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28th Olympic Games - JO

Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004

Results    Men's road race    Women's road race    Men's time trial    Women's time trial

2000 results     Preview    Map    Preview    Start List     Results     Latest live report

Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Rob Jones

Men's Road Race - Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 11:45 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:45 CEST

12:22 EEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the first cycling event of the 28th Olympic Games, the 224 km men's road race, run over 17 laps of a 13.2 km circuit in central Athens. The course is considered selective, with two climbs per lap and not much in the way of flat road, but when it comes down to it, it's up to the riders to make it hard.

There are 144 riders registered to start today, which is a medium sized peloton. The teams are a maximum of five riders each, and that will surely influence the tactics. Favourites include 2000 winner Jan Ullrich (Germany), his national teammate Andreas Klöden (bronze in Sydney), and his trade teammate Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), who was the silver medalist in Sydney. All have been in good form of late, and we can expect them to play a role today.

The biggest challenges will likely come from Italy, which has Paolo Bettini as its spearpoint, and Spain, which has dual world champion Oscar Freire, reigning world champion Igor Astarloa, and talented young gun Alejandro Valverde on its roster. France, with the experience of Brochard, Virenque and Moreau and the youth of Voeckler and Chavanel, should be able to figure, while Australia, with Stuart O'Grady, Mick Rogers and Robbie McEwen has several options. Belgium (Peter Van Petegem and Axel Merckx) and USA (Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney) have strong teams as well.

For the Dutch, we have Erik Dekker and Max van Heeswijk as riders to watch, while there will no doubt be riders from other nations such as Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine), Georg Totschnig (Austria), Thor Hushovd and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway).

The weather today is just like any other day in Athens at this time of year: Hot and sunny. At the moment it's around 36 degrees at the start and there's not a cloud in the sky. There's also very little wind. The heat will play an important role today, as there are many riders who simply can't handle hot conditions. But defending champion Jan Ullrich isn't one of them.

12:46 EEST    1km/223.4km to go
And they're off! The Germans lead out the field at a steady pace, with McEwen also on the front in the Aussie green and gold. Voeckler and Botero are also up there.

12:49 EEST    3km/221.4km to go
The crowds today aren't huge, although there was a reasonable sized mob at the start. Security has been very tight, as is normal during the Olympics, much to the annoyance of the UCI and the journalists who are used to getting more access to the riders.

The peloton is rolling along as one block, just getting used to the heat and the course. Erik Dekker (Netherlands) is lurking down the back.

12:52 EEST    5km/219.4km to go
The bunch starts the first climb, and McEwen is already off the back looking for some service. It looks like he is getting it from his team car.

The neutral service today is not being done by Shimano or Mavic, but the Greeks.

There's a crash at the back, and Igor Astarloa is down as is his teammate Ivan Gutierrez. That's a disaster for the Spanish. There's also a Dutch rider - Boogerd?

12:54 EEST   
Boogerd is clutching his collarbone/shoulder, and it doesn't look good. He's getting treated by his team management. Astarloa is still lying next to the barriers. The crash happened near the back of the bunch on the right hand side.

12:55 EEST    7km/217.4km to go
Meanwhile, at the front of the race, Victor Peña (Colombia) has a small gap on a group of eight on the first climb. Pozzato (Italy) and Julich (USA) are in the chased group, as is Voeckler (France).

13:00 EEST    10km/214.4km to go
Over the top of the climb, which is almost deserted of spectators, this group has caught Peña and looks like becoming the early break. Michael Rich is there for Germany, as is Yakovlev (Kazakhstan), Julich (USA), Voeckler (France) and Pozzato (Italy). The bunch is rolling along at a more relaxed pace.

13:01 EEST   
Gutierrez is finally on his bike again, and is attempting to chase back to the peloton.

13:03 EEST    12km/212.4km to go
McEwen is also back in the peloton after his early mechanical. The main bunch is crossing the cobbled section of the course past the Acropolis.

13:05 EEST   
Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano has dropped back to help Jose Ivan Gutierrez as the peloton nears the end of the first lap. They're back on. Gutierrez looks a little damaged.

The breakaway has been caught after sitting up.

13:09 EEST    14km/210.4km to go
The first lap is completed in 20'53, an average of 37.92 km/h. One of the Spanish riders has definitely abandoned, and it looks like Astarloa (well it's his bike anyway). That might mean that Gutierrez was the rider who got back on with Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano.

Ullrich gets to the front for a "natural break".

13:11 EEST    16km/208.4km to go
Marlon Perez (Colombia), who was also involved in that early crash, has abandoned. He's rolling across the line now, four minutes behind the bunch, which is still compact.

13:15 EEST    19km/205.4km to go
Gutierrez now signals for the race doctor to clean him up, but it takes a while for the message to get through. He finally gets some antiseptic cream, which he rubs on his bruised legs and arms.

The head of the bunch is now tackling the climb for the second time, with Moreau (France) and Rich (Germany) controlling things. Stangelj (Slovenia) and Voeckler (FrancE) are well placed.

13:20 EEST   
The pace picks up a little on the first part of the descent, but still no-one has attacked.

The abandons today: Igor Astarloa (Spain) and Marlon Perez (Colombia). Michael Boogerd also out, en route to the hospital.

13:23 EEST    23km/201.4km to go
Dekker is still lounging down the back as the bunch hits the cobbles past the Acropolis for the second time. Magnus Bäckstedt (Swe) mounts a serious attack.

13:26 EEST    26km/198.4km to go
Bäckstedt opens up a nice gap over the bunch as he reaches the end of lap two with a 30 second lead. But he'll need more company if this break is going to work.

Two laps are completed in 40'50, which means that last lap was just under 20 minutes.

13:27 EEST   
The bunch rolls across the line 38 seconds behind Bäckstedt. 15 laps to go.

