Arndt chasing demons, and a tough Olympic gold
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Arndt chasing demons, and a tough Olympic gold

by Agence France-Presse at 8:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Germany's Judith Arndt will go into battle for a prestigious Olympics cycling gold medal on Sunday with more than one race on her mind.

The Athens silver medallist and 2004 world road race champion is one of a handful of favourites to triumph in the hilly 126.4km road race which finishes at the Great Wall.

But the fiery 32-year-old will also be keen to chase away the memory of an angry one-fingered salute which accompanied her second place finish behind Australia's gold medal winner Sara Carrigan in Athens.

Arndt was angry at the Germans' decision not to include sprinter Petra Rossner in the Athens Olympic team, and in the end she later apologised for her gesture. "In Athens a lot of things went wrong," admitted. Arndt has been one of the pacesetters this season, but the experienced German is not alone.

Welshwoman Nicole Cooke leads Britain's bid, Dutch sensation Marianne Vos has gold, and two others, on her mind while Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo, who at 49 years old is taking part in her seventh Olympics and could possibly medal.

But one of Arndt's biggest challengers could be Australian Oenone Wood, who was poised for gold in Athens until she realised that circumstances suited Carrigan instead.

Four years on, Wood admits that finishing fourth and watching Carrigan become Olympic champion still leaves her with mixed feelings, although Wood admits she has only one goal on her mind this season. "I have a lot of training rides where the whole purpose of me being out there, trying to get fit, is to go to the Olympics and try to win a medal. That's the goal," she said.

Vos's inclusion in the road race comes as something of a surprise, given that she is scheduled to participate in the time trial next week and will start the points race at the Laoshan velodrome as the reigning world champion.

The Dutchwoman has also won major titles in the sport of cyclocross - making her something of a multi-discipline phenomenon.

In taking a leaf out of Longo's rich book of cycling tricks, she travelled to El Salvador to race in May in a bid to get used to the kind of conditions. "At the Olympics every medal counts but the road race gold, for me, is the most prestigious," she said.

The women's road race follows the same route as the men, although where they have seven laps of a hilly 23.8km circuit to do the women have only two.

Vos added: "The climb is pretty good and suits my capabilities. I've done a lot of specific climbing training this season."

Cooke is one of the most successful racers in women's cycling but is still chasing a world or Olympic gold at senior level. After a fifth place finish in Athens, the profile of this course is inviting her to put an end to that search.

"The course is ideal for Nicole because it's aggressive and physical," says former professional Chris Boardman, who is in charge of the GB technological programme. "She's not a massive climber but I would put my money on Nicole to come through that part of the course with a gutsy and determined show."

All of the above riders probably grew up watching, or with memories of, Longo, who earlier this year won the French national road and time trial titles to add to her massive tally. Longo already had nine world titles by the time Vos was born in May 1987. "She has shown she is still up there and able to compete, which I totally respect," said Vos. "I expect her to finish in the top ten at least."

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