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Van Moorsel takes Olympic TT; Demet-Barry earns silver

In the days leading up to women’s Olympic time trial, Dutchwoman Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel admitted she thought she might not be able to start. The triple gold-medalist from Sydney crashed hard in Sunday’s road race and said she had pain all over her body. But with the end of her career looming, Zijlaard-van Moorsel couldn’t let that be her final cycling memory. On Wednesday she authored a more appropriate chapter, winning a gold medal on a sun-kissed 24km course in the coastal suburbs of Athens. Zijlaard-van Moorsel stopped the clock in 31:11.53, 24.09 seconds ahead of American Dede

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

In the days leading up to women’s Olympic time trial, Dutchwoman Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel admitted she thought she might not be able to start. The triple gold-medalist from Sydney crashed hard in Sunday’s road race and said she had pain all over her body. But with the end of her career looming, Zijlaard-van Moorsel couldn’t let that be her final cycling memory. On Wednesday she authored a more appropriate chapter, winning a gold medal on a sun-kissed 24km course in the coastal suburbs of Athens.

Zijlaard-van Moorsel stopped the clock in 31:11.53, 24.09 seconds ahead of American Dede Barry, who gave the U.S. cycling team its first medal of these Games. Karin Thürig completed the podium, scoring a bronze for Switzerland. Thürig’s mark of 31:54.89 was 20.07 better than American Christine Thorburn, who settled for fourth.

“After I crashed I thought it was over,” said Zijlaard-van Moorsel. “But I slept good on Sunday night and Monday morning I thought I have been training too hard for so long to end my career in a bad way.”

Come race day, Zijlaard-van Moorsel was still hurting and said her head started throbbing at the 10km mark. But afterward she joked that the time trial was “about pain anyway, so what’s a little more.”

The day’s racing kicked off at 1 p.m. local time under clear blue skies. The wind, which had been blowing steadily the two previous days, was barley a factor. But, as has been the case throughout these Olympics, the heat was. Weather reports had the temperature at 84, but out on the freshly paved roads it was much warmer.

Just as she had back in June at the U.S. national championships, Thorburn posted the day’s first fast time and then had to sit back and wait.

“It’s just like nationals,” said the Webcor rider, who won that race in Moreno Valley, California, which earned her an Olympic berth. “There I had to worry about another race, at least here I can just hang out and watch.”

What Thorburn saw was the ensuing seven riders in the 25-rider field, including powerhouses Nicole Cooke and Mirjam Melchers, miss her mark. It wasn’t until Barry came through at 31:35.62, that Thorburn was pushed out of the No. 1 spot.

Barry and the team had moved out of the Olympic Village after the road race, and the Boulder, Colorado-resident said the change of scenery definitely helped.

“It was amazing to be surrounded by so many great athletes,” the T-Mobile rider said. “But it was chaos, too. It was good to come down here and relax a little more.”

There was no relaxing for Barry now, though. Just the agony of waiting for the likes of Zijlaard-van Moorsel, reigning world time trial champ Joanne Somarriba, and Olympic road race silver medalist Judith Arndt to take their shots at her time.

Somarriba put up one of the day’s most disappointing rides, coming across in seventh, then quickly disappearing from the finish area. Arndt, who made all the headlines after flipping up her middle finger at the end of a silver-medal ride in the road race, was a distant 11th, at 1:35.41.

Out on the course, only Zijlaard-van Moorsel was ahead of Barry at the turnaround. But the margin was less than a second, keeping the suspense high. It wasn’t until the two-thirds split that the Dutch rider really turned on the gas, winning the race going away.

Zijlaard-van Moorsel's machine.

Zijlaard-van Moorsel’s machine.

Photo:

“She obviously saved something for the finish,” said Barry. “But this is still a dream come true.”

As for Zijlaard-van Moorsel, she confirmed that this was definitely her last time trial and that she hopes to get into coaching after the Olympics are done.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to recover for the track,” said Zijlaard-van Moorsel, who will attempt to add to her four gold medals starting Saturday in the individual pursuit qualifying rounds. “After that I want to work with young riders.”

Canadian Lyne Bessette had an off day, coming home a distant 16th, 2:12.56 behind Zijlaard-van Moorsel. Teammate Sue Palmer-Komar was 17th, at 2:14.88.

With the women’s medal ceremony completed, the 40-rider men’s field took to the time trial course. Check back later to VeloNews.com for results and a full report.

Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel
Birthday: March 22, 1970
Birthplace: Boekel, Netherlands
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Weight: 145 pounds

Palmares
Olympics:
Individual Time Trial: 1st place (2000 and 2004)
Road Race: 1st (2000), abandon (2004)
Individual Pursuit: 1st (2000)World Championships:
Road Race: 1st (1991, 1993), 2nd (1998)
Time Trial: 1st (1998, 1999)
50 km Team Time Trial: (1990)
Individual Pursuit: 1st (1990, 2001, 2002 and 2003), 2nd (1998)

Photo Gallery

Results

1. Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Netherlands) 31:11

2. Deirdre Demet-Barry (USA), at 0:24

3. Karin Thürig (Switzerland), at 0:43

4. Christine Thorburn (USA), at 1:04

5. Lada Kozlikova (Czech Republic), at 1:04

6. Oenone Wood (Australia), at 1:05

7. Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spain), at 1:14

8. Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia), at 1:19

9. Priska Doppmann (Switzerland), at 1:27

10. Edita Pucinskaite (Lithuania), at 1:31

11. Judith Arndt (Germany), at 1:35

12. Olga Slyusareva (Russia), at 1:39

13. Mirjam Melchers (Netherlands), at 1:50

14. Jeannie Longo Ciprelli (France), at 1:54

15. Trixi Worrack (Germany), at 1:54

16. Lyne Bessette (Canada), at 2:13

17. Susan Palmer-Komar (Canada), at 2:15

18. Dori Ruano Sanchon (Spain), at 2:18

19. Nicole Cooke (Great Britain), at 2:34

20. Edwige Pitel (France), at 2:50

21. Tatiana Guderzo (Italy), at 3:03

22. Anita Valen (Norway), at 3:17

23. Rasa Polikeviciute (Lithuania), at 3:23

24. Nataliya Kachalka (Ukraine), at 3:49

25. Susanne Ljungskog (Sweden), at 4:05