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28th Olympic Games - JO
Athens, Greece, August 14-28, 2004
August 15: Women's Road Race, 118.8km
Carrigan makes the move!
Gold for Australia; Crash for defending champion Van Moorsel
By Chris Henry
Sara Carrigan brought home the gold for Australia with a win in the women's road race, a 118 kilometre test on the same central Athens parcours used by the men one day prior. Carrigan's win is the second gold medal in the Olympic road race for Australia, following Kathy Watt's victory in 1992.
"It's absolutely awesome to be the gold medal winner. I will treasure this day forever. The race today was a complete team effort by the Australian team."
As in the men's race, the winning move came from just two riders in the women's event, as Carrigan and Germany's Judith Arndt pulled themselves away from a select group of favourites with just over a lap to race.
Arndt appeared the stronger of the two as she dragged Carrigan up the climb and throughout the final kilometres, but Carrigan saved herself for the sprint and handily sped free down the home stretch. Russia's Olga Slyusareva fought out the sprint for Bronze ahead of Carrigan's teammate Oenone Wood and Great Britain's Nicole Cooke.
"I caught up to Sara and did a lot of work," Arndt said after the finish. "It would have been different if Petra (Rossner) had been here. She is the fastest sprinter in the world," Arndt added, venting her frustration at her national federation's decision not to bring her friend and sprinter Rossner.
Slyusareva was quite content with her finish in the medals. "I really don't know what to say, it will only sink in in a few hours. All I can say now is that I am very happy."
Despite a slow start, the women's race proved to be a more animated affair than the men's, as attacks began in earnest around the halfway point and the favourites routinely came to the fore, if not to break clear, at least to try to force selections and whittle down the starting field of 67.
Most of the expected players survived to dispute the finale, with the exception of defending Olympic champion Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, who in a split second of distraction crashed while in second position in the main field.
Van Moorsel, riding behind Joane Somarriba, touched wheels with the Spaniard while looking over her own shoulder, tumbling to the ground and taking several other riders with her. Visibly shocked and holding her head in pain, Van Moorsel was helped to the side of the road for further inspection, her race over.
Canada's Lyne Bessette, only recently caught after her own solo break and with teammate Susan Palmer-Komar alone in the lead, was another victim of the crash. Bessette appeared to suffer more mechanical than physical damage, but she too found herself out of the race just as the final selection was to be made.
How it unfolded
Given the small team sizes, with three women maximum per nation, Sunday's road race proved to be a suitably tactical affair. France and Spain were both on the attack early and often, as Eneritz Iturriaga (Spain), Sonia Huguet and Edwige Pitel (France) each tried their own solo moves, hoping to set up team leaders Somarriba and Jeannie Longo, respectively.
The first successful break of the day came from Iturriaga, who showed her frustration with the slow pace by launching herself clear on the flat roads before the course's one notable climb. The small Spaniard quickly opened a gap and was in the clear with more than 30" in hand by the time she zig-zagged her way up the winding hill. Going ahead on the fourth of nine laps was more of an attempt by Spain to set the race in motion rather than count on the individual chances of Iturriaga.
The tactic succeeded in waking up the other contenders, and a series of counter attacks by the likes of Fernand Silva (Brazil), Jutras (Canada), Pucinskaite (Lithuania) helped spark the action. Van Moorsel and Arndt both took matters into their own hands, and in the span of just a few minutes shut down Iturriaga's move, passing her as they neared the top of the climb on lap five.
Huguet was the next to go for France, getting her own gap and increasing the pace once more. Winner of this year's Flèche Wallonne World Cup, Huguet powered away on the smooth back stretch of the circuit, but was reeled in by the time she hit the pavé.
As crunch time began, Canada chose to launch successive attacks, with Lyne Bessette, and Susan Palmer-Komar each establishing their own solo efforts ahead of the increasingly agitated peloton. Meanwhile, powerhouse nations Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands kept their riders together. Prior to Van Moorsel's fall, the Dutch team looked as threatening as any, with both Mirjam Melchers and Van Moorsel animating the field at key points in the race. Australia played the waiting game, preferring to sit out the early rounds of attack.
The race of attrition began to take shape and the lead group began to shrink, prompting the big names to take over. Successive attacks/forcing by Somarriba, Arndt, Melchers and Cooke created the final group from which the winning move would almost certainly emerge. Moving away from the main field were Somarriba, Arndt, Melchers, Cooke, Slyusareva and Wood, with 8" over the chase group as they passed through the start/finish for the bell lap. Carrigan steadily bridged the gap alone to this group, as did the American-Lithuanian duo of Kristen Armstrong and Edita Pucinskaite a few moments later.