13:31 EEST    29km/195.4km to go
Astarloa is looking very disappointed, as he contemplates getting into the ambulance. He, together with Marlon Perez and Michael Boogerd, crashed on the first lap and abandoned.

We can also report that Tyler Hamilton (USA) was very stiff descending the stairs from the sign in. His back is obviously still bothering him and it will be hard on cobbles for him.

13:35 EEST    31km/193.4km to go
Magnus Bäckstedt (Sweden) is continuing his solo breakaway in the third lap, as the peloton passes the feed zone, grabbing bidons along the way.

Bäckstedt has the team name on his bike taped up, as per Olympic rules. He rides for Alessio, just in case anyone doesn't know :-) You can see the Bianchi brand though.

The Swede is on the steep part of the climb now.

13:38 EEST    34km/190.4km to go
Michael Rich (Germany) and Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia) lead the peloton to the top of the climb. The bunch is already strung out in a fairly long line.

Bäckstedt has 1'03 has he navigates the descent.

13:43 EEST    36km/188.4km to go
A slight correction: you can actually see the Bianchi brand on Bäckstedt's bike, but not the Alessio decal. He rides for Alessio, but as it's not an official Olympic sponsor, the rules say it has to be covered up.

Alessio. Alessio. Alessio.

Bäckstedt is now passing the Acropolis for the third time, exactly a lap after he made his attack.

13:48 EEST    40km/184.4km to go
Bäckstedt is past the finish line for the third time (39.6 km) in 1'00'32, meaning that last lap was done in 19'42 (40.2 km/h). The peloton is now 1'59 behind, and not looking very interested in chasing. The heat will probably do the work for them.

The crowds are certainly thick at the start/finish, but around most of the course, the absence of people is quite remarkable.

13:52 EEST    45km/179.4km to go
An Italian rider takes advantage of the moderate pace to commune with the barriers on the side of the road, as there are no trees.

the peloton is spread out across the road, about 15 wide. The Belgians, Van Petegem and Vansevenant, are sitting well back in the field.

The heat is incredible, and it's going to be crucial to keep drinking today.

13:54 EEST   
Bäckstedt rides up the first short climb, arms locked as he sits on the tops of the bars.

Vladimir Karpets (Russia) has abandoned. He was also in the early crash.

13:56 EEST    46km/178.4km to go
The bunch passes the feed zone and there's a big traffic jam at the back as riders make sure to get their bottles. At the front of the peloton there are now four Aussie jerseys.

13:59 EEST    48km/176.4km to go
Michael Rich, Victor Peña and Thomas Voeckler lead the peloton up Lycabettus Hill for the fourth time, stretching the peloton out on the narrow, twisty road.

The gap to Bäckstedt is now 2'20. He's going to need a lot more than that to stay clear. This race is very tightly controlled at the moment.

14:03 EEST    51km/173.4km to go
Bäckstedt is back at the Acropolis, hands still on the tops as he rolls across the light cobbles. The bunch is together, 2'30 behind.

14:06 EEST    53km/171.4km to go
Magnus Bäckstedt, the winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix, is at the end of the fourth lap of the Olympic road race, having been on the attack for just over two laps. He rolls up to the line, completing the 52.8 km in 1'21'02. His last lap was a little slower: 20'30.

14:08 EEST    54km/170.4km to go
The peloton is now descending off Acropolis Hill, en route to the finish.

14:09 EEST    55km/169.4km to go
At the finish line at the end of lap three, the peloton led by Michael Rich (Germany) is 3'13 behind the Swedish rider. Viatcheslav Ekimov is up there, as are Peña, Stangelj and Voeckler.

14:13 EEST    57km/167.4km to go
Tyler Hamilton (USA) drops back to his team car for a bit. He's back in the peloton now.

An update on the fauna: well, with the exception of a few souvlaki stands on the course, we haven't seen much in the way of cows or other domesticated animals. In fact, people are fairly thin on the ground today, mostly being clustered on the climb and at the start/finish.

Bäckstedt grabs a bottle from a soigneur as he passes the team boxes for the fifth time.

14:16 EEST    59km/165.4km to go
Bäckstedt tackles the twisty climb of Lycabettus Hill, out of the saddle, suffering in the intense heat. The peloton is still 3 minutes back, once again navigating the feed zone frenzy.

14:20 EEST    61km/163.4km to go
Rich is leading the peloton on the climb, with teammates Klöden and Ullrich in tow. It looks like Julich is also up there for the USA and O'Grady for Australia. The lead is 3'03 now, and gaps are starting to appear in the peloton.

14:25 EEST    64km/160.4km to go
The peloton is starting to stretch out even more now as other teams help the Germans set the tempo in front. Cyclingnews spoke to the Australian team manager today who thought that the peloton would crank it up early on to try and thin things out a bit.

Meanwhile, Magnus Bäckstedt is passing the Parthenon and Acropolis for the fifth time.

14:28 EEST    66km/158.4km to go
Canadian Gord Fraser agreed with this assessment, telling Cyclingnews, "That wouldn't surprise me a bit because there's been a lot of talk among the pros about the problems on the course. It's not just the corners, but the asphalt is like a rubber cement. It's slippery."

Bäckstedt has lost some of his advantage on this lap, as he passes the start/finish.

14:30 EEST    68km/156.4km to go
Laszlo Bodrogi (Hungary) hammers on the descent and gets a gap to the peloton, but sits up just before the finish. It's Michael Rich (Germany) back on the front. At the end of lap 5, the peloton is 3'23, so Bäckstedt is holding steady.

14:31 EEST   
Bäckstedt did that lap in 20'50.

Richard Virenque (France) has counter attacked.

