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July 14, 1996|ROBYN NORWOOD

In Atlanta, a new Superbike and portable velodrome will be introduced for track events. Mountain biking and road races take place elsewhere. A look at the new bike and track:

Introducing The Superbike

The U.S. track cycling team will be riding a newly-designed aerodynamic bicycle called Superbike II. Santa Ana manufacturer GT Bicycles built 24 of the bikes, customized to each team member. The streamlined, lightweight bike is expected to be the most technologically advanced at the Games.

Handlebars: Made of aluminum and designed to cut through the wind. Handlebars are lower than saddle to allow rider to achieve maximum tuck position.

Wheels: A smaller front wheel allows riders to draft off riders in front of them more effectively. Three different front wheels may be used, depending on track conditions.

Saddle: Carbon-fiber shell topped with a bit of padding.

Frame: Made of strong, stiff carbon fiber, the smooth surface and lack of a top bar reduces the surface area to decrease turbulence. Nuts and bolts are reduced drag. It takes 30 hours to build a frame.

Pedals: Pedal attaches to shoe with a binding-type mechanism. They have no blunt, squared off edges--they're aerodynamically smooth.

Flat, carbon fiber disc: For no-wind situations, slicing through the air with little turbulence.

Flat-bladed multi-spoked wheel or 3-spoked wheel: Used during crosswinds, to allow wind to pass through wheel.

Tires: Consist of thin, latex inner tube with silk-wound casing. Tire is glued to the casing, which is glued to the rim. Because of the Velodrome's softer surface, tire pressures might be as high as 250, twice that of a typical racing bike.

The Cost of Testing: A wind tunnel was used to help determine the rider's most aerodynamic body position. Using the General Motors wind tunnel in Michigan cost $40,000 per hour.

Superbike Specifications

Wheelbase: 39 inches (from center of front axle to center of rear).

Length: 63.5 inches

Height: 29 inches

Weight: 16 pounds

Front wheel: 24 inches

Rear wheel: 27 inches

Women's Cycling

What We Know

Between them, Rebecca Twigg and Connie Paraskevin-Young have made eight Olympic teams, but both are still seeking one of the few things that has eluded them--a gold medal.

Twigg, 33, won a silver in the road race in 1984, and a bronze in the individual pursuit at Barcelona. This time, she'll compete in the individual pursuit--the race in which cyclists start on opposite sides of the track and try to catch each other--as well as in the road time trial, which is making its debut as a women's event.

Paraskevin-Young, 34, won a bronze in the match sprint in 1988 but failed to reach the quarterfinals in Barcelona after a controversial disqualification in a preliminary race. She also competed in the Winter Games in 1980 and '84 as a speedskater.

What We Don't Know

It's hard to say whether the winner of the women's road race will feel comfortable raising her arms in triumph at the finish line. In 1992, the French team was celebrating an apparent victory by Jeannie Longo when it realized that Australia's Kathryn Watt had already crossed the finish line ahead of her. Watt, who slipped ahead unnoticed earlier, won the two-hour race by 20 seconds.

American Jeanne Golay was sixth in Barcelona, and if she or one of her compatriots manages to win a medal in the grueling 108-kilometer race, it will be the first in the road race by a U.S. woman since Connie Carpenter-Phinney edged Twigg at the finish line in 1984. That was the first cycling event for women in Olympic history, making its debut 88 years after the first men's road race in 1896.

Someone You Should Know

Twigg is the U.S. women's best gold-medal hope in cycling, and she has been versatile and resilient in her long career. Last year, she broke her collarbone less than two weeks before the World Championships--then set a world record while winning the individual pursuit.

Watt, barely 5 feet tall, is one of the favorites in the road race again, with competition from Longo, Golay and Norway's Monika Valvik. Golay will also compete in the women's time trial and the points race, which is contested on the track.

In mountain biking, Canada's Alison Sydor has won the last two World Championships, but American Juli Furtado is stiff competition.

Men's Cycling

What We Know

The professionalization of the Olympics spreads to cycling this year, with the dashing pros of the Tour de France eligible to compete for the first time. The Olympic road race will come only 10 days after the mad sprint down the Champs Elysees to conclude the 2,418-mile Tour de France, but Lance Armstrong made it clear he was focusing on Atlanta even before he withdrew during the sixth stage because of bronchitis.

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