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U.S. mountain biker withdraws from Olympics after making team in close decision

Chloe Woodruff

US Chloe Woodruff competes in the cycling mountain bike women’s cross-country race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Mountain Bike Centre in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016. / AFP / Pascal GUYOT (Photo credit should read PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

U.S. mountain bike champion Chloe Woodruff withdrew from the Olympic team and was replaced by Erin Huck, who will join Kate Courtney and Haley Batten on the course near Tokyo.

USA Cycling announced the move in a statement Thursday. It wasn’t known whether the pandemic, which postponed the Tokyo Games by an entire year, played a part in Woodruff’s decision. USA Cycling called it a “personal reason” and did not provide additional information.

Woodruff’s Instagram account still included a line in her bio stating that she was “chasing big dreams in #tokyo2021.”

MORE: U.S. Olympic team roster

The decision by USA Cycling’s eight-member selection committee to pick Woodruff over Huck was so close that it led Huck to request an arbitration hearing, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because those hearings take place behind closed doors and are not considered public knowledge.

That was the only discretionary pick because Courtney and Batten had secured spots through automatic qualification.

Woodruff, who finished 14th at the 2016 Rio Olympics, had been instrumental in helping the U.S. earn the maximum three starting spots in Tokyo. She joined Courtney, Huck and Lea Davison in crisscrossing the world the past few years to secure enough points in World Cup and other top races to ensure the U.S. was high enough in the nation rankings.

In fact, Woodruff and Huck competed as a team at the Israel Epic in an attempt to earn more points.

The 33-year-old Woodruff was beaten by Huck at each of the first two World Cup races this season, though. She was 30th at Albstadt, where Huck was 15th, and 64th in the race at Nove Mesto, where the 40-year-old Huck finished 16th.

Huck was the national champion in 2016 but has never made an Olympic team.

Even though mountain biking was pioneered in the U.S., the American team has had little success since the discipline was added to the Olympic program in 1996. Nobody from the men’s team has made the podium, while Susan DeMattei in 1996 and Georgia Gould in 2012 have managed the best result among women, bronze medals.

The U.S. women have high hopes this year, though. Courtney won the 2018 World Championship — the first for an American since 2001 — before capturing the World Cup overall series title the following year. And Batten was a competitive second to French gold medal-favorite Loana Lecomte at the World Cup race in Albstadt in May.

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