Defending champ crashed with two laps left

Updated: September 27, 2004, 4:46 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Sara Carrigan's tactic was questioned. The result cannot be.

Carrigan essentially drafted off Judith Arndt for much of the final lap, then slingshot past the German in the final straightaway to win the gold medal Sunday in the Olympic women's road cycling race.

Fine, but no suspension, for Arndt
ATHENS, Greece -- Women's road cycling silver medalist Judith Arndt won't be suspended for making an obscene gesture as she crossed the finish line, the leader of the German Olympic delegation said Monday.

Arndt directed the gesture at German cycling officials on Sunday, upset because they didn't put her close friend Petra Rossner on the Olympic team. Australia's Sara Carrigan won the gold in Sunday's race, passing Arndt in the final 200 meters for the win.

Arndt was fined $162 by the International Cycling Union _ the only sanction she'll face, German delegation leader Klaus Steinbach said.

"We cannot accept her unsportsmanlike behavior as she crossed the line, which we strongly criticize. ... (But) now she will receive our total support,'' he said.

Arndt, who apologized for making the gesture with her middle finger, was allowed to ride in Wednesday's time trial where she's among the favorites.
-- Associated Press
The riders battled a stiff headwind for much of the final lap, with Carrigan tucked in behind and using Arndt as her buffer -- knowing fatigue was certain to set in. When Arndt turned her head to see where Carrigan was, the Australian shot ahead and rolled her way to gold.

"I knew it was the day,'' Carrigan said. "I didn't work as hard as Judith.''

Kristin Armstrong was the top U.S. finisher, placing eighth. It was only the third time since Connie Carpenter-Phinney and Rebecca Twigg finished 1-2 for the United States 20 years ago at Los Angeles that an American woman was among the top 10 at the Olympic road race.

"I'm definitely pleased with that,'' said Armstrong, a former triathlete who only began her competitive cycling career two years ago. "I'd love to have come out with a medal. When you come to an Olympics, if your mind isn't set on a medal and just on being happy to be a participant, there's a problem.''

Arndt, who said Carrigan "did nothing'' in the final lap, was in a no-win situation.

She pressed the last-lap pace to ensure that Carrigan's countrywoman Oenone Wood -- a talented sprinter who was lurking in a chase pack -- didn't get close enough to make a late pass. Yet by doing so, she wore herself out, and Carrigan capitalized.

"The silver medal is the best that I could get today,'' said Arndt, who was fined $162 by the International Cycling Union for making a gesture while crossing the finish line.

Carrigan finished the 73.8-mile race in three hours, 24 minutes, 24 seconds. Arndt was seven seconds back; Russia's Olga Slyusareva won a frantic sprint for the bronze medal.

Armstrong's U.S. teammates, Christine Thorburn and Dede Barry, finished 15th and 16th, respectively. All three Americans were making Olympic debuts.

"I think as a team we certainly had the ability to medal, so in that regard we're a little bit disappointed,'' said Thorburn, who, along with Barry, will ride in Wednesday's road time trial.

The field of 67 riders had less-arduous conditions than what the men faced on Saturday. Temperatures were 87 degrees at race time and barely fluctuated. It still was quite warm, but well off the 104-degree highs the men dealt with for a stretch in their race.

Clouds occasionally shielded the punishing sun, but the biggest factor was wind, which blew steadily at 20 mph throughout the day and often gusted stronger. It was a coolant when riders went its way, but a major deterrent on stretches where it bore down on the oncoming cyclists.

Riders who tried to go to the lead alone rarely lasted for long, quickly succumbing to the added strain of being the sole person battling the breezes.

"We were all affected by the wind,'' Slyusareva said. "We can all confirm that the wind was strong and that it was an obstacle.''

Defending gold medalist Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands -- a winner of three golds in Sydney -- fell near the end of the seventh lap in the nine-lap race, ending her chances to repeat. She swept the road race, the time trial and the individual pursuit in the 2000 Games.

She sat on the road for several minutes before being taken to a hospital for evaluation, suffering from severe bruising on her shoulder and hip. A team doctor said she was doubtful to compete in Wednesday's time trial.

France's Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, 45 and competing in her sixth Olympics, finished 10th. Longo-Ciprelli, who won gold at the Atlanta road race in 1996, is 18 years older than the field average and nearly 26 years up on Italy's Tatiana Guderzo, who turns 20 next Sunday.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press