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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
The final selection for the U.S. road team has been made, and it will be Christine Thorburn joining Dede Barry as America’s representatives in the Olympic time trial on Wednesday (August 18), a team source confirmed to VeloNews Thursday morning. Thorburn, who rides for the Webcor team back in the States, grabbed the spot ahead of T-Mobile rider Kristin Armstrong.
Thorburn is the reigning U.S. national time trial champion, a title she won at the Olympic trials in Moreno Valley, California in mid June. On that day Thorburn stunned the heavily favored T-Mobile squad, taking an eight-second win over Amber Neben. Then reigning champ Kimberly Bruckner was fifth.
On Thursday the U.S. team was headed out for a training ride in the morning, then had a full day ahead, with USOC processing and an early evening press conference to come. First look for U.S. team
The eight-rider U.S. road squad got its first look at the Athens course late Wednesday afternoon and it affirmed the notion that both the men’s and women’s races will be crapshoots.
“It’s tight, it’s fast, it’s technical,” said men’s team coach Jim Ochowicz. “It’s got all the ingredients to be a good Olympic course. There’s not just one skill involved. I think we’re going to see multiple breaks.”
As for team strategy Ochowicz said there would be no designated team leader.
“We’re just going to let it shake out,” he said. “You spread the odds out better that way. Sometimes it’s good to focus on one rider, but I don’t think that’s the case with this race.”
The French national team also got in their first practice laps on Wednesday, and there was some concern about the toll the course’s cobbled section was going to take on race day.
“The stones are beautiful, but after passing them a few times they will be painful,” said Tour de France sensation Thomas Voeckler. “It’s a technical race which can be dangerous because it’s a little greasy, and sometimes you nearly have to stop to negotiate a curve. The race will be elastic.”
French teammate Richard Virenque, the reigning Tour King of the Mountains, also expressed some concern about staying upright.
“When we are in town the road is greasy and oily,” he said. “Let’s hope it does not rain.”
Cooke feeling fine
After undergoing knee surgery in May, Britain’s Nicole Cooke is fully recovered and ready to challenge for a medal here in Athens. According to U.K. team manager David Brailsford, Cooke’s training has been right on schedule coming into the Games.
“She’s very detailed and organized,” Brailsford said. “She always works hard and always has the final target in mind, which is a gold medal.”
Cooke will compete in both the road race and the time trial.
Hunt out of the Olympics with a back injury
In other U.K. team news, Mr. Bookmaker rider Jeremy Hunt is out of the road race with a back injury. Hunt picked up the problem while competing in the Tour of Denmark. He finished fifth in that race but will not be able to go in Athens.
Quotes of note
Prior to team’s training session on the road course, Dutchman Servais Knaven could hardly contain his excitement about getting to spin past the Acropolis, Athens most famous ancient landmark.
“Normally we don’t have time for sightseeing, but today we do,” Knaven said. “I’ve got a camera with me because I want to make some pictures. At school I spent one year studying Greek history, but most of the Greek mythology I have forgotten. Maybe when I see the Acropolis everything will come back.”
Fellow Dutchman Erik Dekker was asked about Spain, the acknowledged team to beat.
“It’s true the Spanish team is the strongest, but that also creates a problem,” he said. “They have got three captains on their team (Oscar Freire, Igor Astorloa and Alejandro Valverde). Who will work for who?”
U.K. women’s team member Rachael Heal sized up the women’s race.
“It will be a very hard race,” she said. “A lot of women will get dropped behind. I think a very small group will remain in the final. Nicole [Cooke] is our captain and she is definitely the one we are riding for. I think [Mirjam] Melchers, Susanne Ljunskog and Oenene Wood will be her biggest challengers.”