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28th Olympic Games - JO

Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Favourites tip each other for time trial

As the riders took the chance of a final's day's practice on the time trial course Tuesday, Rob Jones caught up with a some of the favourites to get their thoughts on the course and the competition.

Christophe Moreau
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Today sees the last chance for the road riders to pick up some Olympic metalware before the cycling focus switches to the track program, which starts August 20. Out on the time trial course yesterday, riders encountered the same windy conditions expected for today, and while it was not as hot as Saturday's road race, the heat is still expected to be a factor for some riders.

Christophe Moreau (France) said the race would be "Tres difficile [very difficult]. The wind, it is from all directions. It will be hot, 35C I think, and you must drink lots. I think it will be one of the hardest time trials. For first, I think it will be (either) Jan Ullrich or Michael Rich; after that I don't know."

Colombia's Santiago Botero, the 2002 world time trial champion, said, "It is a good course for the riders who are holding good form right now. It is a course for powerful riders, and those with good position on their bike. Personally, I feel good, fit and not sick now."

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What did he think would be the winning time?

"It is hard to say, with all the wind, but I think maybe 48, 49 minutes."

Botero's countryman Victor Hugo Pena liked what he saw. "Very nice course, very fast, he told Cyclingnews, "this really is an Olympic quality course I think. I think it will be more the wind than the climbs that will make it hard. But, the wind has dropped today more than yesterday, and they say, the locals, that it will come down even more. If it is the same as today then I will use a trispoke on the front, but if it is like [Monday], then a normal wheel at the front, I think. Yesterday, the wind pushed the front of the bike around too much.

"A favourite is hard to pick. Ullrich, Rogers, Hamilton, Ekimov ... Everyone can have a chance here."

Powerful German time trial specialist Michael Rich is also happy with the course. "I saw the course for the first time on Sunday," he said. "Then, it was much more windy. It is not an easy course, but a good time trial course. For me, my form is good, I felt good in the road race, so everything is possible here. In the road race I had a job to do - to chase, bring bottles up, work for the team."

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Did he see both himself and Ullrich on the podium? "Of course, we both have a good chance for a medal," said Rich, "but it depends - if we have what I call a 'chocolade day', then it is possible. I need a chocolade day."

Jan Ullrich was with Rich, but shook his head no to interview requests with any of the media present and immediately rode off.

Australian Michael Rogers likes the difficulty of the course. "I'm not the kind of rider that needs complete flat," he told The Age. "For me, the harder the better, and the combination of the wind and the drags up a few of the hills, I think, makes it a course for me. I've come off the Tour de France and I was performing well there, and certainly I'm feeling really hungry for the win. I'm feeling really good after the road race, too.

"[Saa Carrigan's win] got the whole team up and going and if I can repeat another medal, especially a gold one, it would top off a fantastic finish for the road cycling, and Oenone's up for a medal, too."

After her selfless riding in support of Sara Carrigan in the women's road race, Rogers' team-mate Oenone Wood is indeed one of the favourites for the podium today. "I'm focusing on going there and giving it 100 per cent and doing what I've trained to do, and I think the gold medal would just be a reward for that," Wood told The Age. "I think we just rode so well [on Sunday]. That can only be motivating for me, to know that it's so achievable, and I'll just give it everything on Wednesday. It's good to come off a road race and know that you have good form. And to have the time trial coming up, I think I couldn't really be in a better position."

Canada's Lyne Bessette thought it was "a nice course, with good pavement. It will be hard because of the wind, and the rollers (hills) will crush legs. I think it is harder on the way out, but the wind is coming at you in both directions. I still haven't finished thinking about the course yet, so I can't say for sure - I will be thinking about it a lot tonight, and planning my ride."

Bessette is recovering well from the crash that took her out of the women's road race on Sunday. "Yesterday I was a little stiff, but I don't feel it when I pedal," she said. "I didn't get any road rash, just mainly a bruise on my hip. We weren't going so fast at that point, so I was already slowed down, and it probably looked worse than it was. It is too bad - everything was going well, it was perfect with Sue up the road. I think that this is one of the first times that we (Canadian women) have raced as a team. Sue and Manon did a great job, and we all had faith in each other in the race."

As for the main contenders in the time trial, Bessette tips, "Arndt (Germany) [and] Zabirova (Russia); although she didn't do much in the road race."

Bessette also had a thank you to all her fans who have been in touch through the Olympic Message Centre, "I want to say thank you to everyone for sending me/us messages," she said. "I have been reading them, it is great. Being at the Olympics is more than medals and competing; it is what everyone should try for. I know that is impossible, but the point is not only to win a medal, but to participate, be here."

Leontien van Moorsel (Netherlands) also went down hard in Saturday's crash. "I am a little stiff," she said, "and I have a bit of pain in my back and legs, but it will not be a problem to race. Yes, the crash was disappointing, but that is part of the sport.

"I like the course, I think it is very nice. I think it will be hardest on the climbs, and the wind, it comes from every direction. It is a good course for Arndt, Zabirova, Somarriba and Carrigan and, hopefully, me," she added with a laugh.

Does crashing out of the road race motivate her more for the time trial? "Yeah, definitely. We are going to fight tomorrow!"

Like most of the favourites, then, Joane Somarriba (Spain) was also a happy camper. "It is a good race course, not too hard I think," she said. "The hardest will be the wind, the heat is fine for me, not too hot."

Dede Barry (USA) sees the course as hard, but fair. "It's a great power rider's course," she said. "It's not technical at all. There's no question that the strongest rider will win."

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