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ATHENS 2004

U.S. Cycling Trio Finds Bright Side in Medal-Less Day

Australia's Carrigan beats Germany's Arndt in a road race sprint as Americans Armstrong, Thorburn and Barry are eighth, 15th and 16th.

August 16, 2004|Bill Dwyre | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS -- Sunday was a good day for the American women in the Olympic cycling road race. Good, but not great.

On a windy day replete with thrills, spills and a naughty gesture, the American trio of Kristin Armstrong of Boise, Idaho; Christine Thorburn of Davenport, Iowa, and Dede Barry of Colorado Springs stayed with the lead pack almost to the end and finished eighth, 15th and 16th, respectively.

"Three girls in the top 16, that's good," said Barry, the veteran of the group, "but one on top of the medal podium would have been better."

When the nine-lap, 74-mile race ended, on a course that started at City Hall at the center of Athens and looped around the Acropolis and back, Australia's Sara Carrigan had out-sprinted Germany's Judith Arndt for the gold, winning by seven seconds in 3:24:24.

Carrigan, a 23-year-old university student who didn't even take up racing until she entered college, threw up her hands in joy about 20 yards from the finish. In her biographical material, she lists as her hero Judith Arndt, a 28-year-old soldier with long-standing international cycling success.

Speaking about both the victory and whom she beat to get it, Carrigan said afterward, "It was indescribable."

Arndt's silver-medal finish triggered a different kind of reaction.

As she crossed the line, Arndt signaled with her left middle finger. Later, after the international cycling federation had fined her the equivalent of $162 in Swiss Francs for "incorrect behavior," it was determined that her gesture was directed at the German cycling federation. Their sin, according to Arndt, was in leaving sprinter Petra Rossner off the team.

"If Petra was there, we would have raced differently, more aggressive," Arndt said. "Petra is the best sprinter, and maybe we would have had gold."

The bronze medal went to Russia's Olga Slyusareva, who led the pack immediately behind the Carrigan-Arndt breakaway duo and was 32 seconds behind Arndt at the end. In that second pack was Armstrong, whose eighth-place time was three seconds shy of the bronze.

But in the small world of cycling road racing, where everybody knows everybody else, Armstrong was thinking bronze and knowing it was unlikely.

"In that group, I looked around, and I was there with all the best sprinters in the world," Armstrong said. "That's not my forte. Guess it is something I have to work on."

A crash on the sixth lap probably had a dramatic effect on the outcome. Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands, gold medalist in this event in Sydney and winner of two more golds and a silver in the Sydney Games, tangled with Lynn Bessette of Canada and went down hard as dozens of riders frantically steered around the wreck.

Zijlaard-van Moorsel bruised her shoulder and hip and was listed as doubtful for a defense of her gold medal in the time trials Wednesday.

Swirling winds all over the course even forced silver-medalist Arndt to stop for a quick removal of a plastic bag that had blown into her spokes.

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