the US Postal team.
USADA’s charging letter to Armstrong states they have “multiple riders with firsthand knowledge” that will testify that the seven-time Tour de France champion used EPO amoung other performance enhancing drugs. There has been much speculation about who those multiple riders are. A couple of obvious picks are Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. You can also add Frankie Andreu as a possible person who would testify. These additional names provided by USA Cycling could also be part of the riders with firsthand knowledge.
To give them the benefit of the doubt it could be argued that Hincapie, Leipheimer and Vande Velde were never serious potential candidates on a course that is considered to favor a sprinter like Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan or America’s Tyler Farrar. As such you need to build a team around one rider – in America’s case Farrar. Hincapie and Leipheimer won’t be the best picks for those slots. Sure Hincapie, Vande Velde or Leipheimer could be “road captains” as race radios are not allowed. However, it looks like Chris Horner has that position filled and quite frankly, he’ll do an excellent job. But I still wonder, why bother to ask USA Cycling to not consider them? One name that I can’t think of any reason he would ask to be excluded for Olympic consideration is Zabriskie.
This past May, Zabriskie won the time trial at the Amgen Tour of California. Then he defended his national time trial championship later that month in Greenville. At the post race press conference the Olympics were a goal. Even Taylor Phinney, who will be riding the time trial in the Olympics says that it’s a gamble to choose him. So what happened for Zabriskie, between May 26th (the day of the time trial championships) and today?
When USADA takes Armstrong to arbitration I’m guessing we’ll see these four names again. It’s going to be hard for Armstrong’s attorneys to dismiss them as disgruntled or crazy.