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World Track Championships - CM
Melbourne, Australia, May 26-30, 2004
Van Moorsel in Melbourne to 'qualify'
"I think it's a nicer feeling to be Olympic champion, than world champion," said Holland's Leontien Zijlaard - Van Moorsel on Monday as she warmed down after another training session on the track at Vodafone Arena in Melbourne, Australia, in preparation for the 2004 UCI Track Cycling World Championships that begin on Wednesday, May 26.
The reigning world and Olympic champion in the women's 3km individual pursuit, Zijlaard - Van Moorsel is playing down her chances to take out a sixth world title in her favoured track event. Her principal aim in Melbourne is to qualify in the top 10 and earn a place in Holland's Olympic squad to achieve back-to-back gold medals in the endurance event.
Indeed, Van Moorsel expects the women's 3km IP in Athens will be her final race before hanging up her wheels, except for riding for pleasure. "You know, ride maybe 20 kilometres and then stop to drink coffee and eat a little cake," she said with a broad smile.
"For this moment I don't feel any pressure" she said, despite the arrival in Melbourne of a quality field that includes riders from his past battles over the years, such as France's Marion Clignet, through to New Zealand's Sara Ulmer and the Australian duo of Katie Mactier and Katherine Bates.
At the Sydney round of the UCI Track World Cup earlier this month, New Zealand's Ulmer posted a sizzling time in the 3km IP only three-tenths of a second off Van Moorsel's world record that she set at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
"I think she can do it," the Dutch rider said of Ulmer's ability to break her world record. Van Moorsel was aware that Ulmer's recent fast time was set in cool conditions in a final where she caught her rival and expects the conditions in Melbourne should be better.
"They can break it here," she said of her record, "and then I break it again in Athens." Perhaps only a rider with her palmares could make such a statement and not appear overly confident. "I'm not in top form right now, but that's not necessary; I just want to qualify (for Athens)."
In Melbourne, Van Moorsel expects she will ride a time of 3.34 or 3.35 in the 3km IP, which is well outside her world record of 3.31.57 set in a semi-final at the Sydney Olympics "There's a lot more good competition here," she said of the field, "but of course, I'll be happy to bring another gold medal to Holland."
Van Moorsel said she has not had as much quality racing as her rivals from the southern hemisphere. "I need a little more competition", she said, of her training regime. Nonetheless, in the women's Tour of Flanders held on April 4 this year, Van Moorsel apparently spent a solid two hours in first or second wheel, forcing the peloton into the gutter as she set out to do some quality training, and secure third place in the process of finishing this inaugural new addition to the Women's World Cup.
And it's the road that features heavily in Van Moorsel's plans for Athens, as she is planning to 'only' ride the individual time trial in the 2004 Olympics. Four years earlier, Van Moorsel won three gold medals and one silver at the Sydney Olympics in the road race, road ITT, 3km IP and points race, respectively. This year, she believes the road race course does not suit her, nor is she interested in entering the points race on the track.
"I like the (road) time trial course," she said, "but I'm not so good in the corners," she said with a grin. The Athens road race course will be a challenging 14km circuit with many tight corners, narrow streets and climbs. Van Moorsel prefers the ITT course: "is a little hilly, but not so much. I think it suits my style of riding and power."
Van Moorsel is aware the heat of Athens in mid-summer will be a major factor, and particularly the proximity of the road ITT to the track events, in that they're only days apart. To that end, Leontien's husband and partner Michael explained the plan is to train hard on the road in hot and humid conditions, then take two days off before hitting the track and attempting some 3km efforts. "Normally she is good in extreme weather," he said, "but Athens will be different because the events are held so close."
After Athens, the next major project for the couple will be children. "I think five, and I think we start in Athens," Leontien joked. "No not five, that's a little bit much, but more than one for sure," she said.
Van Moorsel is from a family of five herself (three sisters and one brother) and she spends time running with her sister, Wilma. They plan to complete a marathon - after she finishes her cycling career. Another post-cycling goal is to do charity work to increase awareness and treatment of anorexia, a condition she suffered in the '90s that threatened to ruin her carrer. "It's good to have plans after cycling. I was thinking of taking maybe a one-year sabbatical, but it's looking like I'll be busier than now."