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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Latest Cycling News for August 11, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Top one day riders in Athens showdown

By Tim Maloney, European editor

Jan Ullrich leads Andreas Klöden and Alexandre Vinokourov in 2000
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

Cycling has been a part of the modern Olympic Games since the beginning in 1896 and it's only fitting that the 222.7km Men's Olympic Road Race is the first medal event of the 2004 Olympiade. The Olympics is a unique event in the cycling universe, in that it's raced only every four years, providing few reference points for the competitors. Like the World Championship, the Olympics uses a national team format, but with fewer riders per squad, making the actual racing more difficult to control. Men's teams have a maximum of five riders, while women will have three per country on the starting line. With a broad participation of nations, the mix of experienced and inexperienced riders can sometimes cause problems

The men will race 17 laps of a 13.1 km parcours that is located entirely in central Athens. The somewhat selective Olympic road race circuit starts and finishes in downtown Athens in Kontzias Square, just in front of Athens City Hall, then loops through Omonoia Square. After 1km, there is a right hand turn with the next kilometre and a half on Alexandras Ave. uphill at a 2-3% gradient that passes the treasures of the National Museum, then becomes steeper and increases to 5% until a 150 degree right hand turn.

The next kilometre and a half heads down Ippocratous St., through the feed zone the base of the climb and Kolonaki Square and then hits the climb of Lycabettus Hill. This is a 2km ascent that heads up and around Lycabettus Park and landmark ancient Greek theatre. The first 500m of the ascent are steep, twisty and narrow with an average gradient of 8% with some points to 10%; a perfect place to attack. The climb then continues for another kilometre and change, then heads back down towards the center of Athens. This fast, tricky and somewhat steep descent plunges down through Lycabettus Park and onto Vassilisis Sophias Avenue to Synta Square and Amallias Ave., around the Greek Parliament and the National Gardens for three kilometres and then back up towards Acropolis Hill.

After 10.5km of racing, the Olympic parcours turns right to pass the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Acropolis, including the symbol of Athens, the Parthenon. There, a 1 km stretch of road paved with small, square marble bricks that is slightly uphill should inspire plenty of attacks. Once through the pavé section, the Olympic parcours then hits a false flat that is perfect for counterattacks, and once through Thission Square, then down to the last kilometre on Ermou St that has a 3% grade over the first 600m, then flattens out back to the finish in Kontzias Square for an uphill sprint perfect for power riders or attackers.

Click here for the full men's road race preview

Belgium: A small but quality delegation

By Jeff Jones

Merckx (Lotto-Domo)
Photo ©: Caroline Yang
Click for larger image

Although its complete road, track and MTB team numbers only nine riders, Belgium is still a country with strong medal chances in cycling at the Olympics.

The five member men's road team should be competitive with the other top squads in Athens such as Italy, Spain, Germany and Australia. Led by Lotto-Domo's Peter van Petegem and Axel Merckx, the team has a good mix of supporting riders and wild cards, with Marc Wauters, Philippe Gilbert and Wim Vansevenant all able to fill those roles. Merckx in particular has stood out in recent races, and he has often been in the decisive breakaway, never afraid to try his own chances. Peter Van Petegem's double in the 2003 Ronde van Vlaanderen/Paris-Roubaix won't be forgotten easily, and although the Athens course is not exactly the same as a spring classic, Van Petegem is a rider who can be brilliant when it matters. In the time trial, Belgian hopes will rest with Van Petegem and Wauters.

Belgium only has one female cyclist entered into the Olympics: 20 year old road rider Sharon Vandromme, from Roeselare. Vandromme finished 10th in the European U23 championships in Athens in 2003, and is also a consistent finisher in the women's World Cups.

Click here for the full Belgian team preview

After a fine Tour, France hopes for Olympic success

Former World Champion Brochard leads the charge

By Chris Henry

Laurent Brochard (Ag2r)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

France enters the Olympic men's road race with a status of underdog, with a mixture of veterans and young riders completing the five man roster. With talk in recent years of the poor state of French cycling, the country has begun to enjoy something of a resurgence in 2004, highlighted by three stage wins in the Tour de France and young national champion Thomas Voeckler's ten days in the yellow jersey. Victories are coming more often for French riders, and the five men sent to Athens will be looking to put France back on the podium in the biggest international competition.

