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Olympic news for September 15
Lithuanians ride the course
Arguably the strongest team in the women's road race is Lithuania (Lietuva), headed by World Cup 2000 winner, Diana Ziliute, along with 1999 World Champion Edita Pucinskaite and the Polikeviciute twins, Rasa and Jolanta. A formidable team that has garnered several major honours this year as well as dominating the world championships last year.
They have been in Australia since September 5, doing much of their training in Newcastle, about 160 kilometres north of Sydney. However, today they were doing laps of Centennial Park in Sydney, riding in perfect formation, evaluating the various hills and turns on the road course.
Cyclingnews spoke with the Lithuanian team manager, Maurizio Fabretto, as he was waiting for his riders to return to the team van. Fabretto is also the president of the number one women's team in the world Acca Due O, that has 24 riders on its roster and has been dominant in women's cycling since it started 5 years ago.
Fabretto believes that Anna Wilson and Diana Ziliute will be the two big favourites in the race, although he did not discount Leontien Van Moorsel and Mirjam Melchers from the Netherlands. He is of course confident in his team: "Diana is very good at the moment, and we have Edita Pucinskaite (the World Champion) as well."
Will it be Rasa or Jolanta Polikeviciute as the third member? "Probably Rasa, but we will make the choice next week," said Fabretto. We left him as he headed towards Centennial Park kiosk for a beer, with no sign of the women.
Geneviève Jeanson interview
The Canadian team have been enjoying the Australian sunshine since August 28 when they arrived, giving themselves plenty of time to acclimatise. A key member of the team is Geneviève Jeanson who will ride the time trial and the road race, and was today assessing the time trial course both by car and bike.
Geneviève and her coach suffered an unscheduled puncture to their team car, caused after they stopped off at Albion Cycles, conveniently located at the top of the Bronte Road climb. Whilst waiting for the pit crew to change the tyre, Jeanson agreed to an exclusive, impromptu interview with cyclingnews.com.
CN: How have you felt whilst acclimatising here?
GJ: Well, the first week was fine, but the second week I didn't feel as good, but now it's fine. We have been lucky with the sunshine here.
CN: Where have you been based?
GJ: We have been staying in Woollongong for the meantime, but came up to Sydney to ride the course. The traffic is better there and the riding is great - Mt Keira, Macquarie Pass, Kangaroo Valley, and Saddleback Mountain. [Note: these are all well known climbs to the south of Sydney]
CN: Today you were riding the time trial course. What did you think about it?
GJ: It is more technical than the road race but it's a nice course. The corners I thought were easy were tough, and the corners I thought were more important were not so tough. The hardest one was entering into Centennial Park.
CN: How about the descent from Queen's Park?
GJ: It's quite fast but I think I found a good line through there.
CN: And the road race - what are your general feelings?
GJ: It's an open race, and there are lots of good girls. They say it's a sprinter's course but I don't think it's a specialty course. It will be a hard race because it's the Olympics and anything can happen. A break without any of the big names in it could stay away.
CN: The main competition?
GJ: I think the big names, Anna Wilson, Diana Ziliute of course, but you can't forget about Longo - she will always be there. The Germans are good, but I think we've got a good team as well [with Lyne Bessette and Clara Hughes]. We will decide in the race who will be the leader.
CN: What are your plans in the coming week and a half?
GJ: To train, to rest and to do the little things that I normally do.
Van Moorsel rates the track
Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel who recently arrived in Sydney has been doing the rounds of the Dunc Gray velodrome as she prepares for the women's 3000m individual pursuit starting September 17. Upon her arrival, she was a little irritated about a doping control in Sydney. Within one hour after she came to the athlete's village she had to give urine and blood samples.
"It's understandable that I have to do a test, but I just had a trip of 30 hours. And I believe that my levels could be other than normal, because you lose a lot of fluid in the plane," she said.
Her training times on the velodrome gave her some confidence however, after she recorded a 1.04.7 for a flying kilometre. "I think I can change from 52x15 to 53x15. I will test that in the coming days."
However Michael (her husband) has to make the decision. "Then I know who I can blame, when it goes wrong," quipped Van Moorsel.
Michael Zijlaard has doubts about using a 53x15. "There are some risks. You have to know for sure you can use the 53x15 until the end. The most important aim is to reach the final four, but if the feeling is good, we will do it for sure," said Michael.
Leontien expects some records will be set on the track. She only hopes (along with many others) that the temperature will be higher during the races. "The track is fast at the moment. But if it gets warmer, it will go faster too."
