Posted by Editoress on 06/24/04
Sue Palmer-Komar (Genesis-Scuba) virtually assured herself a position on the Canadian cycling team for Athens after winning the individual time trial on Friday at the Canadian National Cycling Championships Palmer-Komar covered the 30 kilometre out and back circuit with a time of 43:20, 41 seconds ahead of defending champion Lyne Bessette (Quark). In the men's 40 kilometre event, Svein Tuft (Symmetrics) decisively beat eight time defending champion Eric Wohlberg (Sierra Nevada). Tuft's time of 51:35.56 was one minute and 12.66 seconds ahead of Wohlberg.
The circuit was not particularly difficult, but the riders had to battle strong winds and extreme heat of over 38 degrees Celcius. Palmer-Komar is one of six women in the Olympic selection pool vying for three spots (two of the selected athletes will ride both the time trial and the road race). The Commonwealth Games silver medalist is known more for her climbing ability than her time trialling prowess, but knew that the time trial offered her a strong chance to lock down one of the two positions available (Bessette, as the highest internationally ranked Canadian woman, will automatically take one spot).
"I'm shocked to win. I have never even been on the podium for the time trial, and my goal was just to get a medal. But, I've been focusing on this for Olympic selection. I knew I was riding well - I enjoy the heat - but I didn't have a radio, computer or heart rate monitor with me, so I didn't know how the other riders were doing. I just knew that I had to go hard the whole way."
Palmer-Komar's ride now puts pressure on Genevieve Jeanson (Rona), who had a uncharacteristically poor showing, finishing sixth. Jeanson, who has faced controversy since last fall, when she did not pass a blood control at the World Championships, and only a few weeks ago received a warning and fine for missing a dope control test, is a former National time trial champion. She finished her ride in tears and immediately left the circuit without speaking to anyone.
The men's event is not an Olympic selection race, since Canada does not have any positions for the time trial in Athens. However, selectors will certainly look at the results to determine who is riding strongly. Tuft, who recently returned to cycling after taking eight months away from the sport, showed that he would be the strongest competition Wohlberg had faced in recent years, by beating him in the time trial stage of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce in Quebec last week (the Symmetrics rider is not in the Olympic pool, however, Wohlberg is, as is Mark Walters (Navigators), who finished fourth). Tuft was the fast rider at all checkpoints, but was still shocked at managing to beat the perennial champion.
"I knew what I had to do today - I had to suffer like nobody's business. I don't think I've ever ridden as hard as that before in my life. To beat Eric . . . He's just so strong, so consistent. I have so much respect for him as a rider. To beat him you have to dig as deep as you can."
The Canadian National Cycling Championships continue Friday with age group road race competitions, and conclude on Sunday with the men's and women's road races.
- The men's results were delayed by over an hour, which delayed the podium presentation. It appears that a rider clipped the electronic eye for the timing equipment, knocking it out of alignment, so the officials had to resort to calculating times and positions manually with the backup times.
- Svein Tuft admitted that the heat was tough, but had a trick: he loaded up on as much water as possible all morning prior to his race. "I drank litres."
- Palmer-Komar, unlike most of the riders, who flew in at the beginning of the week, only arrived the night before the race. "It was because of Trinity (her daughter). It meant less time away, less childcare arrangements, everything." The possible bonus? She wasn't as wrung out from days of training in the heat (yesterday it was 41 Celcius). "It could have had an effect, yes. In hindsight, the heat just sucks energy out of you."
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