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Olympics Games 2004

Athens, Greece

Saturday 14th August - Sunday 29th August

Preview

There will be over 60 women competing in the cycling events in Athens. There are allocations for 67 riders in the road race event.

Although the world of track cycling has changed considerably since the Sydney 2000 Games, the road events look likely to be contested by a peloton including the medallists and top finishers from four years ago. 

Road Race - Sunday 15th August - 15:00hrs local

First events are the men's and women's road races. They take place over the same course - the men do more. The women's event starts at 15:00hrs, local time on Sunday - this will be around the hottest time of the day and will cover 118km -  9 laps of a 13.2km circuit which is based upon Athens City Centre. Temperatures on the day could be as high as 100'F, or 38'C. Also a possible factor could be the famed Athens pollution, the prevention which allows Athenians to drive their cars into the city on alternate days only. The circuit has a major hill in it - rising around 100m in little over 2km, the steepest section over 10%. This will be a key factor in the race - slowing sapping energy from the legs and potentially leaving a small group of the most powerful riders to sprint it out for the medals. The course is being compared with the course used for the World Championship road race in Hamilton, Canada last year. 

Leontien Zijlaard van Moorsel will be in Athens - she is the reigning Olympic road race, time trial and track pursuit champion. However, she is not going to repeat this magnificent feat and will be concentrating only on the pursuit in Athens before finally hanging up the carbon fibre for good. (van Moorsel is looking forward to a retirement which includes having children and short social rides to coffee stops).  

Possible other contenders for the road race include evergreen Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli of France, who is competing at her sixth Olympics and who has over 40 French National titles in addition to being multiple World Champion on the road. Longo is renowned for 'pulling it out of the bag' when the event is large. Another potential medallist is double world champion, Suzanne Ljungskog (Sweden), who recently competed as the first women ever in a men's UCI professional road race (she finished 56th out of around 70, in a bunch 13 minutes down on the winner). Ljungskog is strong on course like this and able to sprint away from fellow breakaways at the end of the race if required. 

Silver medallist from Sydney was German Hanka Kupfernagel, she will not be in Athens and the German team has had internal problems coming into the Games - based upon arguments about selection criteria which have apparently not taken into account performances within trade teams throughout the normal course of the racing year, where Judith Arndt claims that she, Rossner and Worrack achieved some strong results. Arndt was hoping to be riding with Team Nurnberger teammates Trixi Worrack and Petra Rossner, but despite Rossner's victory at the German RR champs, the place has gone to Angela Brodtka. The protests from Arndt and her team manager did not change the selector's minds.

Other riders who would suit this course and who are in-form include Australia's Oenone Wood. The current leader of the season-long UCI World Cup was flying at the beginning of the year and although some have written her off and contend that she cannot maintain such form throughout the season, it has always been her aim to come to Athens strong. She took a break in the late Northern hemisphere spring before coming back to racing with some strong performances in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. With van Moorsel focussing on the track, the way may be open for Mirjam Melchers on the road. She is strong, has had some good results this year and can sprint if required. Depth of form is one thing. A different approach to form has been taken through necessity by Britain's Nicole Cooke. 

In late 2003, the multi-British road race champion fell and damaged her knee. She underwent surgery in 2004 and her first main competition back was the British National Road Race, which she won by easily opening a gap on her fellow breakaway, Rachel Heal. She followed this comeback up with a successful campaign in the 2004 Giro d'Italia feminile. 

Team tactics will be harder to bring to force in the road race-  teams are limited to 3 riders and so controlling any bunch / breakaway will be difficult. Riders will face the strange situation which they are posed with only at the Olympics and World Championships, where their usual trade team loyalty is displaced by the fact that they will be wearing National jerseys and allegiances. 

 

Time Trial - Wednesday 18th August - 13:00hrs local

Covering a lap of a 245km circuit, the time trial profile is up and down, but would not necessarily be considered a hilly circuit. It is technical enough to be favoured by time trial specialists. The course is based upon an area in the Southern suburbs of Athens - at ht5e Vouliagmeni Olympic Centre. 13:00hrs really will be the hottest part of the day, but over 24km, it is less likely to make or break a rider's medal prospects.

World Champion is Spain's Joane Sombarria, although the Athens course is nowhere near as tough as the Hamilton one where she took her title. Mari Holden of the USA will not be in Athens to follow up her silver from Sydney, but look out for Sydney bronze, Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli to post a strong, fast ride. Australia's Oenone Wood starts in the time trial as well as the road race. Canadian TT champion, Susan Palmer-Komar is another possibility for the medals.

 

Track - Olympic Velodrome - August 20th - August 25th

With the World Track Championships barely over (okay,  they took place at the end of May), there are some key riders to look out for in all events.  The 'Blue Riband' event - the individual pursuit looks to be one of the most exciting events on the track - the big hitters from May will be there and there are personal scores to settle!

Leontien van Moorsel was not a contender in the World's final, but she has spoken for a long time now about finishing her career with the pursuit medal around her neck. Up there with her, though, will be the Antipodean pair who took gold and silver in Melbourne - World Record holder and World Champion, Sarah Ulmer and the woman who she beat to the top of the podium, Australia's Kate Mactier. 

The sprint is, by the nature of the competition, more wide-open. Olympic champion, Felicia Ballanger has retired since Sydney. The Eastern Europeans could well dominate this event, as they did in May - S Grankovskaya of Russia took the medal then in front of Anna Meares and Lauri-Anne Meunzer (Canada). Promising British rider, Victoria Pendleton will be in Athens and looking to improve upon her fourth place from earlier in the year.

The 500m time trial is another event which is hard to predict. World Champion Anna Meares will be looking for a double of victories, but there will be plenty of riders looking to beat her - the Chinese and Eastern Europeans have a history in this event. The Chinese world record holder is Yonghua Jiang (34.00 seconds), who was in Melbourne and came second there.

MountainBike Cross Country - Friday 27th August - 11.00hrs local

This event has been dominated since its inception at the Atlanta Games (1996) by Paola Pezzo (Italy). Europeans were the medallists in 2000 - with Barbara Blatter (Switzerland) taking the silver medal and Margarita Fullana from Spain, the bronze.

 

Calendar of Events

Sun 15 Olympic Games Road Race Athens, Greece  
Wed 18 Olympic Games Time Trial Athens, Greece  
Fri 20 Olympic Games Track - 500m Time Trial Athens, Greece

Go to Track Calendar here

Sat 21 Olympic Games Track - 3km Individual Pursuit Heats Athens, Greece
Sun 22 Olympic Games Track - 3km Individual Pursuit Finals Athens, Greece
Mon 23 Olympic Games Track - Sprint Heats Athens, Greece
Tue 24 Olympic Games Track - Sprint Finals Athens, Greece
Wed 25 Olympic Games Track - Points  Athens, Greece
Fri 27 Olympic Games Mountainbike Cross Country Athens, Greece  

WomensCycling.net will be providing write-ups and results from all the events and disciplines as soon as they have been completed. Why not "bookmark" this page - there will be links to all the coverage from here.