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Pros Discover Cons of This Tour

Road racing: Sport's elite struggle while Switzerland's Richard wins gold. United States' Armstrong finishes 12th.


ATLANTA — They came from the Tour de France to the Tour de Buckhead, but the most glamorous riders weren't there at the finish of the first Olympic road race to allow professionals.

Miguel Indurain, defeated in the Tour de France for the first time in six years only 11 days ago, finished 26th. Bjarne Riis, the Danish cyclist who ended Indurain's streak with a sprint down the Champs Elysees, was 87th.

American Lance Armstrong, a Texan who never hid his drive to win Olympic gold, withdrawing early in the Tour de France because of a cold, finished a disappointing 12th after his bold attack with 24 miles to go in the 138-mile race was reeled in, leaving him spent.

Switzerland's Pascal Richard, one of three riders who broke away with about 16 miles left, won the race, barely edging Denmark's Rolf Sorensen for the gold and finishing only two seconds ahead of bronze medalist Maximilian Sciandri, a Los Angeles resident riding for Britain.

American Frankie Andreu, whose role was to work with the other U.S. riders to try to help Armstrong to a victory, finished fourth, more than a minute behind Richard's winning time of 4 hours 53 minutes 56 seconds.

"It's disappointing," said Armstrong, 24, who had a chance to make up for a disappointing 14th-place finish in the 1992 Olympic road race, the last reserved for amateurs. "This is not a sport you can predict or guarantee. We did our best. It didn't go our way today."

Armstrong made a strong move to take the lead with three laps to go over the mildly undulating course, which wound past the governor's mansion through the leafy neighborhoods of Buckhead, an Atlanta suburb.

"I took the attack," Armstrong said. "I always feel like I need to give it a try. But it's hard to break away from a group like that. [The American riders] couldn't get organized."

Richard led the group of three that caught him, and Armstrong dropped back, waiting for the expected attack from such elite riders as Indurain, France's Laurent Jalabert and an Italian team led by Mario Cipollini.

It never materialized and neither Armstrong nor Andreu could run down the leaders.

Armstrong had hoped for a sweltering day that would make the Europeans wilt. Instead, there was a cloud cover most of the morning.

"I'm kind of disappointed it didn't get hotter," he said.

Andreu, the only American to complete the Tour de France this year, had the best showing of the five U.S. riders. Gregory Randolph was 74th, George Hincapie was 76th and Steve Hegg was 93rd.

Instead of being spent from the 2,400-mile Tour de France, Andreu was primed. Wednesday's race essentially was like an easy stage in the famous race, and the one-day racers, not the endurance specialists, were the standouts.

Richard, the gold medalist, won stage 12 of this year's Tour de France, finishing 47th overall. Sorensen won Stage 13 of the Tour de France and was 28th overall, and Sciandri won a stage in the 1995 tour.

"I said before the race that the winner would come from the Tour de France, because when you come out of the Tour de France either you're flying or you're dead," Andreu said.

"The Tour brings you up to a fitness that you can't get any other way. You're at a plateau, you rest, and then you hit a higher plateau. All I've done the last two weeks is lie around and watch TV and ride for a couple of hours."

As for Indurain's finish, Andreu said he didn't expect more. "It wasn't his type of course. The time trial will be his type of race."

Armstrong and Hegg will compete for the U.S. in Saturday's time trial, a race against the clock over the same eight-mile loop. It will give Armstrong, a two-time Tour DuPont winner and two-time stage winner at the Tour de France, another chance at a gold medal.

"This was a big goal, something we worked for for the last year," Armstrong said. "I think the Games mean more to Americans than the other two [the Tour de France and the World Championships]."

Chris Carmichael, the U.S. coach, didn't question Armstrong's strategy in the road race.

"I think it was a good move," he said. "Hindsight is clear vision. I'm not disappointed in the outcome. The entire team rode awesome. I just think Lance expended a lot of energy being out there solo. An absolute animal won today, Pascal Richard. He's won World Cups and a stage in the Tour. That wasn't an easy race."

Andreu, the last to try to catch the medalists, knew that as well as anyone.

"I was maxed out, but I thought, 'I've got to get this fourth place,' " he said. "My legs were cramping, but it's the Olympics. You've got to do it."




Gold: Pascal Richard, Switzerland

Silver: Rolf Sorensen, Denmark

Bronze: Maximillian Sciandri, Britain

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