A repeat of
Saturday's weather conditions might have favored the well-conditioned U.S.
women's team. "Our team needed attrition," said Armstrong. Instead, the
pace was soft on the flats leaving the city (in part because of a headwind that
discouraged breakaways) and the riding was dangerous in the hills. Neben was
planning to spring Armstrong with an attack—"I was going to set off some
fireworks to get Kristin away," she said—when her chain dropped.
Cooke won as
Sánchez won, by getting help from her team (notably Emma Pooley, who initiated
one breakaway and chased down two others) and proving fastest in a short,
intense sprint at the finish. U.S. racers Armstrong and Christine Thorburn
looked to the time trial that lay ahead. (Both genders were scheduled to ride a
time trial, 29.2 miles for the men, 14.6 miles for the women, in the same
mountains on Wednesday in Beijing.) "I think we've got great chances for
the podium," said Armstrong.
Of course, in the
echo of Cooke's primal victory scream there was a message: The race will mock
plans, ridicule preparation and trash ambition. "This is cycling," said
Carrigan. "It hardly ever goes the way you plan it."