Heading the team will be the experienced Laurent Brochard (Ag2r-Prévoyance), professional since 1992 and contesting his third Olympiad. At 36 years old, Athens will surely be his last, but the 1997 world champion is as motivated as ever for hunt for Olympic gold. Brochard will be joined by Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole), Richard Virenque (Quick.Step-Davitamon), Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler (Brioches La Boulangère).

"I've been thinking about Athens for two years," Brochard told AFP. "For two years I've kept this race at the top of my objectives. It's not often that a race instills such a feeling of pride."

Click here for the full French men's road team preview

Mactier chases the dream

While many of Australia's Olympians have worked all their lives to get to Athens this week, a trio of women cyclists took the fast lane to the Games.

Katie Mactier is a medal chance in the individual pursuit after riding the event for a little over a year and Oenone Wood is a gold medal favourite in the road race and a chance in the time trial with only three years competitive cycling behind her. Wood's road race teammate Olivia Gollan, 30, is also a late comer, interrupting her career as a teacher to win the national road series in her first year of serious competition in 2001. The third member of the road race team, Sara Carrigan is a relative veteran at 23, having been a reserve for the 2000 Olympics.

Wood, also 23, credited the Australian system of support from the state institutes of sport and the AIS for the identification and development of women cyclists in what is still a fledgling area of the sport.

"I certainly don't think I would have imagined myself in this position a couple of years ago," Wood said. "Sara got into the sport a bit younger than us but for Liv and me, it's sort of the same situation - not long in the sport and a quick progression into the national team. I think that reflects the level of support that we get, not only from our state academies but also when you come into the AIS program, you're really supported. And everything's there for you to succeed, that's how it allows people to come into the program and quickly make their way to the top level."

After only four months training on the track, Mactier, 28, won silver in last year's world championships in Stuttgart in the 3000m individual pursuit against the Netherlands' queen of world cycling Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel. Mactier took silver again this year to New Zealand's world record breaker Sarah Ulmer and is a distinct gold medal hope.

Mactier abandoned athletics when she left school at 17 and took up triathlon for fun in her 20s while she studied and then followed a career in advertising. But her feats in the triathlon prompted an offer of a cycling scholarship from the Victorian Institute of Sport which she took up at the age of 24 and set off on the road to Athens, which only came into view last year.

"I am a lucky thing," Mactier said. "Ever since my debut in Stuttgart it's been the dream I've been chasing. The last 12 months have been one-dimensional."

© AAP

Athens track cycling sold out

Although overall Olympic ticket sales in Athens are yet to reach the "50 percent sold" mark, all six days of track cycling between August 20-25 have been sold out. The Athens track seats 3638 people.

Bruylandts gets a year and a half

Belgian Dave Bruylandts, who tested positive for EPO in an out of competition control on April 9, has been given an 18 month suspension and an additional 30 months good behaviour by the Belgian cycling federation. The federation's prosecutor Jaak Fransen recommended a firm four year suspension for Bruylandts, but the disciplinary commission meted out a softer penalty.

Bruylandts, 28, has been sacked by the Chocolade Jacques team in accordance with their anti-doping policy. Although he will have to wait until mid-2006 before he can race again, he does not intend to retire yet unlike other recent EPO positives such as Filip Meirhaeghe and Oscar Camenzind. Bruylandts will also examine the judgment with his lawyer to see if there are grounds for an appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Scheuneman to Rabobank

Dutch rider Niels Scheuneman will almost certainly ride for Rabobank next season, De Telegraaf reports. The 21 year old, who rode for Rabobank's division III team last year, spent 2004 riding for Belgian/Spanish squad Relax-Bodysol, but the indications are that he'll return to the Dutch team in 2005.

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