ATHENS — Although it will be a beautiful trip for the eyes, a travel poster for Athens with the passes in front of the glimmering Acropolis, several cyclists said Thursday that the course for Saturday's Olympic road race was unnecessarily dangerous.
"I know it's not easy to come up with a course through a city like this," said Tyler Hamilton, a member of the U.S. team. "I know they want the course to go past the Acropolis and to make the city look good. But I wish they'd check with the cyclists. There are places where, instead of going left-right-left-right, it seemed like you could have just gone left. It's going to be dangerous. There will be crashes."
It wasn't only Americans who voiced concern after teams had been allowed their first training rides on the circuit.
The men's course is an 8.2-mile circuit through Athens. Riders make the loop 17 times for a total ride of 139.4 miles. Like the pavement on some early Tour de France stages that caused serious crashes, there are cobblestone portions.
"The stones are beautiful," said French rider Thomas Voeckler, who held the leader's yellow jersey during the Tour de France for more than a week, "but after you pass them a few times, they will be painful. And as we saw at the Tour, they can be dangerous. It's not hard to have a crash."