US track rider, Dylan Casey, has pulled out of the men's 4000m individual pursuit, scheduled to start tomorrow (September 16). The reason according to US Team Physiotherapist, Craig Griffins, was that he has problems with a sore knee. Mariano Friedick will take his place and will line up with Christian Vande Velde in the event. It is uncertain whether Casey will take his place in the team pursuit, starting on September 18.
Although disappointed with the set back, Griffins said that the ease of Casey's replacement reflected the "good camaraderie within the team."
There will be no Oksana Grichina on the start list for the women's 500 metre time trial tomorrow, the first cycling final. The Russian team did not give a reason as to her absence. Grichina won one race in the World Cup this season and had planned to start in the sprint later on during the track events.
Andersson not out yet...
Swedish national coach Hans Falk said in an interview on the Swedish Eurosport that time trial rider Michael Andersson is recovering faster than expected from his blood poisoning and he is not ruling out a start in Sydney. Otherwise Magnus Bäckstedt will take his place as expected.
O'Grady or McGrory?
Road team member, Stuart O'Grady has been doing some track training after he arrived in Sydney late yesterday. He rode on the Dunc Gray Velodrome today with fellow team member, Scott McGrory as the speculations continue as to who's riding what race. It seems unlikely now that either Brett Aitken or Mick Rogers will ride the points race on September 20, and O'Grady may well get a chance. However, the Australian team officials were not giving anything away.
Pantani and Sydney
The reactions have started from the Pantani camp in relation to suspicions that he may be excluded from the Italian team for a rising hematocrit. Compulsory medical checks recently revealed this, and more are scheduled for the team before they fly out to Sydney.
According to Italian newsagency ANSA, Pantani's personal manager Manuela Ronchi said that "there was never any question of his not going." However, one of the Italian team leaders, Virginio Rapone was not quite so sure, "the situation will be decided between tomorrow and the next day," he said.
"The Federation were convinced of Fusi's selection, and if Pantani is not suitable then they can easily stop his participation," added Rapone.
President of Mercatone Uno, Felice Gimondi, rejected all accusations against Pantani. "Not only the latest, but all the examinations carried out in the past months on Pantani have showed values within the normal range," he said.
Zülle has doubts about road race
Former world time trial champion, Alex Zülle, who will finish the Vuelta a España, has expressed doubts about starting in the road race in Sydney on the 27th. It is assumed that tiredness is his reason, as he is currently struggling in the Vuelta in 43rd place, over an hour behind. His Banesto team want him to finish the race however, and this may mean not enough recover/adaptation time between the finish of the Vuelta and the road race on the 27th. He should still start in the time trial on the 30th, where he will be one of the favourites.
Swiss MTB representative, Thomas Frischknecht may take his place in the road race if Zülle withdraws. Frischknecht has the honour of carrying the flag for the Swiss team at the opening ceremony and rode the road race and the MTB in 1996.
Aussie roadies without clothes
Two matching, but non-cycling attired members of the Australian men's road team were spotted riding up Bronte road towards team headquarters in Randwick. No shoes and no gear? What's going on here?
The two riders in question were sprinter Robbie McEwen and time trialist Nathan O'Neill, who replied that "all their stuff was in Canberra" where they were going to travel tomorrow. A slight mix-up, but any excuse to cruise around. The road team will hold a training camp in Canberra over the next 9 days, returning to Sydney on September 24, three days prior to the road race.
When asked about the time trial course, O'Neill said that he "didn't consider it too technical," despite its 20 corners per lap (60 in total). "There are enough open roads to wind it up for a bit," he added.
French cyclist, Emmanuel Magnien who was ejected from the road team after failing a drugs test during the tour, has appealed his 6 month sentence. The French Cycling Federation and the UCI meted out the penalty after it was found that Magnien had an illegal injection of cortisone prior to the Tour for treatment, he claimed, of an allergy.
Magnien believes that the penalty was unfair and has taken his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Check it out
As the Games are now upon us at cyclingnews, we've be adding more and more to the Olympics site in the past few days. For example, take a look at some of the photos we have, along with the complete start list for the track events, as well as a full track event preview and world record list. In addition, our course maps for the road race have been updated and more will be added to this section.
The action starts tomorrow with the triathlon in the morning, where there is a strong chance of Aussie Gold, Gold, Gold! (Apologies for sharing the Spirit there).