14:33 EEST    70km/154.4km to go
Virenque is now away solo in pursuit of Bäckstedt, as there is no immediate reaction from the peloton. An Australian rider - looks like Rogers - does a turn in front.

14:35 EEST   
Virenque has 20 seconds lead over the peloton, which puts him three minutes behind Bäckstedt. Cooke and Rogers (Aus) are on the front with Jason McCartney (USA), but not really riding a chasing tempo.

14:38 EEST    72km/152.4km to go
Virenque passes the team boxes but he has plenty of fluid with him. He looks back to see where the peloton is, and it isn't.

Bäckstedt is now at the top of the Lycabettus Hill climb on lap six, sweating away.

14:39 EEST   
Virenque rides up the climb, out of the saddle trying to make as much ground as possible on Bäckstedt. He passes the Cristian Moreni fan club.

In the bunch, Matt White (Aus) and Michael Rich (Ger) are setting the tempo.

14:41 EEST    74km/150.4km to go
Whitey gets an "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" cheer as he leads at the foot of the climb, with Mick Rogers right behind him.

Virenque is 2'26 behind Bäckstedt at the summit of the climb. The peloton is at 3'27. Nice work from Virenque to get a minute that quickly.

14:46 EEST   
Bäckstedt is still motoring along, as Richard Virenque steadily closes the gap to the Swede. Bäckstedt passes the Acropolis and Parthenon. Maybe we could describe his break as "mythical"?

Bodrogi is having another go now. He's about 20 seconds clear of the peloton. Maybe it's a Quick.Step plan to get him and Virenque away? Oops sorry, there's no trade team affiliations in the Olympics. None at all. Not one.

14:47 EEST    79km/145.4km to go
Bäckstedt exits the cobbles and goes under the 1 km to go sign. Virenque is now on the cobbles, tackling the false flat.

14:48 EEST    79.5km/144.9km to go
Bäckstedt comes up to the finish line for the end of the sixth lap, across in 2'02'59 (38.64 km/h). 11 laps, or 145 km to go.

14:51 EEST    82km/142.4km to go
Virenque passes the start/finish at 2'16 behind Bäckstedt. Bodrogi comes past at 2'47. The Hungarian is a good time trialist, and could catch Virenque before the climb.

The peloton is now being led by a Pagliarini (Brazil) and the ever-present Michael Rich (Germany). The gap is 3'50 at the line.

14:56 EEST    85km/139.4km to go
Pagliarini continues the tempo setting on the front of the peloton, with Michael Rich glued to his wheel. Nardello (Italy) is making a move towards the front. The Italians have been very quiet so far, preferring to let the Germans set the pace. Probably a smart move in this heat.

Bodrogi has caught his teammate, er rival, Virenque. The two are together on the approach to the climb.

14:59 EEST    85km/139.4km to go
Bäckstedt is out of the saddle again, riding up the Lycabettus Hill climb for the seventh time. He's working up a sweat, but he still looks in control of the situation. He'll be happy once Virenque and Bodrogi get there. They are within two minutes.

A spectator is spotted about halfway up the climb. Then...nothing.

15:01 EEST   
Bodrogi and Virenque take turns on the climb, looking to maximise their effectiveness. They crest the top 1'54 behind Bäckstedt. Virenque doesn't sprint for the mountain points because there aren't any.

15:02 EEST    88km/136.4km to go
Germany has brought in reinforcements. Klöden and Voigt are helping Michael Rich. Two of the Spanish riders are in tow.

Voigt does a big turn and creates gaps. but he doesn't want to break away yet. The gap is 3'17 at the top.

15:04 EEST   
Bäckstedt is back on the drops as he cruises down the descent. Bodrogi and Virenque should catch him within a couple of laps, but it looks like the peloton is going to wake up soon. Quite a few riders are in a long, thin line chasing on the descent.

15:08 EEST    91km/133.4km to go
Virenque and Bodrogi are working smoothly in pursuit of Bäckstedt, who is stretching a bit now and looking to be suffering from a few cramps. 36 degree heat is not very kind to the body.

In the peloton, it's the Germans and the Aussies leading, at a more controlled tempo as they pass the Greek Parliament.

15:10 EEST    92.4km/132km to go
Bäckstedt grimaces as he reaches the end of lap 7 in 2'24'33, still averaging about 38'5 km/h. This is a tough circuit, made even tougher by the heat, and we can't expect a very high average speed today.

15:11 EEST   
Bodrogi and Virenque come up to the line 1'24 behind Bäckstedt. Both look a lot more comfortable than the Swede.

15:13 EEST    95km/129.4km to go
Rich drops as far back as fourth wheel in the peloton, which comes through 3'30 behind the leader. Leipheimer and Julich (USA) have moved up. Ivan Stevic (Serbia) is on the front, it looks like.

15:16 EEST   
The seventh lap was the slowest yet, with Bäckstedt averaging 36.7 km/h. A testament to the toughness of the course and the warm weather.

But Bäckstedt is still out there after having attacked on lap two. He's drinking now as he rides up to the feed zone. He tosses a bottle into an empty sidestreet.

Fabian Cancellara (Swi) gets some attention from his team car.

15:20 EEST    97km/127.4km to go
One of the Irish riders - looks like Scanlon - has positioned himself in the top 20 of the bunch (special update for the Irish fans).

Several different teams are taking control of the race, with the Germans always present.

Bäckstedt is on Lycabettus Hill for the eighth time, and starting to feel it. The bottom of the climb is quite steep - 10 percent or so - and the road twists and turns several times.

15:22 EEST    99km/125.4km to go
Bäckstedt reaches the top of the climb as Bodrogi and Virenque continue to rapidly close the gap. It's now down to just 44 seconds, and Bäckstedt will probably last one more lap until he is caught by the two chasers.

In the peloton, Rogers and O'Grady are at the front on the climb, with Rich right behind.

