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Olympic news for September 16
Let the Games begin
After many years of waiting, the 27th Olympic Games is finally underway here in Sydney. The opening ceremony last night was worth a look, especially the dramatic finale where Australian runner, Cathy Freeman was given the honour of lighting the flame. Speculations were rife that it was going to be Greg Norman but this was not the case.
There is some cycling going on right now, with the women's triathlon on the picturesque course around Sydney Harbour. Could it be an Aussie 1-2-3 to start things? We'll find out shortly. Carol Montgomery of the Canadian team is already out after falling off on the bike leg.
The weather at the moment is a little cooler than it has been - overcast and around 19-20 degrees, however there has been no rain (yet). This will make things a bit tougher in the velodrome, as it is 5-6 degrees colder there than outside, however all reports are that the track is very fast.
The cycling starts later this evening, with men's 4000 metre individual pursuit qualification, followed by the women's 500 metre time trial and the men's 1,000 metre time trial. For those of you without the benefit of live TV, you'll be able to see all the results first on cyclingnews.com, as we'll be posting regular updates through the evening.
In the men's 4000 metre individual pursuit, the qualifying and the semi-finals will be on this evening, with favourites being Robert Bartko (Ger), Jens Lehmann (Ger), Alexei Markov (Rus), Sergiy Matveyev (Ukr), Philippe Gaumont (Fra), and Brad McGee (Aus).
The women's 500 metres will see Felicia Ballanger (Fra) as number one favourite, followed by Michelle Ferris (Aus), Lyndelle Higginson (Aus), Magali Faure (Fra) and Tanya Dubnicoff (Can).
The men's 1000 metres is tipped to be Arnaud Tournant's, but Shane Kelly is certainly not to be underestimated. His ability to lift himself in big events is legendary, and he will push Tournant all the way on his home turf. Others to look out for include German's Soren Lausberg and Stefan Nimke, and Great Britain's Jason Queally.
George Hincapie interview
US road team member, George Hincapie is just about to head out to Australia for the final 10 days before the road race. The Eastern suburbs beckons! He gave one last interview before he departed, courtesy of www.hincapie.com.
We haven't checked in with you for a while. You've just recently completed the Tour of Poland and are flying to Sydney for the Olympics within days. This was the 57th edition of the Tour of Poland. Had you ever ridden that race before? Tyler Hamilton indicated on his website that the roads and pavements outside of Warsaw (or lack thereof) were pretty brutal. What were your impressions of the race? The country?
GH: I have never ridden the tour - or otherwise - in Poland before, so it was a new experience all around. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a cold during the race, so I was just trying to get over that and get some good training in for the Olympics at the same time. The roads were kind of rough and everyday was pretty windy, so it made for some really aggressive racing. There's a lot of history to Poland. Warsaw was nice and is really turning around and, like Tyler said, the people are very friendly and upbeat. All in all, we enjoyed racing there.
The Posties rode with Saturn as a combined team in the Tour of Poland, and Antonio Cruz -- who won the U.S. Olympic Qualifier -- rode as your teammate. Do you think that experience racing with Antonio as a teammate will help the U.S. Team in Sydney?
GH: No doubt, but mainly Tony rode the Tour of Poland to get some good training and hard racing in, since there were not many races going on in the US. It will benefit him, and benefit the US team.
How was the trip back home to Girona after the race? Glad to be back in Girona a little while?
GH: The trip back to my apartment here in Spain was really long, it basically took all day. I left Warsaw in the morning and did not get to my place in Girona until pretty late that night. While it was a long day of travel, it's nothing compared to the one I have coming up to Australia!
When are you due to arrive in Sydney?
GH: I leave for the Sydney on the Sunday the 17th and I arrive on Tuesday the 19th. Nothing like losing a day crossing the International Date Line.
So you'll miss the Opening Ceremonies. Will you be around for the Closing Ceremonies?
GH: Unfortunately I will miss the Opening Ceremonies. I am trying to change my return ticket so I can stay for the Closing Ceremonies, but the problem there is that everyone and his brother (not my brother, though!) is trying to do the same, so it may be difficult or impossible to do that. At the same time, however, it's been over 4 months since I've been home, so I'm also ready to get back to home sooner if it doesn't work out for me to stay a few extra days in Sydney.
Have you raced in Australia before, and if so, when?
GH: I did the Commonwealth Bank Classic in 1995, and I really enjoyed it. Bobby Julich and I rode that back in our Motorola days. We both had several top 10's, I finished with a second in the final stage, and Bobby was third in the final GC. That was a little different, format-wise - it was like a 9 day race with two stages a day, and every other stage was a 30k crit.
The Men's Road Race field for the Sydney Olympics looks to be the strongest field ever assembled for an Olympic competition. As far as the 60 or 70 elite pro cyclists there who routinely compete in the WC's, the Tour, and other races, will this be "just another day at the office?"
GH: Even though the field might look like that of WC or a stage from the TDF, the Olympics can never be just another day at the office. Everybody will be very excited and really prepared for the race. It's national pride, and all that goes along with that. I guess some of us have an advantage in having raced together the whole year, but I can assure you it will not be "just another day in the office."
Have you had a chance to surf the Net and see the abundance of websites covering the Olympics? We just looked at Sports Illustrated/CNN's site and it reports that both you and Fred Rodriguez live in Charlotte? Is that right?
