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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Olympic Cycling News, June 20, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Contador confirms Olympic time trial and road race

Spain's Alberto Contador, 25, eyes Olympic events
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour de France and 2008 Giro d'Italia, confirmed that he will race both road events in the 2008 Olympics: The time trial (August 13) and road race (August 9).

"I will do the road race and the time trial. Certainly, the time trial is more to my liking, but the road race has a very difficult route and everyone will have a chance," said the 25 year-old Spaniard in an interview on Spanish public television.

Astana, the team of Contador, has not been invited to race the Tour de France in July and his last race leading to the Olympics in Beijing will be the Clásica San Sebastián, August 2.

Thürig eyeing the time trial of her life

Karin Thürig wouldn't have minded a team time trial
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
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Karin Thürig of Switzerland is tuning up her form at the Grande Boucle Féminine International, where she is eyeing Friday's time trial. But the race is just the first step toward the much bigger goal of the Olympics in Beijing, where she will aim for gold in her specialty discipline. Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake spoke with the Cervélo Lifeforce rider at the start of the race in Gent.

Karin Thürig knows the feeling of winning a major medal well. She has won the time trial World Championship title two times in her career, in 2004 and 2005. Additionally, she has been Swiss time trial champion in 2002 and from 2004 to 2007. But even this impressive list of achievements doesn't make her the favourite for Friday's race against the clock in stage five; her main competition could come from within her own team.

Fellow Swiss rider Priska Doppmann secured her 2005 Grande Boucle win in the final time trial that year, while Austrian Christiane Soeder won the bronze medal at the time trial Worlds in Stuttgart last year. Carla Ryan, a new addition to the team, is the 2007 Australian time trial Champion.

With such a powerful team, Thürig joked, the Cervélo Lifeforce team's best event would be a team time trial, "over 100 kilometres." With 40.1 kilometres against the clock looming on stage five, Thürig wasn't sure if the time trial would be the decisive part of the race given the stages to follow. "It is difficult to say. The stages on Saturday and Sunday have many vertical metres." But she admitted, "The time trial is important for me personally and I think also for Christiane and Priska. Otherwise, we try to do something as a team. We will look day by day."

The team aspect is indeed very important and Doppmann is not necessarily the protected rider. Thürig explained, "We want to win as a team. Christiane is also very strong; Carla too. It is also difficult to say as we didn't have a race in a while, so you don't know where you are [in terms of race fitness level]." Having just returned from a break from racing, the Swiss rider said racing could be a bit difficult on the body for the first few days.

So it all depends on how things go. "We will take today's race [stage 1 - ed.] and then see where we are. Today is not a hard race. Then tomorrow, there are two stages. But even today something can happen."

Indeed, as predicted the race did break up a bit on its way through Belgium, and Thürig was alert enough, despite her break from racing, to make the front groups and was sitting in fifth overall, 34 seconds behind Diana Ziliute after three stages.

Continue to the full feature.

Vos to Olympic time trial

Marianne Vos will be riding the Olympic Time Trial after all. The national coach Johan Lammerts has changed his mind after consulting with the Dutch cycling federation and the Dutch Olympic committee. Last week, Vos had said she was considering legal action to force the coach to name her to the time trial.

Vos is now scheduled to ride the road race on August 10, the time trial on August 13 and the track points race on August 18. According to sportwereld.nl, Lammerts had worried that the three races within eight day would be too much for the 21 year-old.

The decision to include her in all three races was based on sporting grounds. She recently won four of five stages and the overall of the Emakumeen Bira race in Spain, which included a time trial win over World Champion Hanke Kupfernagel. (SW)

Dessel puts his hand up for the Olympics

By Jean-François Quénet in Grenoble

Cyril Dessel aims for the Olympics
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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France doesn't have a top cyclist for the Olympic road race on August 9 in Beijing but at least a serious candidate with Cyril Dessel, who came in sixth overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. He was the only Frenchman to win a stage and it seems that his health problems of 2007 are past him. The AG2R rider has now totally fully recovered from toxoplasmose.

"I think I'm back at the level I had in 2006," he explained at the end of the Dauphiné. After the French Championship, he'll go back with high ambitions to the Tour de France where he also finished sixth – and best Frenchman – two years ago.

