Olympic men's road race mid-race update
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic men's road race mid-race update

by Agence France-Presse at 1:52 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Italian Paolo Bettini's bid to defend his crown appeared intact at the halfway stage of the gruelling men's 245km cycling Olympic road race here on Saturday.

Bettini, fellow favourite Alejandro Valverde of Spain and a number of other top gold medal contenders were contained in a main peloton of 116 riders chasing a deficit to two frontrunners.

Bettini, the gold medal winner from Athens, and Valverde were among the medal favourites to send a teammate into a counter-attacking group of 26 riders to chase Horacio Gallardo of Bolivia and Chile's Patricio Almonacid.

The South American pair had attacked the peloton inside the first few kilometres and went on to build a lead which hit a maximum of 15 minutes.

However their advantage was to be soon put to the test by the difficulty of the day's main climb, and the oppressively humid conditions.

Behind them the peloton, which spent most of a first, slow hour of racing chatting, began to up the pace as the relatively flat terrain of the road leading towards the Great Wall gave way to some more difficult gradients.

A group of 26 riders then formed as a counter-attack to the frontrunners.

Containing Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre of Spain, it did not however contain any of the big favourites - although the presence of Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen and Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic would have given some of the main peloton cause for concern.

With six of seven laps of the hilly 23.8km loop to race, Gallardo had dropped to four minutes behind Almonacid. The counter-attacking group were 10:20 behind with the main peloton containing all the big contenders a further 1min 20sec behind.

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