Beaten Opponents in Time Trial Left Singing Indurain
With a resting heart rate of 28 beats a second, Spain’s Miguel Indurain was not easily flummoxed when it was suggested that his game might have skipped a few beats since his winning streak in the Tour de France was ended at five last month by Denmark’s Bjarne Riis.
Just in case the world wanted to know, Indurain proved Saturday he remains this orb’s preeminent cyclist, claiming Olympic gold in the men’s individual time trial with a time of 1 hour 4 minutes 5 seconds.
His time for the four laps over an 8.1-mile course, 32.44 miles, was 12 seconds faster than runner-up Abraham Olano, also of Spain, who took the silver at 1:04:17. England’s Chris Boardman won the bronze at 1:04:36.
Lance Armstrong and Steve Hegg of the United States finished sixth and 16th, respectively. Riis, fresh off his Tour de France victory--or maybe not so fresh--finished 14th.
The women’s time trial, two laps over the same course, minus Team USA runaway Rebecca Twigg, was won by Russia’s Zulfiya Zabirova in 36:40. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli of France won the silver in 37 minutes and Canada’s Clara Hughes was third in 37:13.
Indurain, who doesn’t need advantages, got one on the street course in the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead. In the time trial, riders race strictly against the clock, leaving in four groups of 10 at 90-second intervals.
Riders in the early morning groups, which included Americans Hegg in the second group and Armstrong in the third, were slowed by periodic downpours.
“In some spots, there were three or four inches of standing water,” Hegg said.
But Indurain’s group went out last on a dry track. As if it would have mattered.
“Probably not,” said Armstrong, who finished 2:23 slower than the winner.
For Indurain, the Olympic victory was satisfying, but did not compare to winning the Tour de France, cycling’s Super Bowl.
This is the first time professional cyclists have been allowed to compete in the Olympics, although Indurain had raced, poorly, as an amateur in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Asked if he would trade his gold medal for a Tour de France victory, Indurain did not hesitate to say yes.
But it was important to Indurain watchers--mainly European journalists with clipboards and stopwatches--to reestablish himself after finishing a disappointing 26th in the Olympic road race.
“I don’t have anything to prove to anybody,” Indurain said. “The Tour was a low point in my career, but now I appear to have recovered.”
Indurain, 32, is believed to be near the end of his competitive career, which is good news for the competition.
“Indurain makes you sick, because he’s actually really a nice bloke,” Boardman, the bronze medalist, said. “You can’t work up any anger or hatred for him.”
There was plenty of anger to go around at U.S. Cycling, however, jilted this week when medal hopeful Twigg quit in a dispute with U.S. Coach Chris Carmichael.
Twigg, a two-time Olympic medalist, was eliminated from the quarterfinals of last week’s pursuit race and was upset that her personal coach, Eddie Borysewicz, was not allowed to be with her in the oval.
Twigg could face possible code-of-conduct sanctions.
The international cycling federation allowed the U.S. team to replace Twigg in the time trials with Jeanne Golay, who had competed in two previous Olympic races, without earning a medal.
After finishing 16th on weary legs, Golay lashed out at Twigg.
“It’s inconceivable to me that someone could throw that away, a chance to ride in the Olympics,” Golay said. “I would have thought the best revenge would have been to win the gold medal in the time trials and shut everyone up.”
Golay called Twigg’s criticism of Carmichael and the U.S. program “completely inaccurate,” and added that she thought Carmichael had been “wrongly slammed.”
Golay suggested that if Twigg wanted her personal coach near her, “Eddie could have purchased a ticket.”
Teammate Linda Brenneman, who finished 11th Saturday, said she respected Twigg in the past but was “disappointed she couldn’t get through that, get over that and perform like the champion she was in the past.”
Twigg has not returned phone calls this week and could not be reached for comment Saturday.
This wasn’t the type of Olympic spirit U.S. Cycling had envisioned when it entered the Atlanta Games with expectations of winning perhaps as many as six medals. Instead, the United States finished with three--two silvers and a bronze--in 14 events.
Carmichael called the performance encouraging, and said it might have been improved had Twigg raced Saturday.
“Guess we’ll never know,” Carmichael said.
Hegg refused to use the rain as an excuse.
“It was terrible, if the truth be known,” he said of his performance.
Boardman, however, was critical of the Olympic course.
“I can’t believe they put the time trials in the middle of town, on such greasy, dirty roads,” he said.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
MEN’S TIME TRIALS:
Gold: Miguel Indurain, Spain
Silver: Abraham Olano, Spain
Bronze: Chris Boardman, Britain
Gold: Zulfiya Zabirova, Russia
Silver: Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, France
Bronze: Clara Hughes, Canada