"After the Tour, I'd like to ride the Olympics and get a good result in Beijing. For me, it's this year or never and I think the course suits me. I really want to experience the Olympics." National coach Frédéric Moncassin confessed the difficulty for him to select the riders since he'll have to give his list of five men – including one who will double up with the time trial, which will possibly be Sylvain Chavanel – on July 21, one week before the end of the Tour de France. He has kept in his mind the memories of Athens, where the riders on form at the beginning of the Tour were no longer able to compete for the victory at the Games.

Moncassin will form a totally different French team for the Olympics in August and the World Championships in Varese in September.

Canadian Olympic road team decided

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

The Canadian Cycling Association announced its selections for their road cycling squad at the Beijing Olympics. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Chipotle,) Michael Barry (High Road) and Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) are the men's team, while Leigh Hobson (Cheerwine) and Alex Wrubleski (Webcor) represent the women's team.

Both Barry and Hesjedal are European-based riders racing in many ProTour events, while Tuft recently won Canada's Tour de Beauce overall and time trial, which likely sealed his spot on the team. His time trial performance there likely also earned him the TT spot along with Hesjedal.

The latter is slated to race the Tour de France with his team, which should be ideal training for the Games. "Going to the Olympic Games is something I've been thinking about doing since Athens," said Hesjedal in a statement. "I'm in the best position I've ever been and I've showed that with my racing this season. I plan on building on my successes."

Both Wrubleski and Hobson have had consistent placings on the North American circuit, as well as some significant international results. Hobson finished third in the Montreal world cup.

A third female rider is yet to be named, and the time trial contenders will be decided after the national championship in July.

Ireland names Olympic roadies

By Gerard Cromwell

AG2R La Mondiale's Philip Deignan in Team Ireland colours
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Cycling Ireland has announced Ireland's two-man team for the Olympic Games road race in Beijing, China on August 9. The only two Irish professionals to ply their trade at cycling's highest level, the ProTour, Crédit Agricole's Nicolas Roche and AG2R La Mondiale's Philip Deignan, will line up for the 245-kilometre Olympic event.

Roche will follow in the footsteps of his father Stephen, who represented Ireland at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980 before going on to become a legend in the professional ranks. Both 24 year-olds have plenty of experience and have ridden together on numerous Irish teams at World Championship level.

Now in his fourth year as a professional, Roche has progressed steadily each year and looked likely to make his Tour de France debut in July. Illness three days before this week's Tour de Suisse has forced Roche to skip what should have been his final Olympic preparation race. Olympic selection though, has made that blow a little easier for the Dubliner.

"I was disappointed to miss the chance of riding the Tour," said Roche. "But I'm absolutely delighted to be going to the Olympics. I was hoping to get the call today and I'm really, really delighted to be picked."

Roche has been in consistently good form this season taking numerous top 10 placings, culminating with a stage win and two days in yellow at the GP Internacional Paredes Rota dos Móveis in Portugal last month. His record in big races over the years, including good performances for Ireland at previous Junior (U-18) and U-23 world road race championships, make him an automatic choice for selection.

The course around Beijing is a gruelling 24-kilometre loop, with 10 kilometres of climbing on each of the seven laps, making it comparable to a Tour de France mountain stage. The route takes in many of Beijing's landmarks, passing through the city zoo, past the Great Wall of China, Tiannamen Square, Yonghegong Palace and Temple of Earth Park.

"I've heard the course is very hard," said Roche. "With 10 kilometres of climbing, followed by a long descent before going straight back up again. People who rode the Olympic test race have told me it's crazy, with a very hard climb each lap and that it's more like a mountain stage of a big tour. So it's going to be hard.

"I'm going to focus my training in the next couple of weeks on mountain climbing and myself and Philip will probably have a training camp in the Pyrenees or the Alps after the Irish Championships next weekend," he added.

While last year's Tour de France winner, Spanish climber Alberto Contador, is already being touted as a pre-race favourite, many of the world's top sprinters have deemed the circuit to be too hard for them and withdrawn from selection. The high humidity and dirty city air is sure to make this a race of attrition.

"I don't mind the heat," says Roche. "I raced in Malaysia in February and I reckon it will be the same type of weather, air quality and humidity."

The hilly Beijing course would suit an in-form Deignan, whose best results have come in tough mountain stages of big tours. Although the Letterkenny youngster missed much of the early season with injury, he completed his second Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, in May and is currently in action in Switzerland for his French AG2R team.

