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Olympic Men's Road Race News - Friday 13 August 2004
By Staff
Date: 8/13/2004
Olympic Men's Road Race News - Friday 13 August 2004

The Contenders

The Olympic cycling contests start Saturday with the first medal on offer - for the Men's Road Race. First though, are the Opening Ceremonies, with the customary presentation of each national team. Evelyn Garcia of El Salvador will be the lone cyclist carrying her national flag in the opening ceremonies tonight.

The Men's Road Race starts Saturday at 12:45 local time in the historical centre of Athens. Temperatures of 33 degrees are predicted for the start, rising to a maximum of 37 degrees at 15:00. No rain is forecast and winds are expected to be moderate.

"I think we will race like juniors," Michael Boogerd (NED) said. "We will see a lot of attacks from the beginning until the end."

The climb up Lycabettus Hill is the toughest part of the 13.2-kilometer circuit. The competitors will race 17 laps around the Acropolis, for a total distance of 224.4 kilometres. Some cyclists are worried about the slick roads and curves.

The Spanish team of Oscar Freire, Alejandro Valverde and Igor Astarloa looks to be the strongest nation.

Other favourites include Jan Ullrich (GER), Andreas Kloden (GER), Peter Van Petegem (BEL), Stuart O'Grady (AUS), Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ), Erik Dekker (NED), Max van Heeswijk (NED) and George Hincapie (USA).

Paolo Bettini (ITA), another favourite, said it was important not to attack too early. "You have to wait until the last three laps," said The Cricket. "Maybe then you have a chance to stay out of the hands of the peloton. It's a gamble."

Outsiders include Erik Zabel (GER), Robbie McEwen and Filippo Pozzatto (ITA). The French cyclists hope to be spoilers. (Courtesy Zappeion Press Center)

Berlin, 10 August 1936, Finish of the 100km.
E. Nievergelt (SUI), 3rd; G. Lapebie (FRA), 2nd and R. Charpentier (FRA), 1st.
IOC Olympic Museum Collections

Erik Dekker (Netherlands)

"There is no let-up on this route. It is always going up or down. The sharpest corners come between the fifth and sixth kilometres of this loop. There are 180 degrees bends, so there is an obvious danger of crashes occurring."

Thomas Voeckler (France)

Comments from the French road cyclist after his road training session on Wednesday:

"It's the big day, it's very impressive and also good to see all the athletes. It's a new adventure. It does something to me to be here and to participate. I am not a star, the stars are the ones who have already been champions. There is a good ambience within the team. I try to approach the race like a normal race."

The rider who spent ten days in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France this year thinks that the course will be tricky on the 2 km cobble-stoned section, on the Acropolis climbs and just after the start line. (Courtesy Zappeion Press Center and T-Mobile)

George Hincapie (USA)

On his goal at the Olympic Games: ''I hope to perform better than Sydney, where I finished the race in 8th place. My goal here is to win a medal, but it will be difficult. There are a lot of favourites.''

On his training and preparation for the Olympic Games: ''My training was at a professional level. Recently I had a little injury, but now I am ready.'' (Courtesy Zappeion Press Center)

Igor Astarloa (Spain)

"Luckily the Athens circuit does not include an 8km climb like the one in Jaizkibel!"

"To wear the world champion jersey for the Olympic course is for me a reason for great pride and honour. I really hope to honour it further by being the best. Even if I must say, that the IOC, or even better, the UCI, should think about designing a jersey to identify an Olympic winner,as they do for the world championship.

"I want to say," concludes Astarloa, "that if you remember that Ullrich won the Olympic race in Sydney 4 years ago and this is why he was choosen as the favourite in the Hamilton double, in less than two months in Verona, even if obviously to be put on the winners short list for the race in Athens on Saturday afternoon makes me happy".

Astarloa, like all the other athletes from Spain, landed on Wednesday late afternoon in Athens - where he is sharing a room with Valverde.

Thursday morning the Spanish riders had trial on the Olympic circuit, for 80km's. Says Astarloa, "The temperature was not excessive, around 30 degrees, a light breeze, the sky clear of clouds, as we had found in the Basque regions.The course I like, it's not very difficult except for the climb of 1100 metres."

Friday the Spanish riders will take a light outing of two hours with a few laps of the circuit which will remain closed from 10 till 3 for rider training.

"We Spanish will try to to be as involved as possible in the sprints, then as always it will be fate and fortune to determine the winner; here everyone is saying Bettini. We Spanish have demonstrated that we have been able to battle on more than one occasion, so who knows if it will be like that on Saturday afternoon". (Courtesy Lampre)

Igor Astarloa. Courtesy Lampre.

Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazachstan)

"I used my absence from the Tour to return home to Kazakhstan and train intensively. I am in good form now, and I am eager to win an Olympic medal."  (Courtesy T-Mobile)

Vinokourov in Yellow at the Regio Tour last week.
Photo by Susanne and Florian Schaaf.

Michael Rogers (Australia)

"[The course] is not difficult but does have a couple surprises. Even a non-specialist could have a chance at a medal. The wind along the seafront can be a decisive factor. The biggest competitors are Jan Ullrich, Jens Voigt and Gutierrez, but I am certain that there are other names that will be added to the list. I am in good condition at the moment. I did it well during the Tour. I trained with the Australian national team in Reggio Emilia. I have much faith." (Courtesy Quickstep-Davitamon)

German Team News

"It is a lot hotter over here", says the gold medal winner Jan Ullrich from Athens, who is currently sporting a bandage on his right arm. "I overcooked a corner on a training run on Crete and I have skin grazes in a few places. It looks worse than it actually is."

