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Olympic selection news for August 2
French road team
The eight member French Olympic road team was selected today by the FFC, without any major surprises. Laurent Jalabert will lead the men's team with Richard Virenque, Laurent Brochard, Emmanuel Magnien and Christophe Moreau (Reserve: Francois Simon). The women will be headed by Jeannie Longo, looking to defend her Olympic road title in Atlanta, and Cathy Marsal and Magali Floc' H will join her (Reserve: Geraldine Loewenguth). The final decision on the French teams will be made after being given the all-clear from the French Commission of Elite Level Sport on August 7.
In the time trial, Laurent Jalabert and Christophe Moreau will champion the team - both are capable of placing in the top five or better, as evidenced in the last Tour de France. The remaining members are solid choices, and the French have decided to go with climber/rouleurs. The best sprinter is FdJ's Emmanuel Magnien (also the best placed rider in the French road titles - 8th) although Brochard and Jalabert have handy finishes. In addition, three of the five riders (Brochard, Jalabert and Virenque) rode together in Atlanta which will count for a little.
The women will be relying once more on Longo who will ride the time trial as well as the road race. In the former event, she has an outside medal chance and maybe able to better her bronze in Atlanta if everything goes to plan. However, Kupfernagel, Holden, Wilson, Gaudry Van Moorsel and Ziliute will be tough to beat. On the road, Longo will have a comparatively weaker team than the other nations, however if allowed to escape she is always dangerous. The course is not hilly enough to suit a real climber like her compared with certain stages of the HP Women's Challenge where she was untouchable.
German road team
The Germans have followed the Italians' lead and selected a team of strong climber/rouleurs for the men's Olympic road squad. Jan Ullrich, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Andreas Klöden and Jens Voigt are the German team for the road in Sydney. Ullrich will ride the individual time trial too, where he is expected to be one of the favourites along with Lance Armstrong.
The German women's team is Hanka Kupfernagel, Petra Rossner and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. The make up is a little different, but these are the three best female riders, sprinters or not. All have been in excellent form this year and will be up there with the favourites, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Lithuania and USA.
US Men's road team
The five members of the US Olympic road team were finalised today by USA Cycling. Saturn's Antonio Cruz was already selected after winning the US Olympic trials, and he will join Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Fred Rodriguez and Tyler Hamilton in what looks to be a very formidable squad.
"Our men's Olympic road team will be as strong as any country in the world," said Sean Petty, USA Cycling director of athlete performance. "The athletes we are taking give us a lot of options and horsepower in the road race. I believe we have two athletes in Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton, who are capable of winning medals in the individual time trial." His words were echoed by US men's road coach, Jim Ochowicz.
Horsepower is the word for this team, although several members are more than capable domestiques. It looks as though the US have decided to play the percentage game rather than picking an extra experienced worker such as Frankie Andreu or Kevin Livingston, but this has its advantages in the lottery of the Olympics and similar single-day events. With bunch positioning being a key factor during the tight and technical road race, it will make it tough for any one team to control the race. "Get in the breaks" will be the goal.
After his recent Tour de France win, Armstrong will be a big favourite to win the time trial, and he has stated this to be his main goal in the Olympics. With Hamilton riding as shotgun, having the ability to relay times as he did in the Tour, Armstrong's chances are strong. Hamilton's fourth in the final Tour de France time trial shows that he is another good medal prospect as well.
In the more open road race, the US have favoured sprinters Cruz, Rodriguez and Hincapie to take the medal, although Armstrong can not be ruled out of course. Hincapie is the top ranked US cyclist in the World Cup (16th), as well as having past experience in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. Three members of the team, Cruz, Hamilton and Rodriguez have had no Olympic experience, although Hamilton was a reserve for the 1996 squad.
Fred Rodriguez has had some excellent results this year, including the becoming the USPRO Champion (after finishing 2nd behind Henk Vogels in that race), as well as stages in the Four Days of Dunkirk, Tour of Switzerland and the UNIQA Classic. He also placed well in several of the Tour stages in his first time in the race, including 4th in the final stage and provided valuable leadouts to his Mapei teammates.
Antonio Cruz earned his spot on the team after winning the U.S. Olympic Trials in May in Jackson, Miss. He won the 1999 USPRO National Criterium Championship in Downers Grove, Illinois.
The team will be coached by two-time Olympic cyclist Jim Ochowicz, who was also founder, general manager and coach of the 7-Eleven and Motorola Cycling Teams (1981-96). All five cyclists will be competing in Europe during August and September prior to arriving in Sydney.
No Tchmil or Vandenbroucke
In the Belgian team, both Frank Vandenbroucke and Andrei Tchmil have indicated to national coach Jose De Cauwer that they would not be available for the Olympics. Both were on the preselection list, which was sent by the Belgian cycling union to the Belgian Olympic Committee.
VDB is completely out of form as he has been all year. Nobody expects him at a start for the rest of this season. Tchmil wants to have a perfect preparation for the World Championships in Plouay, and there is no place for the Olympics as part of that preparation. He will start in the World Cups, some one day races and the Tours of Burgos and Poland.
De Cauwer said after this that "I have four names for the road-team: Museeuw, Steels, Merckx and Van Petegem. I'm not sure about the fifth man - next Tuesday I hope to give the selection to the cycling union. But the deadline is August 12 for the Belgian Olympic Committee."
There is no chance for either Dave Bruylandts and Geert Verheyen as they are not on the preselection list. De Cauwer doesn't really care about the time trial as "we have no candidates for the top 10. Also, the time trial is on September 30 - if we ride there we'll be home on October 4, four days before Paris-Tours. 23 hours in a plane isn't good preparation," he said.
The four selected riders have already asked for a first class ticket. Even if they have to pay a part of the ticket...
Dutchman Michael Boogerd is another that won't be starting in Sydney. His late season targets are the classics and the World Championships in Plouay, which leave no room for a trip to Australia. After his fall in the Tour de France he is starting with a light training program. He will make his comeback in the Clasica San Sebastian on August 12, and will start in the Tour of the Netherlands/Ronde van Nederland also (August 21-26).
National coach Gerrie Knetemann was satisfied: "It's a reasonable decision. Michael had one week's rest after the Tour and is now 1.5 hours per day on his bike. I believe you only should go to Sydney if your condition is excellent."
Up till now, Leon van Bon and Erik Dekker are certain about an Olympic berth. Max van Heeswijk, Koos Moerenhout and Servais Knaven are candidates, but Knetemann will wait till the HEW World Cup this weekend. "Next Tuesday I will present the definitive selection," he said.
Russian Zulfia Zabirova (Rus) will defend her title in Sydney in the individual time trial. He start was in doubt after she fell in a race three weeks ago and hit her head on a cobblestone. However, she won the Russian time trial title on a special bike made for the Olympics and now has been selected to go to the Olympics. The other members of the Russian women's team are Svetlana Bubnenkova, and either Olga Slioussareva or Natalia Karimova