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Martinez gets the full set
Miguel Martinez of France today secured another Gold Medal for his country in cycling with a commanding ride in the 49.5km Men's Cross Country event on the technical Fairlfield course in Sydney. Martinez was too strong for Belgian Filip Meirhaeghe and Christophe Sauser after he rode away from them on the penultimate lap.
Perhaps he was inspired by yesterday's ride by fellow Swiss rider Barb Blatter, or even Atlanta Gold winner Paola Pezzo who repeated that performance yesterday, but Thomas Frischknecht (Swi) bolted out of the blocks on the first lap and built nearly a one minute lead over a chasing group of quality riders. The first casualty was Rune Hoeydahl (Nor) who crashed out before the first lap was completed and retired.
Closely behind the main chasing group were pre-race favourites Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) and 'Little Mig' Martinez (Fra). Martinez is also coached by Paolo Rosalo, who prepared Pezzo for yesterday's race. The French riders Martinez and Dupouey then attacked from the front of the chasing group on lap 2 and did their best to reduce the lead built up by Frishknecht and swapped turns on the more open sections of the technical course, but could not really make a dint in the lead built up by the flying Swiss.
Martinez and Dupouey sat up and were caught by a small chasing bunch with parts of the 50 rider field resembling a road race peloton on the more open sections of the course. Consequently, there was some tight action among the technical section of the course known as The Cauldron. A few falls occurred among the chasers, but most remounted and put themselves back into the fray on the slower sections.
The next major move was made by Bas Van Dooren (Ned) who attacked from the chasing group and pulled an eight second gap from the bunch as they went through the start/finish at lap three of seven. Frischknecht, meanwhile, looked strong and stayed over one minute ahead of the field. Pre-race favourites Bart Brentjens and Roland Green were in the second half of the field.
Van Dooren was caught on lap four, and by lap five, Frischknecht had begun to feel the effects of his huge effort at the start as a chasing group comprising Martinez (Fra), Meirhaeghe (Bel), Van Dooren (Ned) and fellow Swiss Christoph Sauser reduced his lead to 26 seconds. Bas Van Dooren was actually dropped in the early part of the fifth lap but got back on at the end of the lap and managed to come across the line at the end of lap five in second place.
Then on lap six Meirhaeghe (Bel) put in a huge attack and overhauled Frischknecht coming into The Cauldron. He attacked through this technical section and gapped Martinez, who was following closely but got caught behind Thomas. Martinez had to wait until he could find a spot to overtake and then catch the Belgian. Little Mig then made his decisive move in the next convenient uphill section and left the Belgian rider behind. Back in the bunch, Australia's Cadel Evans had dropped back to eighth place.
On the final lap, Little Mig increased his lead to over one minute and looked to have plenty in reserve as he spun away to victory. His last lap (17:17) was actually one of the fastest of the race, and the rest did not have the reserves to match the 24 year old Frenchman's fluid pedalling action. In second place was the strong Meirhaeghe, who did a good deal of work throughout the race, while third was taken by young Swiss star, Christophe Sauser. He benefitted from the early work of his teammate, as he did not contribute a great deal to the pace making in the chase group.
In winning the Olympic Gold Medal, Martinez confirmed his status at the top of the MTB heap, adding to his World Championship and overall World Cup wins in 2000. Although still young, Martinez has done everything in the sport, winning over 300 races on and off the road in his career. Today, there was no-one except himself stopping him from winning his first Olympic title.
For the Australians, there were mixed fortunes. Big hopes were on Cadel Evans who started well and gave the parochial crowd enourmous enjoyment as he crossed the finish line in the front chasing group on the early laps. However, the technical nature of the course combined with Meihaeghe and Martinez' relentless pace saw Evans on and off the back of them, before he finally faded a little in the last two laps. However, there was more joy for both Paul Rowney and Rob Woods, the top veterans of the sport in Australia who finished 10th and 13th respectively. Woods almost outsprinted defending Olympic champion, Bart Brentjens for 12th, although the latter was not quite at his gold medal best today.
1 Miguel Martinez (Fra) 2.09.02.50 (23.0 km/h) 2 Filip Meirhaeghe (Bel) 1.03.01 3 Christoph Sauser (Swi) 2.18.50 4 Jose Antonio Hermida (Spa) 2.40.41 5 Lado Fumic (Ger) 2.55.38 6 Thomas Frischknecht (Swi) 3.39.99 7 Cadel Evans (Aus) 4.29.15 8 Carsten Bresser (Ger) 4.34.73 9 Geoff Kabush (Can) 4.58.16 10 Paul Rowney (Aus) 5.19.94 11 Bas Van Dooren (Ned) 5.34.76 12 Bart Brentjens (Ned) 5.39.45 13 Rob Woods (Aus) 5.39.70 14 Roland Green (Can) 6.16.35 15 Roberto Lezaun (Spa) 6.54.49 16 Marco Bui (Ita) 7.06.64 17 Kashi Leuchs (NZl) 7.35.07 18 Ludovic Dubau (Fra) 7.46.06 19 Roel Paulissen (Bel) 7.52.32 20 Pavel Tcherkassov (Rus) 8.19.42 21 Marek Galinski (Pol) 8.33.04 22 Michael Rasmussen (Den) 9.13.07 23 Oliver Beckingsale (GBr) 9.14.51 24 Ziranda Madrigal (Mex) 10.31.06 25 Nick Craig (GBr) 10.57.77 26 Mannie Heymans (Nam) 11.29.44 27 Sergiy Rysenko (Ukr) 11.37.50 28 Robin Seymour (Irl) 11.37.69 29 Radim Korinek (Cze) 12.06.09 30 Tinker Juarez (USA) 13.08.69 31 Hubert Pallhuber (Ita) 13.53.14 32 Travis Brown (USA) 13.59.50 33 Jose Adrian Bonilla (Crc) 21.00.22 34 Raita Suzuki (Jpn) 1 lap 35 Tom Larsen (Nor) 1 lap 36 Jesper Agergaard (Den) 1 lap 37 Primoz Strancar (Slo) 1 lap DNF Woo Kang Dong (Kor) DNF Ken Muhindi (Ken) DNF Renato Seabra (Bra) DNF Christophe Dupouey (Fra) DNF Diego Garavito (Col) DNF Ignacio Gili (Arg) DNF Peter Van Den Abeele (Bel) DNF Patrick Tolhoek (Ned) DNF Rok Drasler (Slo) DNF Derek Horton (Gum) DNF Thomas Hochstrasser (Swi) DNF Rune Hoeydahl (Nor)
Gold Silver Bronze Total France 5 2 0 7 Germany 2 2 2 6 Italy 2 0 1 3