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Hitting The Wall
Tim Layden
August 18, 2008
The vista along the road race was breathtaking, but so were the conditions. Intense heat wiped out more than a third of the men's field, while a crash on a rain-slicked surface derailed the U.S.'s female medal hope
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August 18, 2008

Hitting The Wall

The vista along the road race was breathtaking, but so were the conditions. Intense heat wiped out more than a third of the men's field, while a crash on a rain-slicked surface derailed the U.S.'s female medal hope

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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."

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