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Olympic Cycling News, June 13, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

No Olympic bans for Tour riders

Pat McQuaid at the 2007 Tour de France
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

With Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announcing this week that it will be holding the July event under the aegis of the French federation (FFC), the world governing body of cycling International Cycling Union (UCI) responded with a warning that "riders and teams will, by participating, expose themselves to sanctions."

Similarly to events after the Paris-Nice stage race in March, which ASO also carried out with the help of the FFC, observers now ask what these sanctions could be. But UCI president Pat McQuaid assured AP that the measures would not include a ban from the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

"It's in our capacity but it's not in our heart to sanction athletes that have prepared for four years for an Olympic Games," McQuaid said on Wednesday. "No matter how grave the situation might be, or how disloyal we feel the French federation has been to the UCI, I don't see the Olympic Games being touched."

Several riders opted out of Paris-Nice after McQuaid had threatened riders with ineligibility for the Olympics, should they race. The UCI later initiated disciplinary action against Jean Pitallier, the French federation president, and French riders asked themselves if this would mean their federation was out of the Games altogether.

But these fears were dismissed. While the UCI's next step in the disciplinary action process will be decided at a meeting of the 19-member management board in Copenhagen, Denmark, next week, McQuaid assured that, "I don't think there will be any big dramas between now and the Tour de France. Beijing will take place and it will be a wonderful event for cycling and the UCI as well, I hope."

Vos to push Olympic time trial selection

Marianne Vos has asked her attorney to look into forcing The Netherlands national team to nominate her for the Olympic time trial, according to her manager Orlando van den Bosch. The 21 year-old, who last year won the Women's World Cup, was notified last week that she had not been selected for the time trial, but would be nominated for the road race and the track points race.

National Coach Johan Lammerts said that she should concentrate on the points race, where her chances are better, but Vos countered, "They can't ignore my versatility like that." There are four days between the two races, and "That is enough time for me to recover," she told telesport.nl. "I even think I need the time trial in order to be good in the points race. Before the road race, I will have no competitions for two weeks, and without the time trial, I would have another eight days without competition. I am a rider who needs to race to be good. I understand nothing of this decision. Others are now deciding what is right for me."

She added that Lammerts had previously indicated to her that she would ride. "In our conversations the last few weeks, he said that my participation would be no problem. It's crazy – we have been given two start places, but only Miriam Melchers will ride. It's not as if I would be taking the place of someone else."

Vos indicated that after hearing the news last Friday she had considered totally calling off her participation in the Olympics. "But the Games are only held once every four years. I have prepared myself for them for months. I can't just throw that all away." (SW)

Swiss Olympic team complete

Swiss Olympic, the national Olympic committee of Switzerland, has nominated its final seven cyclists for the Beijing Olympics. Fabian Cancellara and Michael Albasini will ride the road race for the men, with world champion Cancellara also riding the time trial.

For the women, Nicole Brändli-Sedoun, Priska Doppmann and Jennifer Hohl will ride the road race, with two-time world champion Karin Thürig and Doppman in the time trial. Jenny Fähndrich will ride the BMX event while it has already been announced that Bruno Risi, Franco Marvulli and Thürig would ride the track events.

Brentjens to go to fourth Olympics

Bart Brentjens
Photo ©: Frank Bodenmuller
(Click for larger image)

Bart Brentjens will be racing his fourth Olympic Games in Beijing in August. The Dutch Dolphin-Trek team cross country racer needed to finish top 16 at the recent World Cup in Fort William, Scotland, to qualify and he made it to the 14th position overall.

Brentjens had a bad start, but with the help of team-mate and Australian champion at Dolphin-Trek, Chris Jongewaard, both riders went into the top 15. Jongewaard pulled hard in the descents and lost control going over the bars with one lap to go. Jongewaard still managed to finish 18th.

In past Olympic Games, Brentjens won gold in Atlanta in 1996 and bronze in Athens in 2004.

Meares storms her way to Beijing

Thuaux fails to make the cut

By Malcolm Sawford in Melbourne

Meares was in good spirits after her performance
Photo ©: Fiona Carnibella
(Click for larger image)

Billed as the "Farewell to Beijing", an opportunity for local fans to get up close and personal with the Australian track team for the Beijing Olympics, Revolution 3 saw all five riders pre-nominated for the sprint squad take to the boards at Melbourne's Vodafone arena before a near capacity crowd.