15:24 EEST    101km/123.4km to go
Rogers, O'Grady and Cooke lead at the top, then Rich takes over and does a strong turn. The gap is down to 2'35. The plan is obviously to make the tempo hard on the climb in order to cause Maximum Pain. There's not much benefit from drafting on a climb.

Paolo Bettini is a fair way down the peloton now. The Italians are still vewy vewy quiet.

15:27 EEST    102km/122.4km to go
Bäckstedt has just 25 seconds of his lead left on Virenque and Bodrogi, who attacked in pursuit of the Swede on the sixth lap. We're now approaching the end of lap 8.

15:27 EEST   
Bäckstedt guides his bike onto the cobbles past the Parthenon and up to the Acropolis. The chasing pair are at 20 seconds and closing, with the peloton at around 2 minutes.

15:31 EEST    106km/118.4km to go
Bäckstedt rides up the finishing straight (where there are crowds) with a 150m lead over Virenque and Bodrogi. Soon we'll have a three man break.

Bäckstedt crosses the line in 2'46'25 (38.07 km/h). Virenque and Bodrogi are just 11 seconds behind.

15:33 EEST   
An Austrian and an Australian are leading the bunch off the cobbles into the final kilometre. The gap will be close to 3 minutes at the finish. We're not quite at halfway yet.

15:34 EEST    107km/117.4km to go
Magnus Bäckstedt (Sweden), Richard Virenque (France) and Laszlo Bodrogi (Hungary) are now all together at the start of the ninth lap. It looks like Michal Hrazdira (Cze) is towing the peloton, with Voigt, Rich and Valverde behind him. It's 2'50 at the line. Ullrich is well placed in about 6th wheel. The US and the Aussies are up there too.

15:37 EEST    109km/115.4km to go
There is some unrest in the peloton, as the Spanish move towards the front. With three men at 2'50, the situation has changed and the race will have to be more controlled. There's also a few Polish jerseys in front.

No sign of the New Zealanders, but Amir Zargari (Iran) is in about 30th wheel. Uros Murn (Slovenia) looks pretty happy too.

Jason McCartney (USA) is on the front now.

15:39 EEST   
Ullrich cruises up to the front, next to Klöden, and takes a drink. Knaven (Ned) moves up too, but not for long. There is a certain amount of nervousness, as a couple of Czechs ride tempo.

15:42 EEST    113km/111.4km to go
Bäckstedt leads on the climb up Lycabettus Hill, with Bodrogi and Virenque in tow. We have three nationalities represented in the break, but in trade team terms, we have two Quick.Steps and one Alessio-Bianchi.

The Germans have massed on the front of the peloton past the feed, and look to be doing some more serious tempo work.

15:43 EEST    115km/109.4km to go
Voigt and Klöden (Rich falls back) drive it hard at the base of the climb with Ullrich looking extremely comfortable. The guy on his wheel is not, forcing Rogers to close the gap. Bettini is up there. He knows.

15:44 EEST   
Over the top of the climb, it's Voigt, Ullrich, Rogers, O'Grady and Klöden. Then maybe 10 more and then a few gaps. Rich is a long way back now. The peloton is broken.

15:45 EEST    117km/107.4km to go
Voigt and Ullrich continue to drive, and it's Ullrich who makes a little acceleration. Straight away, Rogers and O'Grady are on his wheel. Bettini is there, looking around for his teammates.

15:46 EEST   
The German offensive has split the peloton into about four bits, and it's not going to get much easier. We're only on lap nine, so it's quite early to be forcing the pace like this.

The three leaders are less than two minutes clear now.

15:48 EEST    117km/107.4km to go
There's about 20 riders off the front of the peloton, but there are others coming back. Julich and Rogers are trying to keep the tempo up. There's now 40. Voigt does a turn. The Italians are there with Moreni and Bettini.

The gap has come down to 1'20 but Rogers sits up and the tempo eases off. More groups will get on.

15:50 EEST   
Voigt, Rogers and Julich are making the tempo, but it's not particularly hard at the moment. Kroon is up there for the Netherlands. The bunch is now perhaps 70-80 riders strong.

It's still Virenque, Bodrogi and Bäckstedt in front, but only by 1'30.

15:51 EEST   
A second big group is trying to make its way back to the peloton. Van Petegem is at the back of the front group, along with White. Chavanel (France) is in last wheel. Group 2 should be able to make contact...until the next climb.

15:53 EEST    119km/105.4km to go
The three leaders, looking a little ragged now, reaching the line for the end of lap 9 in 3'07'18 (38.05 km/h).

15:54 EEST    120km/104.4km to go
The bunch has regrouped almost completely, but the next time up Lycabettus Hill will be telling. Voigt is marshalling the front of the peloton, and the Slovenians are well placed with Stangelj to the fore.

The gap at the line is 1'42.

15:55 EEST   
Jan Kirsipuu has abandoned, and it looks like Robin Reid (NZ) is still off the back of the peloton.

15:57 EEST    122km/102.4km to go
One of the Canadians - looks like Michael Barry - moves to the front. The pace is very moderate at the start of lap 10, but all hell could break loose on the climb again.

15:59 EEST   
Hincapie has been sighted in about 10th position. Valverde is also well up there. Nardello brings a bottle of Coke(tm) up to the front for a teammate.

Philippe Gilbert (Bel) has moved up.

16:00 EEST    123km/101.4km to go
The three leaders have increased their advantage up to 1'55 as the peloton readies itself for the next assault on the climb. The pace increases, with Glomser (Aut) in front. The Aussies, led by Cooke and White, make a move on the left.

16:02 EEST    125km/99.4km to go
Cooke leads the bunch past the feed boxes, as Virenque leads the break up the climb for the 10th time. Bäckstedt is in second wheel, still hanging in there, but he's not looking very fresh and his head is pointing down.