GH: Yeah, there's a ton of sites on everything now, and not all the information is always right. No, Freddie lives in San Francisco. We did share an apartment in Charlotte six years ago -- 1994, for about one year. I live in Greenville, South Carolina now.
We also noted that SI's Brian Cazeneuve said of the Sydney Road Course: "[The] hill on Bronte Road provides Tour de France-type climbing battle that any of top three could win." You've seen the course profile for Sydney. Looks more like the "Manayunk Wall" [in Philadelphia, on the U.S. Pro Championship course] than anything in the TDF, wouldn't you think?
GH: I am sure that hill will not be anything like the mountains in the Tour, but nevertheless, 240km is a long way and I am sure it will hurt after that distance. I'll be able to comment more on it next week when I actually see the course.
The Sydney Road Course was changed in September 1999 and reversed and it's not the flat course in Bankstown that once was on the table. How will that affect you and what is your [and the US Team's] strategy for the race?
GH: Our team strategy will be decided a couple of days before the race, when we know how everybody has adapted to the time change, the new environment, those sort of things. I know Jim Ochowicz, our Olympic Road Coach, will do a great job. He's a former Olympian ['72, '76] and was our GM and coach at Motorola, and I am looking forward to the reunion.
What advantage do you think you'll have as a three-time Olympian, as opposed to someone for whom this is their first Olympics?
GH: The Olympics are such a big event -- more than 10,000 athletes this year. It can be very easy to get distracted when you are there. The Road Race is my one Olympic event this year and my one chance to win. I know how important it is to stay focused.
How will the weather affect performance? Compare Sydney to Atlanta and Barcelona as far as heat and humidity.
GH: Sydney is going to be a lot cooler than Atlanta, and cooler than Barcelona too, for that matter. I don't think the weather is going to much of a factor, unless it is raining, which I don't think is expected much there in Sydney this time of year.
Both Lance and Chris Carmichael, your's and Lance's personal coach, have indicated that Lance intends to focus on the Time Trial, not the Road Race. Does that mean that Lance will be riding for you in the Road Race?
GH: We have a strong team in Sydney -- myself, Lance, Tyler, Fred, and Tony -- so we are just going to have to wait and see how everybody is feeling. The good thing is that we have good options with the riders that we are starting with.
What would an Olympic Gold medal mean to you?
GH: One word: EVERYTHING.
Will you have any down time in Sydney either before or after your competition? What will you do?
GH: I am not racing any more until Sydney, so I guess you can say that I have down time right now. However, I'll be training and resting until the race on the 27th, so nothing too interesting, really. I certainly hope that I will have some time after the race to soak in some of the "Olympic experience".
What other competitions in Sydney would you like to see as a spectator?
GH: I would certainly love to see some of the Athletic competitions -- Track and Field, definitely see some basketball. Also I like to see some of the track events in cycling -- team and individual pursuit, the Keirin . . . and definitely I'll want to see the Time Trial! Really, I guess as many of the cycling events as I can.
What about boxing? Calvin Brock, the U.S. Olympic Super Heavyweight boxer, is from your former home Charlotte, NC, and is picked as a favorite to win gold in his division. Do you know Calvin and will you be seeing him box?
GH: No, I don't know Calvin. But I would love to go to one of the boxing events and definitely want to go to Calvin's gold medal match if he's there. It's one of the marquis sports in the Olympics.
Are you planning to ride in the World Championships in France after the Games?
GH: I'll make that decision when I get to Sydney.
There will be a lot of changes for the Posties next year in personnel, with Kevin Livingston having signed with Linda McCartney, several new signings, and rumors about some of your other teammates. How do you evaluate the squad next year?
GH: I believe the team will remain strong and very competitive all around, although I will miss guys like Kevin.
Will you in fact be riding with Postal next year?
GH: Oh yeah, I'll be riding for the USPS next year - my current contract goes until the end of next season.
Rumor has it that you might be attending a NASCAR race in the near future. Are you an auto racing fan?
GH: Yes, I really do enjoy auto racing. But we'll see about attending an event - there's a big race in Charlotte the second Sunday in October.
There's been a pretty good response to the Hincapie "Tour de Café" coffee campaign (with proceeds going to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation). Are there plans to continue the program?
GH: I believe we will keep selling the coffee as long as people want to buy it. We're doing it for a good cause.
15 Second Quiz - ready? Go!
East Coast or West Coast?
Panthers or Jaguars?
Sportscenter or Jim Rome?
Red wine or White wine?
Red in winter, white in summer
French Racing Roast or Girona Royale?
French Racing Roast
South Beach or Venice Beach?
BMW or Mercedes?
Armani or Hickey Freeman?
Tag or Rolex?
Gwyneth or Ashley?
Thanks George, best of luck in Sydney. Hope you get to visit the Rocks and the famous Basement Club at Circular Quay and say hello to our man Vince Jones on the 27th or 28th.
Reigning Olympic 3000 m pursuit champion, Antonella Bellutti (Italy) has been stretching the UCI rules to the limit as she prepares to defend her title on September 17 and 18. She was known for setting a world record in the event in the Superwoman position (subsequently surpassed by Marion Clignet) but this way of riding the bike was banned by the UCI.
However, Bellutti's current position and handlebar does not seem to be greatly different from the outlawed one, as can be seen from the photo. It has been questioned by the jury at the velodrome and a decision is expected shortly.