Olympic women's time trial preview

Based on Sunday's road race we explore who's in with a chance of seeing time trial gold

Britain's Nicole Cooke knows that aiming for two gold medals from the women's Olympic cycling events will be a tough ask, especially with the likes of American Kristin Armstrong and a handful of other time trial gold contenders to deal with on Wednesday.

Cooke claimed Britain's first gold of the Games in the road race on Sunday, but admitted she was not immediately thinking about the race against the clock. "I might have a chance but I'm not really thinking about it, my legs are just so tired after today," she said.

The women's time trial, at 23.5km, is held on the hilly circuit which took a costly toll on the men and women in their road races. The circuit ends at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall and features a tiring, nine kilometre ascent before ending at the same uphill finish line used for the road race.

Whoever wins gold on Wednesday will have to have their climbing legs on, and get the combination of cadence, gears and motivation down to perfection. Up in the hills near the Great Wall, the changeable but often humid conditions could be decisive.

Race contenders

Armstrong, who’s no relation to the seven-time Tour de France winner Lance, is one of the best in the business. A former world champion in the race against the clock, she failed to medal in the rain-hit road race on Sunday but put in a solid performance which has left her confident.

"Unfortunately, it wasn’t our day today," she said after finishing 43secs behind Cooke. "But I'm looking forward to Wednesday."

The women's road race gave a small indication of who's hot and who's not. Austrian Christiane Soeder’s strong ride, which left her just out of the medals in fourth place, suggested she will medal in these Games. Soeder took bronze at the world championships last year in Stuttgart, finishing behind Armstrong and Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany.

As world champion, Kupfernagel will be keen to succeed the now-retired Dutch great, Leontien Van Moorsel, who won gold for time trials in Athens (2004) and Sydeny (2000), and the road race in Sidney (2000).

One of the biggest names in women's cycling is 1996 Olympic road race champion, Jeannie Longo, who recently won both the road and time trial titles at the French national championships. Like many of the big favourites in the road race, the 49-year-old veteran missed the crucial break which led a six-strong attack to the uphill finish line on Sunday.

But it's plain to see that Longo is on form. A medal at a record-equalling seventh Olympics for the female athlete is not out of the question. "I’m a bit disappointed because I'm in the best shape for a long time," said the 13-time world champion after finishing just 33secs behind Cooke. "But I do have big expectations for the time trial."

©AFP 2008

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