16:03 EEST   
Bäckstedt takes over just before the top, as the noise of the cicadas gets very loud. Bodrogi then comes through and crosses the summit first.

16:03 EEST   
The peloton is strung out again, with Cooke and two Spaniards on the front.

Klöden has attacked!

16:04 EEST   
Andreas Klöden crosses the summit, 1'11 behind the break. But Igor Gonzalez (Spain) realises the danger and drags the bunch up. There are many splits.

16:06 EEST    127km/97.4km to go
Paolo Bettini (Italy) looks quite comfy as he sits in 15th wheel. The two Spaniards - Igor and Valverde - are doing the damager with Rogers in tow. Rogers takes over. The gap is 1'00.

16:07 EEST   
In front, Bäckstedt looks more comfortable as he does a turn on the descent, followed by Virenque then Bodrogi.

Igor and Valverde are still forcing the tempo in the bunch, and it's hurting. They're looking around, and they have a small gap.

16:09 EEST   
Igor Gonzalez tows Valverde for a long time. They are joined by a couple more riders, with the peloton chasing hard.

16:11 EEST    130km/94.4km to go
Gonzalez drives onto the cobbles past the Acropolis, and there are now five in the break. But the peloton is on them now, albeit rather strung out.

Bobby Julich (USA) counters. This is not making it easy for the dropped groups to regain the peloton.

16:12 EEST    132km/92.4km to go
Attacks are coming thick and fast now, as Julich is caught by Rogers, who is towing a very strung out peloton behind him.

The three leaders are now in the finishing straight for the end of lap 10.

16:14 EEST    132km/92.4km to go
Voeckler (France) leads the bunch up to the line, then Leipheimer takes over.
The gap is a mere 20 seconds at the line.

Julian Dean (NZ) is well placed in the peloton. Vinokourov is up there too. The bunch is still some 100 riders strong.

16:15 EEST    134km/90.4km to go
Julich is on the move again with Luis Felipe Laverde Jimenez (Colombia). They have pulled in the three leaders.

16:17 EEST   
The bunch is still strung out, and there's one rider trying to get across to the leading five. Virenque looks back to check the gap and who he's got for company. But the gap is only 10 seconds and the peloton is not easing up.

16:18 EEST    135km/89.4km to go
Laverde doesn't care, and he does a big turn in front to try and increase the break's advantage. Italian jerseys are prominent in the chase.

Virenque is knackered, and sits up. The break is caught.

16:19 EEST    136km/88.4km to go
Bäckstedt rode the longest in front, having initiated the move on lap two after about 20 km. He was out there for nearly 115 km.

The speed is very high as the bunch races towards the Lycabettus Hill climb for the 11th time.

16:20 EEST   
Marcus Ljungqvist (Sweden) is first in line as the peloton passes the team boxes. He grabs a bottle or two and quickly drinks. The heat is sapping everyone.

16:21 EEST   
Andreas Klöden has abandoned! He is one rider who doesn't do well in the heat. He had the same problem last week in San Sebastian.

16:22 EEST    138km/86.4km to go
The peloton tackles the climb for the 11th time with Glomser (Aut) in front. Ljungqvist is up there with a Ukrainian and Colombian. Moreni in fifth wheel, then three of the US riders. The Australians have fallen back a bit.

16:23 EEST   
A Colombian rider gets a small gap at the top of the climb. The peloton is in bits again, and Virenque and Moreau are at the back.

Bäckstedt has abandoned. No surprise there.

16:24 EEST    139km/85.4km to go
The Colombian is Laverde again, and he has Totschnig (Aut) with him. They have 10 seconds.

16:28 EEST    141km/83.4km to go
Seven riders are in pursuit of the two leaders, with the peloton hot on their heels.

16:29 EEST    143km/81.4km to go
Totschnig and Laverde hammer across the cobbles, as two riders manage to bridge the gap.

16:31 EEST    145km/79.4km to go
A 10 man group has formed now, with Totschnig and Laverde starting it. They reach the finishing straight with the peloton towed by Jens Voigt at 15 seconds.

16:33 EEST    146km/78.4km to go
Totschnig (Aut), Mizourov (Kaz), Vainsteins (Lat), Julich (USA), Joachim (Lux), Etxebarria (Ven), Moreni (Ita), Hushovd (Nor), Igor (Spain), Gilbert (Bel) are in the group. Ekimov and Van Heeswijk are closing the gap. The peloton is at 26 seconds at the start/finish, with Voigt in front. The Germans and the Aussies have missed it.

16:36 EEST    148km/76.4km to go
Mick Rogers is leading the peloton, but he has Gutierrez and Valverde (Spain) and Leipheimer and Hincapie (USA) on his wheel. They won't be doing any turns as they have riders in the break. Alexandre Vinokourov is on Hincapie's wheel. It's all up to Rogers to close the gap.

16:38 EEST   
The leaders have 25 seconds on the peloton, but are not cooperating that well. Rogers has help from Stangelj, who leads up past the feed boxes.

16:41 EEST    149km/75.4km to go
Axel Merckx (Bel) closes the gap to the break just before the climb. There are now 13: Luis Laverde (Colombia), Georg Totschnig (Austria), Andrei Mizourov (Kaz), Romans Vainsteins (Lat), Bobby Julich (USA), Unai Etxebarria (Ven), Cristian Moreni (Ita), Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spain), Philippe Gilbert and Axel Merckx (Bel), Ekimov (Rus) and Van Heeswijk (Ned)

16:42 EEST   
Unai Etxebarria and Moreni have a small gap to the rest at the top, and the bunch is coming back to them. It's only 15 seconds. Vinokourov is chasing.

