The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, with the Paralympic Games following Aug. 25-Sept. 6, and while they may be months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.
Jennifer Valente is already an Olympic silver medalist, and she’s looking to add to that this year at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
First, however, she and her U.S. track cycling teammates have one last big competition that will play a large part in determining their Olympic fates. The 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships run Wednesday through Sunday in Berlin, and the U.S. is sending eight women and four men.
They are: Chloé Dygert (individual pursuit, team pursuit), Madalyn Godby (keirin, match sprint), Megan Jastrab (Madison), Mandy Marquardt (match sprint), Kendall Ryan (team pursuit), Valente (Madison, omnium, points race, scratch race, team pursuit), Emma White (team pursuit), Lily Williams (team pursuit). For the men, Adrian Hegyvary (Madison), Daniel Holloway (Madison), Gavin Hoover (omnium, scratch race) and Ashton Lambie (individual pursuit) will represent Team USA.
All events but the individual pursuit, points race and scratch race will be contested at the Tokyo Games.
This year’s world championships will have even greater importance because athletes who perform well will be nominated to USA Cycling’s long team, from which Olympic team members will then be chosen. Sunday also marks the end of the 20-month UCI Olympic Track Ranking period that determines how many cyclists each country sends to Tokyo.
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Jennifer Valente celebrates her victory at the 2019 Brisbane Track World Cup on Dec. 15, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia.
Here are four things to look out for heading into this year’s world championships:
Will Jennifer Valente become the omnium world champion?
Valente has already won world championship gold three times in team pursuit, to go along with her 2016 Olympic silver medal in the event, but this year in particular she’s excelled in the omnium, the most grueling of the track cycling events. It features four events in one day, and Valente won the overall world cup omnium title this year after winning three of the contests and finishing second in another.
Last year she took third in the omnium at the world championships, and that was after entering the fourth and final race in fourth place and crashing midway through. Prior to that her best finish in the event was eighth place in 2018. So if the San Diego native continues her upward trajectory, this could be her year. The women’s omnium will be held Friday. Valente’s toughest competition will likely come from two-time defending champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands.
Can the women recapture the team pursuit rainbow jersey?
The U.S. women had won three team pursuit world titles in a row, in addition to the silver medal at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, but were left off the medal stand last year. With returning 2019 team members Valente and Emma White, plus Chloé Dygert and Lily Williams, an up-and-comer who only started racing track last year, with Kendall Ryan as the alternate, they hope to climb back on top this year. Dygert, who in road cycling is the women’s time trial world champion and has already qualified for Tokyo in that discipline, is no stranger to the squad, having been a member of the three world championship teams and the 2016 Olympic team. The current group has been strong this year. They’re coming off a win in the final world cup of the season and are looking to make a statement as the countdown to Tokyo continues. The men's and women's team pursuit finals are set for Thursday.
How will the women’s Madison duo fare before the event makes its Olympic debut?
Valente will team up with Megan Jastrab, the defending junior world champ in the road race, for this competition, which involves two riders alternating laps and often slingshotting each other forward during the changes. It’s fast-paced and exciting and results in a lot of bikes on the track at one time between the racers and those awaiting their turn. It was included as an Olympic men’s event for three editions but dropped before the 2012 Games, and now both genders will have the chance to compete in 2020. Valente and Jastrab, 18, took bronze in the final world cup Madison of the season and are contenders to pick up some more hardware. The final will be held on Saturday.
Can the men continue to build on their success?
The men could challenge for medals in the Madison, omnium and individual pursuit races. Adrian Hegyvary, who’ll be competing at the world championships for the third time, and Daniel Holloway have had success in the Madison in recent years, including a podium finish in both 2018 and 2019. The veterans are expected to team up together Sunday, and later in Tokyo. Holloway and Hoover are also veterans of two world championships, and Ashton Lambie broke the individual pursuit world record for the third time back in September. All four medaled at the Pan American Games Lima 2019.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.