| Outside magazine, June 1995|
When Alison Sydor was awarded her gold medal last March for winning the inaugural 39.5-kilometer cross-country race in the Pan American Games, the Canadian rider looked a little awkward. It was hard to know whether it was the pomp and circumstance, which included her country's national anthem being played in her honor, or the fact that the podium she stood on was a wobbly stump hewn from a telephone pole. Whatever the case, mountain biking is on a crash course with the Olympic movement--it has full medal status for 1996--and the Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, was a glimpse into that future. For a first-time affair, things didn't go badly. Of course, nobody gave either Sydor or the men's winner, Tinker Juarez of the United States, much of a push. "It was weird to look around and see only seven other riders," says Sydor, who thumped Juli Furtado, the dominant woman rider for the last three years, by more than three minutes and added more luster to her growing reputation as the new woman to beat. (A week later, Sydor soundly defeated Furtado at the Cactus Cup in Scottsdale, Arizona.) There were a few embarrassing glitches in Argentina. The U.S. delegation spent much of the time trying to sort out who its coach was. It was a messy situation in which Skip Hamilton and David Farmer each declared himself to be in charge. Ultimately, the U.S. Cycling Federation sidestepped the controversy by bagging the idea of a national coach and hiring an administrative manager to get the American team to the start on time. Bring on the Games.