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Athens 2004 

Road Race - Post Race 'Wrap-up'

 

 Medallists

1 Sara Carrigan Australia

 2 Judith Arndt Germany 

3 Olga Slyusareva Russia

 

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The women's road race took some time to 'get going', but when it did, it was marvellous to watch. Despite the limitation of 3 per team as a maximum, there were tactics played out by several of the teams. The Dutch and the Spaniards were active at the front of the race, with the Canadians launching some classic attacks and counter-attacks. 

In the bunch, riders were busy watching each other. Nicole Cooke didn't stray too far from Oenone Wood all afternoon. In a classy show of strategic and race awareness, the Australians rode a brilliant team race for Sara Carrigan to take the Gold medal. 

Whilst the Australian team celebrated its singularity, the German team was suffering from the problems with morale caused by the non-selection of German RR champion, Petra Rossner. Silver medallist, Judith Arndt seemed to have a hard time enjoying the podium presentation, that was after crossing the line with her right index finger held up from a clenched fist to demonstrate her issues with the German team selection to the waiting photographers.

The Australian team, having ridden all year as members of the Australian Institute of Sport, have cemented their knowledge of   each other's strengths and weaknesses. They have also developed a team spirit which rivals, if not surpasses that of the other alternative for international-level female cyclists - sponsored trade teams. 

By riding in this set-up all year, by packing up their bikes and possessions and heading off to an AIS house  which acts as their base for the season, in March, these riders put themselves in the position of living to train and race. All their home luxuries and distractions are left half way around the world in Australia. They have also become as-one. Their post-race comments throughout the year have given an indication of the level of commitment to the team that they have developed - all are willing to forego individual glory for the sake of another team-mate in a better position to take the win. 

This is what happened on Sunday - pre-race favourite, Oenone Wood and Sara Carrigan had a quick chat once they had manoeuvred their way into the breakaway and the decision was made - Carrigan should attack - if could stay away then victory was hers, if not, the move might soften -up the others as they chased to bring her back to the group, whilst Wood would sit and soft-pedal waiting for the sprint.  As it happened, Carrigan stayed away, was joined by Arndt and Wood was pipped to fourth by Olga Slyusareva. The important thing was, though, that Australia had won the gold. They did everything right - Olivia Gollan was their lowest-placed finisher, taking 12th place and at the front of the group she finished with. 

Here's what some of those involved in the actions had to say about the event :    (Courtesy of Athens2004.com)

 

Sara CARRIGAN (AUS), gold medallist

On the race:

"It was a difficult and unexpected race. I am feeling great because of my victory. I will never forget that day. I canít describe it." 

About her attacks:

"When I sprint I give everything. I give all of my strength to my attacks. Thatís what I do to drop my opponents."

 About the last lap:

 "I attacked. I had a gap until Judith ARNDT (GER) came to me. We spoke a little but I knew it was the day. I didn't work as much as Judith."

About her victory:

"You can never be sure that you will win until you pass the finish line."

 "It's indescribable. It's a big team commitment. We knew that one of us would be on the podium, but we didn't know which one."  

"It could have been Oenone WOOD (AUS) if it had have been a bunch sprint because she's better than me in that. She is the actual leader of the World Cup and the best sprinter." 

"It's all team work. We were not exposed to media so we could concentrate on gold. We are a good group of girls and we had a very good preparation."

 

Judith ARNDT (GER) - silver

About her silver medal:

"I don't know what I feel exactly. It's the best moment of my career. I'll take the silver medal and I'm so happy. I want to dedicate my medal to my country, my friends and to my team."

"I lead the whole last lap. (Sara) CARRIGAN (AUS) did nothing, because her team mate WOOD (AUS) was very close behind us. I had no other choice than to keep up the pace. The silver medal is the best that I could get today." 

"I caught an escape on the hills on the last lap. I was taken with the leader. If Petra ROSSNER was there, it would have been different."

About the absence of Petra ROSSNER (GER): 

"If Petra was there, we would have raced differently, more aggressively. Petra is the best sprinter and maybe we would have had gold."

About the weather: 

"The weather was good. It's not so hot today like the other days. These conditions were good for everybody."

 

Olga SLYUSAREVA (RUS) - bronze medallist

About her bronze medal: 

"I will realise later after resting. Bronze in the Olympic Games is a very high level and every athletes dream is to reach that. I am happy for my team and for my country." 

About the race: 

"It was a difficult race and I had some problems. I was behind and I had to catch up the group."

"The competition was tough today, but correct and the atmosphere was friendly. The fall of the 2000 Olympic champion, Leontien ZIJLAARD-van MOORSEL (NED), it was a pity. You don't want to lose a mate like that."

 

Oenone WOOD (AUS):

On the Australian team tactics:

"We have a very strong team. Our tactic was always to have one of us in the breakaway. I was always in the background to control things, because I'm the sprinter of the team. We had several cards to play."

 

Mirjam MELCHERS (NED):

On her Olympics:

"I had to attack in the last lap to have any possible chance of a medal. WOOD (Aus) was very strong and stayed by my wheel all the time."

 On her bad curve:

 "COOKE missed the curve and I was behind her. We had to chase the second group first and only after that I could attack."

 

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