Deignan took two top 12 placings on mountain stages of last year's Vuelta a España and has also previously finished on the podium on mountain top finishes at the Baby Giro and Tour de l'Avenir. The duo head for an Alpine training camp organised the Irish Sports Council on July 14th.

"I've been racing with Philip since we were 15," says Roche. "He won his first race and I was second. Since then we've been on Irish teams together. We've roomed together and even lived together for a year in Marseille with VC La Pomme.

"It'll be great to ride the Olympics together and we'll probably train together up until then," he added. "Every athlete in every sport wants to go to the Olympics at some stage. It's the dream and it's my goal for the year. For me it's a very important race. I know we only have two riders in the race, but the Olympics will be a lot different to the Worlds or races where other teams can have 12-man teams. I'm really looking forward to it."

US Olympic track team coming into focus

By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor

Taylor Phinney placed 8th
Photo ©: John Pierce
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Last week the top contenders for the few spots on the United States of America Olympic track cycling team met in Carson, California at the ADT Center to make their final case for selection and try to circumvent the process by earning automatic nominations. While Taylor Phinney and Jennie Reed had already secured spots for August's Olympic Games in China with earlier performances, Taylor at the third UCI Track World Cup event and Reed with a bronze at the World Championships, the rest of the spots were to be chosen with a series of timed events.

The Madison and points race used two 3000 metre mass starts over two days, with a minimum time standard to earn an automatic spot. After three met the standard, the fastest would be an automatic selection while the other spot would be chosen from the remainder. Bobby Lea set the fastest time with a flying first 500 metre time of 29.525 seconds and finishing with a 3000-meter time of 3:17.648, earning the spot.

Of the other three – Michael Friedman, Brad Huff and Colby Pearce – both Friedman and Huff met the standard. Friedman rode a 30.359/3:24.229, while Huff rode a 30.466/3:21.740 to eclipse the time standards and remain in contention for the final spot.

In the sprint events, the men rode both a 250 metre standing time trial and a 200 metre flying sprint. Michael Blatchford recorded the fastest 250 metres at 17.973 seconds, beating the 18.01 standard. Giddeon Massie and Adam Duvendeck missed the minimum. Blatchford, Massie, Duvendeck as well as Lea contested the flying 200 metre sprint for an automatic nomination to contest the match sprint and keirin, however none met the 10.38 mark.

While already on the team, both Phinney and Reed attempted world record marks at the selection camp. Phinney set a new junior world record in the 3000 metre individual pursuit with a time of 3:16.589. The record attempt was part of Phinney's training program leading into next month's UCI Junior Road and Track World Championships in South Africa. Reed rode the flying 200 and 500 metre time trials, but did not set world records, though she came within .007 seconds in the 500 metres and did set a new national record. Both her times bested the automatic selection time, despite already having a ticket punched for Beijing.

USA Cycling director of athletics Pat McDonough said that the camp was an illustration of the progress the track program has made since the previous Olympics. "The performances by our athletes over the course of these last couple of days are a good sign of things to come," said McDonough. "The determination and intensity of the competition this week is indicative of how far our track program has come since 2004. To have five athletes meet demanding time standards less than two months from the Olympics means everyone is raising their game for when it matters the most."

America's Day earns Olympic BMX spot

Californian BMXer Mike Day won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team BMX Trials on June 14, earning the second automatic men's nomination to the squad that will represent the United States later this summer in Beijing.

Day won the multi-heat competition in convincing fashion by winning three of four heats and placing second in the other - a performance so dominating that Day was officially declared the winner before the finals. After four heats, Day's advantage in the overall classification had rendered the remaining six competitors mathematically out of contention, negating the need to contest the finals.

Day began the morning with a victory in the individual time trial when he clocked a winning time of 36.60 seconds. Twenty minutes later he added to his advantage with a win in the first seven-man, head-to-head moto. Entering the second moto with a comfortable 15-8 advantage over Donny Robinson, Day finished second in the competition's third heat, as his lead in the points standings was cut to 22-18 over Robinson.

In the third moto, Day again crossed the line in first to secure 10 points while Robinson's fourth-place effort only yielded an additional 3. Mathematically, Day was untouchable and the finals were cancelled with Day holding a 32-21 advantage over Robinson.

Day joins automatic qualifiers Kyle Bennett and Jill Kintner who ended the 2008 season as the top-ranked athletes in USA Cycling's men's and women's BMX Rankings respectively.

(Editorial assistance and research provided by Susan Westemeyer)

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