Athens 2004: Cycling round-up
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 11.00pm
We take a look back at 'who was hot' and 'who was not' over the past 12 days of Olympic track and ro
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE The road and track cycling events at the Athens Olympics over the past week and a half saw their fair share of agony and ecstasy, but without doubt provided a world audience - many new to cycling - with some exciting and memorable moments. Who was hot: Paolo Bettini. The diminutive Italian's well-taken win in the men's road race showed the world what a talented rider he is. Current leader in the season-long World Cup competition, Bettini is also a favourite for the road world championships in Verona, Italy, in October. Sergio Paulinho. Little known before the Olympic road race, the Portuguese LA Pecol pro's silver medal has brought him to the attention of a number of division one teams, including Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros. Paulinho, though - the only rider who could follow eventual winner Paolo Bettini in the closing stages of the race - has made it known that he'd be keen on joining compatriot Jose Azevedo at Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel team next season, if they'll have him. Watch this space. Tyler Hamilton. Cycling's 'Mr Nice Guy' banished the demons of his disastrous Tour de France by taking the gold in the men's time trial. The USA proved that they're a force to be reckoned with, with or without Lance Armstrong, by also taking bronze through Bobby Julich. Bradley Wiggins. The Brit took home three medals from Athens: gold in the pursuit, silver in the team pursuit, and bronze in the Madison (with Rob Hayles). This made him the first British athlete since Mary Rand (athletics) in 1964 to win three medals in one Games. Also a pro on the road with French squad Crdit Agricole, as well as a successful six-day rider, Wiggins will be one of the star names lining up at the Tour of Britain at the beginning of September. Ryan Bayley. The Australian track sprinter took gold in both the sprint and the Keirin events, winning both emphatically. His diet of junk food and Coca-Cola before competitions, much to the despair of his dietician girlfriend - who doesn't recommend it - appears to do the trick for the 22 year old. Apparently also always wears odd socks for luck, but doesn't seem to need it with his talent. Sarah Ulmer. The pursuit gold medallist has become quite a star back home in New Zealand thanks to her track exploits. Not only did she set a new world record in the qualifying round of the pursuit, she then smashed it again in the final against Australia's Katie Mactier to set a new standard of 3.24.537. The Australian track and women's road teams. The Australians dominated the track cycling medal table, finishing by end of play on Wednesday with five golds, two silvers and three bronzes. Besides Ryan Bayley with his two golds, Anna Meares particularly impressed to win the women's 500m time trial, setting a new world record with it, as did the team pursuit squad on their way to taking gold. On the road, Sara Carrigan took a fine win in the women's road race, with team-mate Oenone Wood taking fourth. Things are looking rosy Down Under. Who was not: Nicole Cooke. Talked up by both the British press and herself, the Welshwomen could 'only' manage fifth place in the women's road race. It was a good effort from the winner of the women's Giro d'Italia and reigning World Cup champion, but, like with fellow Brit Paula Radcliffe in the marathon, perhaps the expectation of a gold medal was just too much. Judith Arndt. The German silver medallist in the women's road race stuck a finger up at her country's selection committee as she crossed the finish line. It was in protest at them overlooking compatriot (and girlfriend) Petra Rossner, who in Arndt's opinion should have been part of the squad. She has since apologised for the gesture. Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel. Always look where you're going when riding a bike. That's the lesson Zijlaard-van Moorsel will have learned after crashing out of the women's road race. The Dutchwoman was second from the front - normally the safer end of the peloton to be, crash-wise - when a glance over her shoulder caused her to veer left and touch the wheel in front, bringing her crashing to the ground. But despite that, Dutch cycling's glamour girl really more than deserves a mention in our 'who was hot' section after dusting herself off to win the women's time trial four days later and bronze in the track pursuit later on in the week. The weather. OK, this one's an 'it', not a 'who', and it was in fact, technically, very 'hot', rather than 'not'. The temperature in Athens reached an unbearable 37 degrees centigrade during the men's road race, causing 69 of the 144 starters to pull out. Seventh-placed Team GB rider Roger Hammond said that it took until late in the evening to feel like he'd cooled down and recovered. Jan Ullrich. Is the German star finally in the decline? That was the question being asked by Germany's media in Athens after the 1997 Tour de France champion could only finish seventh in the time trial - an event he had been the overwhelming favourite for - more than a minute and a half down on gold medallist Tyler Hamilton. The fact that it came just four days after the road race where Ullrich, the defending Olympic champion, finished tenth, and less than a month after his relatively poor showing at the Tour de France, only exacerbated the feeling that Ullrich is slowing down. Can he yet prove his doubters wrong? Jamie Staff. Speed-wise, Staff was very hot, qualifying, or so he thought, for the final of the Keirin where he would have gone head-to-head with eventual winner Ryan Bayley. But a decision by the track judges ruling that Staff had impeded a following rider's progress by coming down off the banking too steeply with two laps to go saw him relegated to last place in the heat - and the chance of a medal gone. "I'm disappointed and I'm angry but life goes on," the former BMXer lamented.
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