They might have been missing Lance Armstrong, but Team USA didn’t seem to notice as they clinched th
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Tyler Hamilton sped through the finish line in Vouliagmeni, slowed, turned back to look at his time on the clock, and then turned forwards again, jaw-dropped, his eyes wide in shock. The Bostonian freewheeled to a halt, uncleated his shoes, dropped his bike to the road, then bent over, head in his hands, as the realisation of his Olympic gold medal hit home. Tyler still had his face in his hands, as a beaming Bobby Julich bounded up and embraced him. Less than three hours after their compatriot, Deirdre Demet-Barry, aka Dee-Dee, had taken silver in the women’s time trial, the team had picked up gold and bronze in the men’s event. Sydney gold medallist Slava Ekimov was the meat in the all-American sandwich and even then, he’s really an honorary American, after his years in dutiful service to Lance Armstrong at US Postal. Despite his six Tour wins, Armstrong might well rue his absence from the time trial, over an uncomplicated and fast course that would have suited him well. However, it was a triumphant moment for Hamilton and Julich, both of whom have had to fight their demons over the past few years and coincidentally found their best form with Bjarne Riis at CSC. Away from the podium, Jan Ullrich of Germany was trying to put a brave face on a disastrous performance that only served to emphasise American superiority. Ullrich’s slow decline over the past few months now has the German cycling world deeply concerned. “If he doesn’t win, the yellow press (the German tabloids) will kill him,” said one experienced German commentator before the time trial. And he was right – they did. But nothing was going to take away from Hamilton and Julich’s moment, with both men seeming on the verge of tears as they stood, hand on heart, listening to their national anthem on the medal podium. So don’t let anybody tell you that the European elite don’t care much for the Olympic Games.