Jason McCartney is the only US team member in Athens not based in Europe. But the 31 year old stillPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Jason McCartney, alongside hard-bitten veterans like Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and Bobby Julich, may be the young cub of the USA team in today's 17-lap Olympic road race, but the Honolulu-born 31 year old is in fact no spring chicken. Victory in the Olympic Selection Road Race, added to a stage win and victory in the King of the Mountains competition in the Tour of Georgia, have ensured that this year he has caught the eye more than ever before. Yet the lean McCartney, from Coralville, Iowa, has been racing professionally for six years. Now he hopes to use Athens - and his form in Georgia - as a platform for a new chapter to his career; racing as an elite pro in Europe. "Athens has been a great experience so far, really professional," he said on the road race start line. The heat, so he said, would really play a big part in deciding the race, "more I think than everybody expects." McCartney is confident that he is well acclimatised. "I got over here about a week early, and there are other things you can do, like sleeping without the air conditioning on. But this race will be wide open. With only five guys in each team you can't control things so it's difficult to know what to expect." McCartney hopes the men's road race will be a platform for him. "I'd like to come back to Europe to race next year. I have contacts already," he said cagily. "I am working on things. It's not just because of being here - I did well earlier on in the year in Georgia and that seemed to impress people. I'm optimistic for next season. " McCartney's steady progress through the ranks came comparatively late in life. "I sold a pair of shoes to a local mechanic," he recalled, "who moved to Iowa City around the same time I did. He liked me and offered me a job at the shop he was opening. Then my brother's room-mate had an Italian race bike she wanted to sell for $150 dollars. I was hooked." McCartney says he enjoys "every day I get to ride on this giant planet," and that his favourite films are action movies, like "Pulp Fiction - and On Golden Pond." On Golden Pond.? Sounds like Jason has a wacky sense of humour.