The American cycling euphoria of '84, brought on by European-sized crowds who watched as United States riders reaped an unprecedented Olympic harvest, has cooled somewhat in the year that followed.
Nine medals, four of them gold, were the first won by the United States since 1912. However, five of the medal winners, including individual pursuit champion Steve Hegg of Dana Point, later were revealed to have participated in a practice called "blood doping." The incident, which more correctly should be called "blood packing," was more of an embarrassment than anything else.
In a back room of team headquarters at the Torrance Ramada Inn, a day or two before their event, the riders were injected with an extra pint of blood to increase their oxygen capacity through the addition of red cells. It was not illegal by Olympic or International Amateur Cycling Federation rules, but with all the public attention on doping and steroids, many in the cycling movement considered it unethical.
The U.S. Cycling Federation has since made the practice illegal, although there admittedly is no way to test for it. The USCF also found head coach Eddy Borysewicz and staff member Ed Burke guilty of "serious errors in judgment by individuals who were charged with solemn responsibilities."
Of more concern to future Olympic candidates may be an argument within the USCF over what to do with the windfall of $658,000 from the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee's surplus fund. Should it go to the masses or to the elite?
David Prouty, USCF executive director, wants the money spread throughout the lower echelons. "We should devote more of our resources to expanding the base," Prouty says. "We have only 17,000 riders compared to 100,000 or more for most European countries. That shows our weakness. We had better build the basement and firm up our foundation."
Borysewicz wants the money for the first team, specifically junior cyclists whom he sees as the nucleus of the '88 Olympic squad. "We are operating on a shoestring budget," Borysewicz says. "My business is to produce results. I produced them last year and what do I get--a cut in my budget. The juniors deserve the best. They are the riders of our future."
It was from the junior class of 1978 that Borysewicz built his 1984 Olympic team. It included Greg LeMond, who turned pro after the Olympic boycott of 1980 and won the world professional road racing championship three years later; Mark Gorski, the 1984 match sprint gold medalist; and world-class riders Ron Kiefel, Greg Demgen, Andy Weaver and Thurlow Rogers.
Although most U.S. Olympians underwent a letdown after their exhilarating efforts last summer, they should receive a boost next year when the World Professional and Amateur Cycling Championships will be in Colorado, Aug. 24 to Sept. 4.
As it was in 1984, when Connie Carpenter-Phinney and Rebecca Twigg finished 1-2 in the first women's cycling event in Olympic history, women figure to be America's strong suit in 1988 at Seoul, South Korea. Two more women's events, the individual pursuit and the match sprint, have been added to the cycling schedule along with the road race.
Twigg is a two-time world pursuit champion and considers that her best event, even though she has won one world road racing championship and finished only inches behind her teammate last summer at Mission Viejo. Connie Paraskevin, a three-time world sprint champion from Detroit, plans to compete through '88 in hopes of winning a gold medal.
As for the men, Gorski, Rogers and Leonard Nitz (the individual pursuit bronze medalist) may go on for another two years if they do well in the world championships, where they will face Eastern European riders who boycotted the Los Angeles Games.
Gorski, 26, is obsessed with beating East Germany's Lutz Hesslich in the sprints. Hesslich, the 1980 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, looked unbeatable in a recent international meet in Colorado Springs, in which Gorski failed to reach the finals. Nelson Vails, the runner-up to Gorski in the '84 Olympics, plans to compete through the Seoul Games.
Hegg, 21, the other track gold medalist, is torn between skiing and cycling. Hegg has said he wants to compete in the '88 Winter Olympics at Calgary, but he also would like to defend his championship in Seoul.
"I don't know what I'll do," he says. "The only thing I'm sure of is that I can't do both, and do them right."
Earlier this year, Hegg finished second in the U.S. Alpine ski championships and competed in the World Cup in Japan. Despite a minimum of cycling conditioning, he still finished a strong second to Dean Woods, Australia's teen-age phenom, last month at Colorado Springs.
On the road, where the U.S. dominated, the race to Seoul is wide open. Carpenter-Phinney has retired, and the other half of America's Olympic husband-wife team, Davis Phinney, is racing professionally. He won a bronze medal in team time trial.
Twigg will probably concentrate on the pursuit, leaving the women's road race to riders as yet little known. Three of the four American men who finished in the top nine--gold medalist Alexi Grewal, Phinney and Kiefel--have turned professional. Rogers, the fourth, recently won the Washington Trust trophy race series in Spokane, Wash., beating Roy Knickman, at 19 the baby of last year's U.S. Olympic team.