16:45 EEST    153km/71.4km to go
Etxebarria is together with Moreni on the descent as the front part of the peloton has caught the break. Maybe 50 riders in the bunch now, 15 seconds behind.

16:47 EEST    155km/69.4km to go
The counter attacks continue from the bunch, with Joachim (Lux) accelerating, but getting nowhere. Erik Dekker is at the back of the field.

Moreni and Etxebarria continue to make good their escape.

16:48 EEST    156km/68.4km to go
Etxebarria hammers across the cobbles with Moreni (who is by the way another Alessio-Bianchi rider) on his wheel. Etxebarria rides for Euskaltel, but the way. And Venezuela.

16:50 EEST    157km/67.4km to go
A counter attack has formed with four riders in it. There's a lot of green in the group. One Aussie this time.

The leaders are inside the final kilometre of lap 12.

16:50 EEST   
The counter attacking group: Robbie McEwen (Australia), Ryan Cox (South Africa), Ciaran Power (Ireland) and Martin Elmiger (Switzerland). Interesting!

16:52 EEST    159km/65.4km to go
The two leaders cross the line for lap 12 in 4'06'12 (38.6 km/h). The chase group of four is at 8 seconds, while the Voigt led peloton is at 41 seconds.

16:53 EEST    160km/64.4km to go
At the start of lap 13, we now have a group of six: Unai Etxebarria (Venezuela), Cristian Moreni (Italy), Robbie McEwen (Australia), Ryan Cox (South Africa), Ciaran Power (Ireland) and Martin Elmiger (Switzerland). They have 40 seconds on the peloton, which is down to 50 riders or so.

16:55 EEST    162km/62.4km to go
Hushovd has abandoned.

Elmiger does a turn in the break, which is not working too well. Cox doesn't want to do much it seems.

16:56 EEST   
Moreau has abandoned.

There is better cooperation in the break, which has a minute. Igor Gonzalez (Spain) chats on his radio to ask what to do. There's no panic yet. Ullrich and Dean have moseyed on up to the front of the bunch too.

16:58 EEST    163km/61.4km to go
Etxebarria, Cox, Moreni, Power, McEwen, Elmiger are the breakaways on the 13th lap. All are doing their turns now, but not hammering. They come past the team boxes and some riders grab drinks.

17:00 EEST    164km/60.4km to go
The peloton passes the feed zone, grabbing drinks whenever possible. Gord Fraser (Can) is on the back.

The six leaders hit the climb for the 13th time, Cox in front.

17:01 EEST    165km/59.4km to go
McEwen, Power and Etxebarria have their jerseys unzipped as far as they will go. The other three are sweating.

The bunch hits the climb 1'05 behind the leaders, with Igor Gonzalez riding tempo with a Kazakhstan rider on his wheel.

17:02 EEST   
At the top of the climb, the strung out peloton looks a little bigger - maybe 70-80 men. The gap is 59 seconds, with Igor still leading.

17:05 EEST    168km/56.4km to go
Matt White and Baden Cooke (Aus) have abandoned, leaving three Aussies in the race. One of them is in the break: Robbie McEwen. The Australian plan is probably centred on O'Grady today. Being an Adelaide boy, he doesn't mind the heat.

17:06 EEST   
The gap is holding steady at one minute as the leaders reach the bottom of the descent. Igor Gonzalez is still towing the strung out peloton.

17:09 EEST    170km/54.4km to go
Speaking of O'Grady, he's sitting near the back of the bunch, talking on his radio.

The break is now on the cobbles. Hincapie grabs a whole stash of bidons and brings them up to his teammates.

Jose Ivan Gutierrez has abandoned, and looks in a bit of trouble from the heat. He also has a big bandage on his knee after crashing early in the race. Interestingly, that's been the only crash. It took care of Astarloa, Boogerd, Karpets and Perez.

17:10 EEST   
The bunch passes the Acropolis for the 13th time 52 seconds behind the six man break. Those names in front again: Unai Etxebarria (Venezuela), Cristian Moreni (Italy), Robbie McEwen (Australia), Ryan Cox (South Africa), Ciaran Power (Ireland) and Martin Elmiger (Switzerland).

17:12 EEST    172km/52.4km to go
The breakaway is working together with Elmiger and McEwen looking strong. Cox is panting for air a bit. 4'26'23 for 171.6 km = 38.65 km/h.

Igor leads a very strung out peloton 38 seconds behind.

17:13 EEST    173km/51.4km to go
Four laps to go in the Olympic men's road race, and we have a break of six that's dangling out in front at 38 seconds.

The fastest lap was the 11th in 19'02 (41.6 km/h). This is a slow course.

17:15 EEST    175km/49.4km to go
Igor is still on the front of the peloton, setting an impressive tempo with Ruslan Ivanov (Moldavia) on his wheel. The US team: Julich, Leipheimer, Hamilton and Hincapie, are well placed in the top 10.

Igor passes a bottle back to Valverde, who has come up for a chat. Voeckler and Glomser are also near the front.

17:17 EEST   
McEwen has attacked the rest, taking Moreni and Elmiger with him. He was probably not happy with the cooperation of the break.

17:18 EEST    176km/48.4km to go
Power, Cox and Etxebarria are trying to close the gap to McEwen, Moreni and Elmiger. It's about 5 seconds as they pass the feed boxes. The break comes back together.

Wauters and Vansevenant (Bel) have abandoned.

17:19 EEST    176km/48.4km to go
It looks like Frank Høj's is handing out bottles to his Danish teammates from the team boxes (could me mistaken).

Gerrit Glomser (Austria) has counter attacked in pursuit of the six man break.

17:21 EEST    178km/46.4km to go
The leaders are on Lycabettus Hill, led by McEwen with Cox bringing up the rear. The South African has a bottle of Coke in his back pocket, which he'll probably need soon. Moreni takes over, looks back and sees Glomser coming up behind.

