Astarloa was considered among favorites

Updated: August 14, 2004, 9:26 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- World champion Igor Astarloa of Spain and Dutch veteran Michael Boogerd were among four riders forced to abandon the Olympic road race Saturday after crashing badly on the opening lap.

Astarloa went down together with a small bunch of riders only a few minutes into the twisting, 139.4-mile course that circles 17 times through the narrow streets near the Parthenon and Greek Parliament buildings.

Colombian outsider Marlon Perez and Russia's Vladimir Karpets also were forced out of the race because of the early crash.

Astarloa's teammate Jose Ivan Gutierrez was able to continue the race and joined the pack a few minutes later.

The course has been criticized as dangerous by several riders because of its tight bends, stretches of cobblestone and even patches of spilled oil.

Astarloa had been among the favorites to win the race.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press