Olympic men's time trial: Fabian Cancellara too good, again

Spartacus flies to victory in Beijing

Switzerland's reigning world champion Fabian Cancellara powered to his maiden Olympic time trial crown to grab his second medal of the Games' cycling events on Wednesday.

Gustav Larsson of Sweden, Cancellara's teammate at the professional CSC outfit, finished second at 33.36sec to take the silver with American Levi Leipheimer winning the bronze at 1:10 off the winning pace.

Cancellara, 27, has won the world title - and a number of other big wins - in the race against the clock the past two years and was the big favourite in spite of the hilly profile of the 47.3km course. He trailed Larsson by six seconds going into the final 13km, but the Swiss pushed his bike into overdrive to come over the finish line waving his arms in triumph in 1hr 02min 11sec.

It was Switzerland's second cycling medal of the day following Karin Thürig's bronze in the women's time trial, and Cancellara's second of the Games after his bronze in the road race.

"When I heard on the radio earpiece that I was six seconds back to Larsson I started giving it everything, I didn't want to lose today," said Cancellara, who hit speeds of up to 80 km/h on the flat section of the highway in the final kilometres. "I've been world champion twice, but this has been the focus for so long. I told myself that going home without the gold is a failure. I've prepared specifically for this race and made a lot of sacrifices.

"I'm here at the Olympics and you see a Swiss flag, you hear the anthem. What more do you want?" added an emotional Cancellara.

Cancellara had an idea earlier this year who one of his big challengers would be when he heard Larsson pipe up at a team training camp in the United States earlier in the season.

"He (Larsson) was on my personal list of favourites," explained Cancellara, who hails from Berne. "At training camp in America everyone had to write what they wanted to win this year. I said (the Tour of) Flanders and (Paris) Roubaix and Larsson said he wanted to be Olympic champion in the time trial!"

Larsson had a flying start, but was pipped for the provisional leader's place at the 10.8km time check by Spaniard Alberto Contador, who faded in the final kilometres to finish just out of the medals in fourth. The Swede then went from third at the second split to first at the third, but it was in those final kilometres that Cancellara made the difference.

Larsson had also prepared well for the course, having been given a favourable impression when he came to preview it last year.

His tactic was simply to go out fast, and last as long as he could.

"I just went 100 percent from the word go," said the Swede, whose best result at the world championships was fourth in 2004. I was just riding on the edge as much as possible and trying to be there the whole race. I tried to go out and beat Fabian, but he was too strong."

Leipheimer had a comparatively mediocre start and even dropped from fourth to fifth at the final time check. In the closing 13km, and with Contador tiring, he gave it everything he could in a bid to land an elusive Olympic medal.

"I pictured myself on the top step but whether you win gold, silver or bronze, it's the Olympics. It's important," said Leipheimer. "It's a lifelong dream to get a medal at the Olympics. I fought really hard and in the end it paid off."

Australian contender Cadel Evans was close to the bronze medal, the two-time Tour de France runner-up finishing five seconds behind Contador's time of 1:03:29.

For  full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© AFP 2008

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