Max van Heeswijk (Ned) is at the back of the bunch, cooling off with an ice pack.

17:23 EEST    179km/45.4km to go
At the top, Glomser has made contact and the gap is 11 seconds back to the peloton, where Philippe Gilbert (Bel) stirs up the pace.

Unai Etxebarria attacks, but the rest come up to him. He goes again.

The lead group: Unai Etxebarria (Venezuela), Cristian Moreni (Italy), Ciaran Power (Ireland), Martin Elmiger (Switzerland), Gerrit Glomser (Austria). McEwen and Cox have been dropped.

17:24 EEST   
Viatcheslav Ekimov (Russia) has abandoned.

The five leaders are working again, more or less.

17:26 EEST    180km/44.4km to go
The peloton is in a very very long line as it motors on the descent, 10 seconds behind the five leaders.

17:28 EEST    182km/42.4km to go
A group of eight riders has extracted itself from the peloton, which is closing the gap. Voeckler is one of them.

17:29 EEST    184km/40.4km to go
The break drives up past the Acropolis on the cobbles, being caught by the chase group, which has 10 seconds on the front of the peloton.

17:31 EEST    185km/39.4km to go
Voeckler, Moreni, Elmiger do their turn at the front of the break as they reach the start/finish. There is no cooperation. Voeckler attacks again. Hamilton, Kirchen and Nardello are there with him.

Three laps to go, and the peloton is just 8 seconds behind the break, led by Kazakhstan.

17:33 EEST    186km/38.4km to go
It's back together again, but Hamilton decides to counter. He takes Kirchen and Paolini(?) with him. Yakovlev is there, and a couple of others.

17:34 EEST    187km/37.4km to go
Hamilton, Kroon, Nardello, Yakovlev, Kirchen, Kolobnev and Paolini are in the break, but the peloton is hot on their heels. The gap is less than 5 seconds.

17:36 EEST   
The attacks continue. Luca Paolini (Ita) and Alexandre Kolobnev (Rus) are the next to have a go. Kroon (Ned) bridges up to them.

17:38 EEST    189km/35.4km to go
Paolini (Ita), Kolobnev (Rus) and Kroon (Ned) lead the break past the team boxes, with the peloton still 5 seconds behind. The bunch is still fairly big - maybe 60 men.

Chavanel and Scanlon abandon.

17:39 EEST   
It's all together as the bunch approaches the climb for the third last time. Two Kazakh jerseys are up the front, but it's the Austrians who drive the pace. Bettini does a turn with Vinokourov on his wheel.

17:40 EEST    191km/33.4km to go
Bettini attacks with Vino, Kolobnev, Valverde, Dean and one other. Ullrich is closing the gap. Hincapie and Hamilton lead the next group.

17:41 EEST    192km/32.4km to go
At the top, there is a group of seven or so with 5 seconds to a group led by Merckx, which also contains Hincapie and Hamilton. But the gap is not big enough and Bettini sits up.

17:42 EEST   
Vinokourov doesn't sit up, neither does Dean. They try to keep the pace high. Maybe 20 men in the move now.

17:44 EEST    193km/31.4km to go
Oscar Freire has shown himself at the front for the first time. Not a bad time to be up there. He's a two time world champ, and definitely one of the Spanish team's main men.

Paolini (Ita) drives the tempo in front, trying to keep the pace up. Frank Schleck (Lux) is also there. Bettini is looking very nervous as he looks back at Ullrich. There's maybe 20 men here.

Igor has abandoned. He did a great job for the team.

17:46 EEST    195km/29.4km to go
George Hincapie (USA) attacks, seeing that the cooperation isn't great. The big American gets a small gap, but the chase is strong behind him as he hits the Acropolis Now cobbles.

17:47 EEST    196km/28.4km to go
Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) attacks on the cobbles, taking Paolini with him. Paolini comes through for a turn. Hincapie has been caught by the lead group.

17:48 EEST    198km/26.4km to go
In front we have Paolini, Arvesen, Merckx and Høj's (who obviously hasn't abandoned). The four have 15 seconds on one rider, with the peloton another 10 seconds back.

17:50 EEST    199km/25.4km to go
The four leaders have 27 seconds on the regrouped peloton with 2 laps to go. Popovych is the man in pursuit, and he is 15 seconds behind Arvesen, Høj's, Paolini and Merckx.

17:53 EEST    200km/24.4km to go
The Dutch and Kazakh teams are making the pace in the peloton, 25 seconds behind the leaders. Popovych is making some good ground on the break. The Ukrainian is a good one day rider, even though he's been concentrating on three week stage races in his career so far.

But the peloton is organised now, with the Kazakhstan team led by Andrey Kashechkin in front. Bettini is right on his wheel. Then Vino and Van Petegem.

17:54 EEST    201km/23.4km to go
Ullrich is sitting in about 10th wheel, right behind Valverde. Vinokourov attacks, with Bettini and Van Petegem. But then sits up as the peloton is right there.

The break is caught.

17:55 EEST   
Paolini does his last turn on the front, with Vino and Bettini on his wheel. Damage will be done on the climb.

Oscar Freire has abandoned.

17:56 EEST    202km/22.4km to go
O'Grady is now well positioned in the front of the peloton on the second last lap. The bunch rides past the team boxes, fairly well strung out. Julian Dean (NZ) is still riding well.

17:57 EEST   
Paolini grabs a bottle and gives it to Bettini. There is a reshuffling at the front, as maybe 60 riders hit the climb of Lycabettus Hill for the penultimate time.

17:58 EEST   
Bettini attacks at the bottom of the climb, with Vino, (Portugal?), Ullrich, Valverde, Dean...

Voigt has abandoned, as has Pozzato.