The highlight of the night came in only the second event, a specially arranged flying 200 metre time trial for Anna Meares to confirm her pre-nomination with a target time of 11.77 seconds or better. Australian head coach Martin Barras and Meares were both confident that despite Meares' severely limited preparation since her terrible crash in the Los Angeles world cup, which resulted in a fractured C2 vertebra and extensive shoulder injuries, her recent training form would see her on track for a time around 11.5 seconds.

Meares demolished their predictions, storming around the track to stop the clock in a sizzling 11.189 seconds, a track record, and less than two hundredths of a second outside her personal best "which was at Manchester which is the fastest track in the world!"

While her initial reaction to the time is unprintable, Meares acknowledged it was good to end any doubts in her mind. "I've had lots of ups and downs, whether I was going to qualify, whether I was fit enough. Hopefully now the selectors will write my name down in ink on that ticket to Beijing! It's a kind of 'thank God!' feeling, it's really been uncertain the whole last five months.

I'm really pleased with that and I know that all the pain and the discomfort I've been through in the last couple of months and all the hard work that I've put in has started to pay off."

When asked if she now considered herself a realistic chance of a medal in the sprint at Beijing, she responded cautiously "it gives me a lot more confidence that I'm going to be in good enough condition to compete, and I've always had the mentality that I've got to go believing that I can win and now I really have the extra backing behind me having done that time. While I've given my rivals a head start, I think I've caught up a fair way, which is a good feeling. They'll all see this time and know I'm coming!"

Thuaux falls short

Meares' success came in stark contrast to an attempt by Phil Thuaux to claim a place in the endurance squad at the games. Faced with a 4000 metre individual pursuit qualifying time of 4 minutes 20, over two seconds under his personal best, Thuaux started strongly and appeared to be riding to coach Gary Sutton's schedule up to the halfway point, before falling behind in the final laps to record a time of 4:24.522.

A disappointed Thuaux was candid in his review of his ride. "Whether it is was a technical thing or whether it was a horsepower thing I don't know. Whether I just wasn't good enough or I didn't deliver it properly, four seconds is a bit of time. I suspect it's probably a bit of both."

Read the full report from Revolution 3.

Kelly heads to fifth Olympics

In a separate showdown at the Vodafone Arena on Wednesday, only officials, family and friends were allowed into the velodrome to watch the head-to-head match between sprinters Shane Kelly and Ben Kersten for the final remaining slot on the men's Beijing sprint squad. Kelly took a convincing victory in the 625 metre time trial, smashing Kersten's 39.934 with a 39.198 second time.

The ride-off was designed to select the final, third-lap spot on the men's team sprint, but Kelly may also ride the keirin at the Games. Kelly, who took silver in 1992 and bronze in 2000 in the kilometre time trial, and bronze in 2004 in the keirin, is hoping to he has regained his medal-winning form. "I did say 12 months ago when I set myself to make a bit of a comeback … I'm certainly not going for the tracksuit and everything else that goes with it. It's (for a) gold medal, and that's eluded me so far, so I'm 100% pumped and ready for it," he said.

The event marked the third time Kersten has missed out on selection for the Games, and his disappointment was palpable, however, he graciously congratulated Kelly. "He just said, 'All the best, the better guy won on the day'," Kelly told The Age afterwards. "It's a big relief. I'm glad it's done."

If the Australian Olympic Committee approves the selection, Kelly will join Anna Meares, Mark French, Ryan Bayley and Daniel Ellis on the sprint team in Beijing.

Olympic course gets more technical

When it comes to the Olympic mountain bike course, everyone's been talking about pollution as a potential major influencing factor - especially after last fall's test event saw many racers drop out. But in the meantime, the UCI has been working to make the course more technical.

Two of the governing body's experts, Mountain Bike Sports Coordinator Peter Van den Abeele and 4X Designer Phil Saxena, visited Beijing from May 8 to 15 to finalize details of the course for the Olympic Games in August. Van den Abeele said racers would encounter a more technical and more physical course than the one they rode at the test event in September.

Dutch racer Bart Brentjens previously described the 4.3 km with circuit with 250m of climbing per lap. "The course has small steep climbs and not too technical descents...a good course for 'power' riders like me."

Since then, five new sections have been added and five others have been made more technical. Cameras have also been installed along the course so that Beijing Olympic Broadcasting will be able to capture all the action.

(Editorial assistance and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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