After the morning training run, Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Andreas Klöden gave his first assessment of the Athens parcours. "I have no objections to this route. It is always going up and down. We will have to work hard to keep at the front of the peloton. Anyone who is just trying to follow rear wheels will soon find themselves out of contention."

On the cohesiveness of the German team, Ullrich had this to say: "There are no problems there. Klödi and Jens Voigt rode together for the national team as amateurs already. Jens Voigt and Erik Zabel were school mates even, and have family connections. We are all pros and we approach the Olympics in a different way from the usual cycling circuit. All five of us know that we are going to Athens to represent our country and we will do our best. In Sydney a lot of riders in the peloton speculated that we were working for a bunch sprint finish because Erik was in the bunch. So a lot of riders didn't watch us, and then the three of us were gone." (Courtesy T-Mobile)

Ullrich and Kloden. Courtesy T-Mobile.

Italian Team News

Daniele Nardello is firmly focused on Saturday's Olympic road race. "We will have a strong team. Let's see if we can be there when the medals are being decided."

National coach Franco Ballerini shares this confidence: "We are well equipped for the Olympics. The riders have some more valuable race kilometres in their legs and head for the Games in good condition. Moreni and Nardello, in particular, are at the top of their game."

Paolo Bettini: "There are winding parts [on the course] where there is no room for missteps. The surface is complete volt and dangerous! We must watch out that we do not slip out and fall. But it is a circuit which suits me perfectly and everyone whom wants win must remain ahead. It is a short circuit of 13.2 km and therefore it will become a nervous affair. The last 500 meters made an impression on me. It increases gradually to 2% [grade]. I will be happy to sprint for a victory on this sort of circuit." (Courtesy T-Mobile and Quickstep-Davitamon)

Bettini. Courtesy Quickstep-Davitamon.

Accent on Great Britain's Teams

By Andy McDobbin

Road Race: Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Charlie Wegelius, Julian Winn
Time Trial: Stuart Dangerfield

Road Cycling - Men

Great Britain's men's road ambitions have been greatly hampered by David Millar's drug scandal and subsequent two-year ban. The ex-Cofidis man looked a sure bet for a medal in the time-trial, but now it will be a shock if any of the British men comes away with anything from the time-trial or road-race.

Roger Hammond in Belgium this spring.
Photo by Marianne Werz O'Brien.

Nonetheless, the team will be undeterred and will instead likely switch loyalties to British road race champion (and cyclo-cross champion, actually) Roger Hammond. The Mr. Bookmaker-Palmans man made his breakthrough this year, taking third in Paris-Roubaix, with top eight finishes in Dwars Door Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and GP E3-Harelbeke. Now the 30 year old is being courted by the Discovery Channel team for 2005. Not only does he have a speedy sprint on him, but the Oxfordian can climb when he has to. He'll be ably supported by fellow club teammate, friend and fast man Jeremy Hunt, who took third in the national road race. In the weeks preceding the race, the two have been training thoroughly, and Hammond recently took a morale-boosting victory in a tough Belgian kermesse. As Hunt is a less competent climber, he will likely try to shield Hammond from the wind and stay in the front group with him as long as possible.

The same applies to the remaining team members Charlie Wegelius (De Nardi) and the only domestic rider, Julian Winn, who used to ride for Fakta before the team disbanded. Wegelius is a particularly handy climber, who has shown his worth in the Giro working tirelessly for Serguei Honchar. Winn will be looking to just finish, as well as chase down breaks if he has to. The team already knows each other well, as they tend to find each other in the European peloton, with their being such few Britons. If Hammond follows the right wheels, I think a top ten in a sprint is possible.

The only British competitor in the time-trial is 32 year old Stuart Dangerfield, the national 25-mile champion who claimed his fifth consecutive title this summer. In the absence of Millar, Dangerfield has been given a chance to show what he can do. The best he can hope for, though, is a placing in the top 25, and to enjoy the Olympic experience.

Road Cycling - Women

As things have turned out, Team Britain's road cycling hopes are pinned largely on the young shoulders of Welsh starlet Nicole Cooke. From an early age, she showed incredible promise, and was only denied entry to the 2000 Olympics because she was too young (17); Cooke took offence, considering she was senior national champion. Still, she's taken a host of national championships, the 2002 Commenwealth Games road race and several other victories. Nonetheless, there was a huge setback to her Olympic ambitions nine months ago, when she discovered she required keyhole surgery on her knee. Nonetheless, in her first competitive race back, Cooke - who rides for Italian team Safi-Pasta - put her compatriots to the sword in the National road race, for victory. And she recently took victory, impressively, in the women's Giro d'Italia, beatin Fabia Luperini. Cooke will be under enormous pressure and will be closely-marked by the riders as a hot favourite. Can she perform up to expectations, when seemingly only a gold medal will suffice?

Helping her with the burden are experienced European pros Sara Symington (Team S.A.T.S.) and Rachel Heal (Team Farm Frites). Both have had creditable results over the years, as Marianne Werz O'Brien explained in her excellent article detailing the women contenders: Heal and Symington have been a members of the British National team since 1999. Sara was the first British woman to place on the podium of a World Cup race (1999 Canberra WC), she placed 10th in the Sydney Olympics road race, and this year she took 2nd overall in the Tour de l’Aude. However, they intend to work selflessly for Cooke, keeping her out of the wind, doing close quarter chasing and whatnot.

Related Articles
2004 Olympic Cycling - Overview of Road Cycling in Athens
Olympics Road Race Profile
Olympics Road Race - Men's Startlist

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