Longo battles pain only to be pipped for bronze
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Longo battles pain only to be pipped for bronze

by Agence France-Presse at 6:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
French great Jeannie Longo made clear her long career in elite cycling was far from over after narrowly missing out on an Olympic bronze medal in the women's time-trial here Wednesday.

The 49-year-old recently won the French road and time-trial crowns to take her tally of national titles to an amazing 55.

But in the end a huge performance from the veteran of the women's peloton was good enough only for fourth place behind bronze medal winner Karin Thurig of Switzerland.

Longo said her bid to beat her much younger rivals on the hilly, 23.5 kilometre course was hampered by a sciatic nerve in the back of her leg.

"I wasn't feeling too good," said Longo, competing in her seventh Games. "I haven't had this sciatic problem for months, and two days ago it flared up. I knew at the start I was in for a painful day, but I was ready for it."

At the 10.8 kilometre timecheck Longo was in third place at 25 seconds adrift of provisional leader Emma Pooley of Britain, who eventually took the silver behind American Kristin Armstrong.

Longo, who excels both as a climber and a time-trialler, dug deep in the ensuing downhill and flatter sections but was pipped by former two-time world champion Thurig. "I'm extremely disappointed, because my whole lead-up to the Games was perfect. I was in great form," added Longo, whose chances in the women's road race were hampered by persistent rain - one of her pet hates while racing.

"In the right conditions, I had a chance of winning two medals here. Today, I was in pain on the hill and on the small climbs. I would be much happier with the bronze, but I'm still satisfied with my performance."

Longo, who has a combined 13 world road and track titles, has become only the third woman to compete at seven Olympics after Jamaican athletics star Merlene Ottey and Swedish fencer Kerstin Palm.

But she has not ruled out continuing for another four years, when the London Olympics will be held in one of her favourite cities.

"People have to keep reminding me that I'm nearly 50," added the Frenchwoman. "Honestly, I'm not looking at the calendar. "This year I trained really well and felt I had a lot of power. In the years before that wasn't the case."

Longo, now heading home without a medal, is still likely to turn up at the world championships this September in Varese, Italy. "I'll try to keep my form to go for the podium in the time-trial," she said.

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