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28th Olympic Games - JO
Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Olympic time trial round-up
By Rob Jones, with contributions from AAP
Tyler Hamilton (USA, 1st)
Tyler Hamilton bounced back from the disappointment of his short-lived Tour de France this year to capture the Olympic time trial gold medal. The 33-year-old American, who has been in the shadow of six-times Tour winner and compatriot Lance Armstrong, powered to an 18-second victory in the time trial ahead of Russian defending Olympic champion Viatcheslav Ekimov and compatriot Bobby Julich.
It was a momentous day for Hamilton to erase the bad memories of his injury-enforced withdrawal during the Tour and propel him to his career high point, clocking 57 minutes 31.74 seconds for the 48km course.
"Fantastic. Unbelievable. It hasn't sunk it yet," Hamilton said. "I gave it everything I had. I've been angry ever since crashing out of the Tour, and I took that anger out here today. I was so nervous today before the start. Incredibly nervous, like I was in my first bike race. I knew that I had good legs, but there was a lot of wind, and I had to stay concentrated, stay in the aero position, try to avoid using my upper body. Today I just tried to do the best I could do, tried to focus and what I could do and not think about others. I wanted to leave everything on the course, which I did; when I finished I was spent."
"I could have been last in every race this year but this gold medal has made it an incredible season ... this gold medal makes me forget about my big objective of the year, which was the Tour de France," Hamilton told the post-race press conference.
"Obviously, it was a big disappointment for me, but that's life and you have to go forward and sometimes difficult circumstances like that in the Tour can lead to bigger and better things.
"I think it was a smart idea to stop the race rather than suffering through the final week and obviously it paid off here in Athens."
Hamilton said the decision to quit last month's Tour had kept him fresh to attack Wednesday's time trial and lead an euphoric day for the Stars and Stripes at Vouliagmeni.
"I gave it a week after stopping the Tour, I took one week off the bike and told myself if I wasn't any better after that week that would tell them I wasn't fit to go," he said. "But I felt much better after one week and started training hard and I felt quite fresh. I missed pretty much all the mountain stages of the Tour de France this year so I had a lot of energy."
In Wednesday's preceding women's time trial, fellow American Dede Demet-Barry finished second to Dutch marvel Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel to give the Americans a medal tally of gold, silver and bronze from the two races.
"This is a great day for US cycling. Lance (Armstrong) has put cycling on the board back in the United States, but Dede (Barry), Bobby (Julich) and myself have showed that the US has a great future ahead."
"I believe we are one of the best cycling countries in the world, with Lance Armstrong winning the last six Tours de France and great results here today," Hamilton said. "It says a lot about U.S. cycling."
Early on, Hamilton encountered a bit of trouble after having to ditch his radio just a few kilometers into the race. "I really wanted a radio today," he explained. "I taped it into the back of my helmet, but it was a bad tape job and it started falling out, so I just had to toss it."
"It was a hard race with the heat and the wind," said Hamilton. "It was really important to stay calm but I think I was a little too excited and I went out too hard. I was nervous about exploding too early so I backed off a little bit and felt a lot stronger on the second lap."
Viatcheslav Ekimov (Russia, 2nd)
"This is a very nice course for me - exactly the type of course I prefer. I was a little disappointed with my second lap, but still a great day for me. To finish second after such a hard season, after the Tour gives me motivation for the coming years."
Ekimov compared the circuit to the one he won on four years ago in Sydney: "Sydney was more technical; this course is for speed and power. here, we did not have to worry about corners. I wish we could have more time trials like here in Athens. This medal is a complete surprise, and another gift for my career."
Given his comments about the future, Ekimov was asked about staying for another Olympics.
"Another four years... It has been 20 years since my first Olympics, and I can't talk about four years away - that is a long time and I will be quite a bit older!"
Bobby Julich (USA, 3rd)
Julich said he was not suited by the coastal course and revealed that he was about to place a cast to immobilise his right wrist after X-rays before last week's Olympic road race disclosed that he had a broken scaphoid bone.
"I really felt for Tyler in the Tour this year, I've experienced major disappointment in the Tour so I know what it feels like, but to come back and to stay focused and do what he did in the road race and here today my hat's off to him for sure," Julich said.
"I knew this wasn't really my kind of course - I prefer ones that are more technical, with ups and downs. I like courses were the average is like 47, 48 kilometres per hour, but I knew this one would be over 50. So, I had good legs, but I didn't expect this, I had no idea how I was doing... no radio, didn't look at the splits.
