August 13/08 12:15 pm - Beijing Olympics: ITT photos, report and full results
Posted by Editoress on 08/13/08
Switzerland and the USA were the big winners today at the Individual Time Trial event at the Beijing Olympics. Both took a gold and a bronze medal, with Kristin Armstrong winning gold in the women's race for the U.S., and Fabian Cancellara doing the same in the men's for Switzerland. Canada had mixed results, with the highlight being a superb ride by Svein Tuft to finish seventh overall, after spending most of the race in the Hot Seat. Ryder Hesjedal was a solid 16th, while Alex Wrubleski - the lone Canadian woman - was 24th; still recovering from her bad crash in the road race two days earlier.
After a slightly conservative start, Armstrong overtook early leader Emma Pooley (Great Britain) on the final downhill to win the gold medal. Pooley took silver and Karin Thurig (Switzerland) the bronze. The women raced one lap of the road race course, covering 23.5 kilometres.
"It's the ride of my life," stated Armstrong, the 2006 world champion. "It's what I've dreamed of since I was a little kid. I had to stay focussed on the descent and really push. We [herself and Pooley] were only four seconds apart on the climb."
"It feels awesome to win, I'm going to have to pinch myself. To time everything right on one day is an accomplishment in itself. I've been working hard for this for the past eight years, especially the last four. All the hard work has paid off. It is the pinnacle of sport."
Wrubleski crashed heavily in the road race, injuring her hip and smashing her helmet, sustaining a whiplash. While cleared to race, the crash had an impact on her performance.
"It is definitely not one of my best performances, but I'm glad I came here and got the experience. It was a tough course, but I knew that from the road race. It was different having the heat instead of the rain."
"I'm feeling pretty beat up, that's for sure, and I'm disappointed with how it affected me. But, in reality, I didn't have high expectations. Today was all about the climb, and Emma Pooley showed with her performance that you had to be a strong climber."
"I felt slow out there, and the crash had taken its toll. Basically, I just did the best I could."
Svein Tuft was only the fourth rider down the start ramp for the two lap, 47.3 kilometre men's event. He was only 21st fastest up the first climb, but then steadily picked up speed, with the third fastest downhill on the first lap. By the time he had finished, he had caught both his two and four minute men.
"It was definitely quite a bit better than I was expecting," he commented. "I was just blown away sitting in the Hot Seat, watching all these big names roll by me, behind me...
"I knew that I was going good, I was conserving a bit on the first lap, but still going fast. I knew that if I was a bit conservative on the first lap, and I hit it hard on the second lap, then I could have a good ride. That much climbing doesn't really suit me, but on the descent I could make it up. I was using a 55/11, and it was a headwind, but I was still spinning it out."
"I left it all out on the road, I couldn't have done any more. I've known that I was capable of this ride, known in the back of my head, but I've never been able to focus entirely on the time trial. I would have been happy with a top-20, so I'm super-psyched."
Nearly two thirds of the field had to finish before road race gold medalist Samuel Sanchez (Spain) finally displaced Tuft in the Hot Seat, by 2.2 seconds. Gustav Larsson (Sweden), a CSC team mate of Cancellara, was the next to take the lead, with an extremely fast time of 1:02:44 - 1:40 faster than Sanchez.
Larsson would hold onto the lead until world champion Cancellara completed a stellar ride. Starting last, Cancellara caught his two minute man Stefan Schumacher (Germany), and won it on the descent. Both times, Larsson was faster on the climb, but Cancellara more than made up for it on the 10 kilometre descent.
The Swiss rider actually crested the climb on the second lap six seconds down on the Swede, and then made an incredible final descent to win by 33 seconds. Levi Leipheimer (USA) rode a consistent race to take the bronze medal.
"It was a perfect day," Cancellara said. "This year was a lot of preparation, a lot of sacrifice, and today was the day to show that it was worth it. I am very proud to go home with two medals."
"Larsson was on my personal list of riders to watch. At the beginning of the year our team (CSC) all talked about our goals, and he said his was to win the Olympic time trial."
"When I heard on the radio that I was six seconds back to him, I gave it everything that I had. I didn't want to lose today. I was the favourite, and to manage to win still is a hard thing because there is a lot of pressure."
"There were so many people behind me to make this project happen. It helps you to go hard and deep. I may be alone on the bike, but you can not win without the team behind you. Carlos won [the Tour], it was the team as well, and it is the same here."
Cancellara chose a 54/11 set up, compared to 55/11 for both Larsson and Leipheimer.
"I could see by the time checks that three or four were battling for third, and I was fighting really hard for that medal," explained Leipheimer "I wasn't going to lose a medal by 10 or 15 seconds. Not doing the Tour helped motivate me for here, for sure. To watch the Tour ... it was very hard to sit at home in July. It gave me the motivation to train hard."
"I've had some great results this year, but to win a medal here is indescribable. It is one of the highlights of my career. This is just as good as winning a stage of the Tour and being on the podium in Paris."
"I got third. I'm really not upset. I finished strong, I medalled, I'm happy. It's fantastic to win a medal, whether or not you win Gold, Silver or Bronze, it's the Olympics, it's important."
"I knew that Contador had started strong but was slowing. The last time down the hill, I was feeling incredible, and when you know you are in the hunt for a medal, it gives you more adrenaline in the last 500 metres."
"I had a 55/11, and wish I had a 56. For him [Cancellara] to push a 54 down the hill was incredible. 54 or 55 was a big decision ... 54 would have been better for the climb, but I wanted that bigger gear for the descent."
Larsson came into the race feeling that he could potentially win. "I always knew that this was the course for me. I prepared for this race all year, and I really did my best. It is the most beautiful race I have done in my life."
"I tried, but he [Cancellara] is too strong. there were no tactics, I just went 100% and rode on the edge of what was possible."
"It was a hard decision as to which gear to use, and I went with the same [as Leipheimer]. I really wanted a 58 to ride a slower cadence with a longer crank, but I couldn't get one."
- Ryder Hesjedal comes away from his second Olympics satisfied with both his and the team's performance. "I'm not at all unhappy. I felt good, but the course didn't suit me super well; I lost time on the downhill because I just don't have the power of some of those guys."
"If I think about this [Olympics] and the rest of my season, it has gone well. I had a good road race, and the team had good results. I'm glad to see Svein get a seventh and Michael get a ninth. If you had said that we would get a top-10 in the road race and two top-16 in the time trial, I don't think many would have thought it was possible. I've had lots of great results this year; you can't get greedy. This just shows that we had a great team here."
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