The Book On: Cycling

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, August 1996

The Book On: Cycling

Race-shy no more. Rebecca Twigg should prove her mettle
By Alan Cote

In the four years since Barcelona, olympic cycling has altered course. In Atlanta, women will finally get their due with five events, nearing equality with the seven for men. It's a dizzying roster, ranging from 750-meter track sprints to a 138-mile road race. And with pros competing for the first time, every event will be wildly unpredictable--except for those that feature Rebecca Twigg.

The 33-year-old American, silver medalist in the 1984 Olympic road race, has seemed above the sport's fray throughout her career. But perhaps her apart-from-the-pack image stems from her fear of being in it. Indeed, after her fair share of peloton-related crashes, she retired from competition in 1988. But upon hearing that her favorite event--the 3,000-meter pursuit--had been added to the 1992 Olympic program, she staged a last-minute comeback and finished third. Since then, Twigg has won two world titles, sticking to timed events like the pursuit. In Atlanta, she'll take the gold so long as she can stave off Italian Antonella Bellutti, who recently broke Twigg's world record by four seconds.

Elsewhere in the velodrome, keep an eye on Pennsylvania's Marty Nothstein, the 1994 world champion, who is the favorite in the match sprints. Also, watch for the battle between Florian Rousseau of France, Australia's Shane Kelly, and Erin Hartwell of Colorado in the one-kilometer time trial--the three have swapped rankings repeatedly over the years.

In the men's road race, don't expect much from elite stars Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger--they'll likely be spent from duking it out in the final stages of the Tour de France. Instead, look for sprinters like France's Laurent Jalabert or Italy's Mario Cipollini to shine on the relatively flat 138-mile course. Then again, there's also Texan Lance Armstrong, who was expected to hold back in the Tour with an eye toward Atlanta. Given his familiarity with the humidity and--unlike the European squads--his undisputed role as team leader, Armstrong will certainly be jockeying for a medal. In fact, other top road riders may simply save their strength for the 25-mile time-trial event, though that's more likely to be won by a specialist such as Great Britain's Chris Boardman.

In the women's road race, look for American Jeanne Golay at the wire if it finishes in a sprint. Otherwise, a tactician like Australia's Kathy Watt, who won in '92, will take the breakaway. In the time trial, 37-year-old Jeannie Longo of France will have little competition, though Twigg has a slim chance of snagging a second gold.

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