"This morning I did two easy laps of the course. I'm a very meticulous person, so I spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging bags, to get everything prepared before just the way I wanted it. USA Cycling put us in a hotel only 300 metres from the start-finish, so that also kept us very relaxed, and it was obviously the right plan."
Julich also spoke about how his career has been revitalized this year, riding for Bjarne Riis on Team CSC.
"Morale is much more a part of cycling than people realize. A change of team and the realization that this is a sport, and we should enjoy it has made a big difference for me. When I was signed with CSC it gave me back my confidence. He (Riis) has definitely changed me as a rider. He instilled confidence in me from day one. I've floundered around since 1998 for four or five years, but he has brought me back. I was thinking about quitting. He's a man of few words, but he can instill confidence in a rider. If you could say I have trainer, it would be Bjarne."
Michael Rogers (Australia, 4th)
Australian Michael Rogers, considered the de facto time trial world champion after David Millar was stripped of his title earlier this month, finished fourth. "I've been second too many times in my career but I'll be back for Beijing," said Rogers.
Eric Wohlberg (Canada, 18th)
"It's not too bad a ride for riding superstock in the top fuel class (laughs). I lost a wheel magnet on my wheel early, and I generally gear off my speed, so I might have lost a couple of seconds here or there.
It wasn't as windy (as earlier in the week), but definitely still windy on the way out. For me, windy is probably better than hilly, because I have a good aero position it helps me. I was just going as hard as I could.
Saturday (when he flatted, and then was dropped in the road race) was disappointing, so I was glad to have a chance to redeem myself. Twice now I've been top-20 at the Olympics, but still only get a spot a week before, which is frustrating. Of course, would have been better if knew before, but after Beauce I was doing a lot of motorpacing anyway. If the CCA wants to send me to Worlds for the time trial I'll have time to prepare properly."
Women's time trial
Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Netherlands, 1st)
In taking a powerful victory in the women's time trial - beating runner-up Dede Barry (USA) by 24 seconds and bronze medallist Karin Thuerig (Switzerland) by 43 - Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel (Netherlands) was motivated by a desire to end her career on a high note and the sheer effort of will needed to beat the pain of the injuries from her road race crash.
But before the start she wasn't even sure that racing was a good idea. "I did have my doubts," Zijlaard-van Moorsel said about starting the time trial. "It was very difficult. I was very nervous, but after four years of training, I decided to give it my best."
Zijlaard-van Moorsel finished the race with "a terrible headache" that came on about 10km into the race, and aching all over from her injuries. The discomfort clearly showed at the finish. "It was tears of joy and pain at the same time, she said. "Especially the last 10 kilometers of the race were very painful.
"After my crash, I thought it was over," she added. "I didn't want my career to end in a bad way, that's why I competed. Top sport is not good for your health."
Deirdre Demet-Barry (USA, 2nd)
"I had really good sensations on Tuesday in training, so I had quite a bit of confidence. I was in contact with (US team director) Jim Ochowicz all race, so I had splits, I knew where I was, how I was doing. There was still a bit of wind out there, but nothing compared to Monday and Tuesday, so I was able to use all the fastest equipment. For me the way back was harder, especially going up a couple of the hills, because I found it harder to get into a good rhythm."
For Demet-Barry, there was no comparison between Olympic silver and her other results in cycling.
"This is far and above anything else! Being part of the Olympics is so special, I'm just on a high right now."
Dede also received several phone calls from husband Michael (back in Girona, Spain, preparing for Vuelta with US Postal Service) the morning of the time trial .
"He's been a big motivation to me both professionally and personally. He's been a really good friend to me, a great training partner. He's always there with me in spirit and so he was a big part of my ride today."
Demet-Barry also was wearing unique shoe covers - made for her by national team sponsor Pearl Izumi: "Because of security issues, I asked them to make white doves for shoes; I wanted to do something more patriotic." They made her special covers with stripes and white doves (instead of stars).
"I've read a lot about the history of the Games in the last several weeks coming here. It has a lot of special meaning for me. I really feel I can identify with the Olympic movement for me and it drove me even farther in these races.
"It's about peaceful competition and that's something I think is really positive. Obviously there's been a lot of concern in the world the last couple of years, especially since 9/11. I think for me it takes on special meaning being part of the Olympics because it's about peace."
Lyne Bessette (Canada, 16th)
"When I was on the start, I was thinking about a medal; maybe it was possible.
But, I was 15th in Hamilton, 16th here... so maybe that is where I am (in time
trialling). I had good legs, but I just couldn't go any faster than that. I'm
not a specialist (in the time trial), so to be faster I would have to specialize.
I have my pro team commitments, we do the major tours (many of which Bessette
has won), so it is hard to do."