Carrigan wasted no time, realizing that the essential selection had been made. She attacked off the front and opened a healthy gap while the others looked at each other. Only Arndt could counter the move, clawing her way across the gap to join Carrigan and force the move. As they hit the climb for the final ascent, Arndt was in command as Carrigan hung on. Somarriba tried to rally the chase behind but the gap was still increasing.
Flying down the back of the circuit, Carrigan opted not to work too much with Arndt, knowing she had Wood in the chase group ready for a counter attack. The German, while not pleased, got on with the job and chose to risk her fatigue in the sprint rather than see the group reform. The two reached the red kite of 1km to go with 20 seconds over the chasers. Mirjam Melchers made a last ditch effort to reach the leaders, mirroring the closing escape by Axel Merckx in the men's race. The talented Dutchwoman couldn't get clear, however, and the group set itself up for a sprint for bronze.
As the lead duo entered the final straight, Arndt was at her maximum, maintaining her speed and looking warily at Carrigan. The Aussie picked her moment and jumped around Arndt, instantly gaining several bike lengths. Carrigan looked back over her shoulder and saw Arndt doing the same. With the German more concerned about the chase group than the winning sprint, Carrigan knew victory was hers and began her celebrations.
"When the break started to close on me, I increased my pace, and then Judith came across," Carrigan explained. "Once Judith was with me, I did not have to work so hard. Since Oenone (Wood) was behind and she is an excellent sprinter, so I could sit on (Arndt). Judith did most of the work, but I did some. It was a perfect situation."
Related link: Aussie women all fired up - Shortly before the Games, the three riders of the Australian women's team spoke to Kristy Scrymgeour about their chances and the road to Athens, and revealed a team unified behind one goal: a gold medal or two.
Images by www.epicimages.us
Images by AFP Photo
1 Sara Carrigan (Australia) 3.24.24 (34.873 km/h) 2 Judith Arndt (Germany) 0.07 3 Olga Slyusareva (Russia) 0.39 4 Oenone Wood (Australia) 5 Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) 6 Mirjam Melchers (Netherlands) 0.42 7 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spain) 8 Kristin Armstrong (USA) 9 Edita Pucinskaite (Lithuania) 0.46 10 Jeannie Longo Ciprelli (France) 0.59 11 Susan Palmer-Komar (Canada) 1.13 12 Olivia Gollan (Australia) 1.18 13 Noemi Cantele (Italy) 14 Anita Valen (Norway) 15 Christine Thorburn (USA) 16 Deirdre Demet-Barry (USA) 17 Joanne Kiesanowski (New Zealand) 18 Priska Doppmann (Switzerland) 19 Zinaida Stahurskaya (Belarus) 20 Miho Oki (Japan) 21 Sharon Vandromme (Belgium) 22 Rachel Heal (Great Britain) 23 Iryna Chuzhynova (Ukraine) 24 Christiane Soeder (Austria) 25 Trixi Worrack (Germany) 26 Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) 27 Malgorzata Wysocka (Poland) 28 Barbara Heeb (Switzerland) 29 Rasa Polikeviciute (Lithuania) 30 Manon Jutras (Canada) 31 Jolanta Polikeviciute (Lithuania) 32 Edwige Pitel (France) 33 Susanne Ljungskog (Sweden) 34 Eneritz Iturriaga Mazaga (Spain) 4.15 35 Evelyn Garcia Marroquin (El Salvador) 36 Nataliya Kachalka (Ukraine) 37 Giorgia Bronzini (Italy) 38 Nicole Brandli (Switzerland) 39 Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia) 40 Sonia Huguet (France) 6.06 41 Miyoko Karami (Japan) 42 Bogumila Matusiak (Poland) 7.31 43 Valentyna Karpenko (Ukraine) 9.11 44 Yunjuan Qian (China) 45 Volha Hayeva (Belarus) 46 Belem Guerrero Mendez (Mexico) 47 Junying Zhang (China) 48 Lene Byberg (Norway) 49 Madeleine Lindberg (Sweden) 50 Maria Dolores Molina (Guatemala) 16.19 51 Songhee Han (Korea) 52 Martina Ruzickova (Czech Republic) 53 Linn Torp (Norway) 54 Janildes Fernand Silva (Brazil) 55 Anriette Schoeman (South Africa) 56 Michelle Hyland (New Zealand) DNF Angela Brodtka (Germany) DNF Svetlana Boubnenkova (Russia) DNF Dori Ruano Sanchon (Spain) DNF Anouska Van Der Zee (Netherlands) DNF Lyne Bessette (Canada) DNF Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Netherlands) DNF Camilla Larsson (Sweden) DNF Sara Symington (Great Britain) DNF Melissa Holt (New Zealand) DNF Lada Kozlikova (Czech Republic) DNF Maaris Meier (Estonia)