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August 13/04 1:48 am - U.S. Road Team Press Conference


Posted by Editor on 08/13/04
 

The only excitement today was the press conference with the U.S. Olympic Road squad. All eight of the riders (5 men, 3 women) showed up, along with men's road coach Jim Ochowicz and women's road coach Jim Miller. The men's squad, consisting of George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney, is certainly one of the powerhouse teams for Saturday's 17 lap, 223 kilometre race, which Ochowicz acknowledged.

"We have great expectations for the men's race - I expect us to be one of the teams that sets the tone for the race."

Ochowicz also commented on the difference in the Olympic road race since the IOC began allowing professionals in, at the Atlanta Games (1996).

"Since the pros were allowed in, we have seen an increase in the visibility of cycling at the Olympics. Now you have athletes at the highest level, like Ullrich, Kloden, Ekimov and Lance Armstrong. Contrast that to before 1996 - we never had a chance to see Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault at the Olympics during the height of their careers."

Ochowizc addressed the issue of security for the high profile American riders: "We've had dialogue with security, and have security with us when we go training. But remember that these guys are used to racing with large crowds, and the course will be much more controlled than something like Alp d'Huez."

Dede Demet-Barry revealed that they were under constant security supervision: "I think they are Secret Service or Homeland Security, and they stay in the room right next to us. There are security cameras all over the Village."

Once the floor was opened to the athletes, the talk centered around the course, and how dangerous it could be.

Bobby Julich: "It is very technical, and the turns will cause problems. I think that there will be a lot of crashing, but with the smooth surface hopefully people won't get injured. If there is any precipitation it will become a major problem."

Tyler Hamilton: "This circuit is definitely a lot more technical than Sydney (2000). I think the race will be more strung out, it will be a race of attrition. I'm predicting that at around the halfway point a significant group of riders will get away. It will be our job to get as many guys in that group as possible."

Hincapie echoed Hamilton's strategy for the U.S. team. "This race is definitely different than doing the Tour or other one day races - it is a bit more of a lottery with only 5 rider teams. So we can just try to get riders in every break, and be in the right place at the right time."

The talk then turned to the absence of Lance Armstrong, who declined his spot on the U.S. squad, and was replaced by Leipheimer. Leipheimer noted: "I certainly don't consider myself a replacement for Lance Armstrong" demurred Leipheimer. "I was next in line behind Tyler, George and Bobby. I will just try to be aggressive and ride for the team."

Hamilton suggested that the absence of Armstrong opened up the possibilities for another American to win. "If Lance were here, then there would be one true leader for the team, but now we have five very strong riders; a very complete team.

In the women's 9 lap, 118 kilometre race, Barry expects "it will be a hard race to control with only three riders per team. The course is so selective, and the heat will be a huge factor. I don't think it will be a big group at the end."

For favourites, she unhesitatingly named former Olympic gold medalist Leontien Van Moorsel of the Netherlands. "She is the biggest favourite - she can do it all; climb, descend, sprint and bike handle. Plus, her team mate Mirjam Melchers and (world champion) Suzanne Ljunskog. Lyne (Bessette - Canada) is looking fitter than I have ever seen her before."

Finally, Barry spoke about her unique opportunity to race at the same Games and in the same event as her husband Michael Barry (Canada), a pro with US Postal. "It's been really neat to experience the Olympics together. We are able to have lunch and dinner together, ride together, and spend time with each other. Our mums are both coming (to Athens) to watch the races together, plus brothers and sisters - it's a big family thing! "

Race Notes

- Barry mentioned that her husband Michael has been approached by a number of teams, but that he is still happy with US Postal (to become Discovery). He will return to Spain almost immediately after the men's road race to prepare for the Vuelta.

- French press chief Jeff Quenet revealed that the French riders, led by Richard Virenque, are extremely unhappy with the circuit, calling it "very dangerous" because of the slick surface and many corners.


Photos

U.S. press conference
- U.S. men
- U.S. women
- Jason McCartney: "this is one of the highlights of my career"
- George Hincapie
- Bobby Julich

 


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