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