17:59 EEST    204km/20.4km to go
Bettini's attack has done some damage alright, but the Portuguese rider with him - Sergio Paulinho - is doing it easy. Vino is leading the chase behind.

18:01 EEST    206km/18.4km to go
At the top, Bettini and Paulinho have a small gap to six riders, with Ullrich, Dean, Vinokourov, Merckx, Valverde and one more.

Leipheimer has abandoned.

18:02 EEST   
Bettini and Paulinho have a pretty handy lead back to the chase group, which is now growing as riders catch on from the peloton. The gap is 11 seconds.

18:03 EEST    207km/17.4km to go
The peloton has more or less regrouped on the descent, leaving Bettini and Paulinho with 15 seconds advantage.

18:05 EEST    209km/15.4km to go
It's 20 seconds now and looking dangerous. Bettini is not a rider who you can let go. Paulinho is a bit of a surprise, but remember the heat changes a few things.

The Dutch with Karsten Kroon lead the bunch across the cobbles for the second last time, 20 seconds behind the two leaders.

18:06 EEST    210km/14.4km to go
The Kazakhstan team is helping the chase now, the peloton maybe 50 strong. The leading pair are into the final kilometre of the 16th lap.

18:07 EEST    211km/13.4km to go
Bettini drives it into the finishing straight, as the peloton lines itself out behind. The gap is looking very nice. It's 23 seconds.

18:08 EEST    212km/12.4km to go
Bettini and Paulinho cross the line with one lap to go in 5'22'58. Bettini hammers through for his turn. Yakovlev is burying himself in the peloton at 26 seconds. Paolini on his wheel, not doing anything. Then Ljungqvist, Julich, Hamilton, Ullrich.

18:10 EEST    213km/11.4km to go
Paulinho is looking just as good as Bettini, but the Italian is the odds on favourite if they stay clear. Yakovlev has done such a hard turn that he's opened up a gap. He sits up.

Erik Dekker counters! But gets nowhere. One of the Russians takes over - Petrov. The gap is 30 seconds.

18:12 EEST   
The peloton steels itself for the final climb. Any bridging move will have to come here. Petrov continues on the front, with Elmiger(?) on his wheel. Ullrich, Hincapie are well placed.

18:13 EEST   
The leading pair are working very well, neither looking stronger at the moment. It's 33 seconds as Elmiger does a turn in the bunch. Voeckler follows a counter attack. It goes nowhere. The cooperation is gone.

18:14 EEST    215km/9.4km to go
The bunch is very disorganised now, looking like it's racing for third place. The two leaders fly past the feed zone, not taking any more water on board.

18:15 EEST   
Virenque is still in the bunch, but in last wheel. Not bad going.

The leaders have 38 seconds at the foot of the climb. Last time!

18:16 EEST   
Paolo Bettini drives hard at the foot of the climb with Paulinho glued to his wheel. The Portuguese rider is not giving an inch. But then it gets steeper...

18:16 EEST   
Bettini gets a metre, then five metres...he's gone!! Bettini is solo.

18:17 EEST    217km/7.4km to go
But Paulinho has not given up - he's back with Bettini and even takes over for a turn. Bettini might want the assistance.

18:18 EEST    218km/6.4km to go
At the top of the climb, the peloton is 49 seconds back, led by Ullrich. But there is no way that they're going to catch the two leaders.

18:18 EEST   
Valverde has been dropped. The last of the Spaniards.

18:19 EEST    219km/5.4km to go
In front, we have Paolo Bettini (Italy) who is surely on his way to an Olympic gold medal. Paulinho is strong, but Bettini is fast.

The race is on for third place, with Vinokourov now being active on the descent.

18:20 EEST   
It's down to 40 seconds now as the two leaders hit 5 km to go. This will have to be an incredible pursuit to catch them.

18:20 EEST   
Bettini realises, and does a strong turn. He wants to make sure.

18:21 EEST    220km/4.4km to go
The Italians are controlling the front of the peloton, which is not organised enough to chase the leaders.

18:22 EEST   
The gap goes up to 43 seconds as Merckx counters from the peloton. There's still a bronze medal up for grabs.

18:22 EEST   
Paulinho tightens his shoestraps.

Merckx gives it full gas in pursuit. He's riding very well.

18:23 EEST    222km/2.4km to go
Bettini and Paulinho ride past the Acropolis/Parthenon for the last time, both looking very cool. Paulinho looks the least worried.

Stangelj has crashed. He's on the bike again, but his race is over.

18:24 EEST   
They're on the descent on the cobbles now with 2 km to go. There's still a remarkable lack of spectators.

Merckx is about 30 seconds behind, solo.

18:25 EEST    223.4km/1km to go
The leading pair are not playing cat and mouse yet as they reach 1 km to go. Paulinho in front.

18:25 EEST   
Now the cat and mouse starts as Bettini does a turn, looking back. Paulinho looks back too. 32 seconds to Merckx, who's on track for a nice bronze.

18:27 EEST    224.4km/0km to go
Paulinho leads into the finishing straight, Bettini on his wheel. The pace slows right down, both riders looking back a lot. Paulinho gets a gap when he jumps Bettini, but the Italian closes the gap, comes round and wins the Olympic road race!!!!

Paulinho second, Merckx third!!! Zabel fourth, it looks like.

18:29 EEST   
Bettini can't believe it. He is congratulated by all his teammates, Ullrich and plenty of others. A very hard earned but nicely raced victory.

Results

1 Paolo Bettini (Italy)          5.41.44
2 Sergio Paulinho (Portugal)        0.01
3 Axel Merckx (Belgium)             0.06
4 Erik Zabel (Germany)              0.12
5 Andrej Hauptman (Slovenia)
6 Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg)
7 Roger Hammond (Great Britain)
8 Frank Hoj (Denmark)
9 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway)
10 Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia)

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