Mountain Bike Resources Online - Mountain Biking News - August 5th
August 5th, 1996
Olympic ReviewBy Tom Lining
Tuesday July 30th, 1996 a day I will always remember, the first ever Olympic Cross Country Mountain Bike race in Conyers Georgia just outside of Atlanta. The weather was a typical Georgia summer day temperatures in the 90's with high humidity, for the locals it was OK but for the rest of us it was just plain too hot! Getting to the race was easy, I must say that the Olympic people did a great job as far as parking and busing people to the course at the Georgia International Horse Park. There were water stands everyplace and they had a few umbrella's set up to shade the onlookers, there was always the option of going into the woods, they also had two fire hoses hooked up at the entrances that sprayed the crowd as you arrived or whenever one got hot.
The course was great. The terrain included Georgia slick rock, grassy straightaways, rocky and rooted singletrack, and even a river crossing. The course was quite flat, there were a few hills but nothing that would really take a toll on the riders. This course will now be open for anyone to come and ride.
The mens race, if one even wanted to call it a race, had all of the greatest riders in the world entered, but many wondered did the Americans really send the best riders to the Olympics, it was thetopic of discussion all over the course. Bart Brentjens, of the Netherlands, and the reigning world champion jumped out to an early lead and set a pace that no could keep up with, You could see he had trained for the heat and he just flew through the course and the gold medal was his.
The real race was for the silver, between Thomas Frischknecht of Switzerland and Miguel Martinez of France who kept changing leads over each other, it was a fun battle to watch with Frischknecht eventually getting the silver and Matinez the bronze. So what happed to the Americans Tinker Juarez and Don Myrah? Well they just were not ready for the Georgia heat. The two basically rode together the whole race, Tinker following Don which the crowd just loved but as the race finished Tinker took off on Myrah for what reasons we dont know, I figured they would just ride into the finish line together but it was not to be, so the question still looms, did America really send the best riders??
The womens race on the other hand was a real race it was up in the air until the end. The Americans on hand for this race were of course, Juli Furtado and Susan DeMattei. Before the race we watched the ladies warm up. Juli looked nervous and Susan just the opposite always smiling (she has a great smile). As the race began it was a tight pack with all the big names up front Alison Sydor of Canada, Paola Pezzo of Italy, Gunn Rita Dahle of Norway and the two Americans. Julie had the lead for a bit but then the heat began to take its toll on her by the second lap it was easy to see she was tired. Alison Sydor had the lead for a while but the strongest rider today was to be Paola Pezzo who actually crashed and was still able to take the lead from Alison and win the gold medal.
The race for the silver was very close between Alison Sydor, Susan DeMattei, and Gunn Rita Dahle, with all three chasing each other the entire race. Susan looked great she smiled everytime the crowds cheered her on. It was a great scene, we all knew she would get a much deserved medal. In the end Alison Sydor took a bit of a lead over Susan and Gunn Rita Dahl and the girls began to spread out but only a bit and so it ended with Alison taking the silver and Susan DeMattei the bronze. As Susan came into the finish the crowd just went crazy and again there was that great smile. As for Juli, she just got cooked, dont really know what had happened but she wasnt ready, and it was obvious.
As I said in the beginning it was a day I will never forget, a bit to hot, but I was not the one racing. The people at the horse park were great, the race course was easy to see and although we didn't quit get the results we wanted, it was a great day for mountain biking in the United States!