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Britain, Germany win team golds

8/21/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- No American cyclists managed to escape the
qualification rounds Saturday, all of them getting bounced after
just one event along the speedy Olympic velodrome.

Erin Mirabella finished 10th in qualifying for the 3,000-meter
individual pursuit, and the team sprint squad of Adam Duvendeck,
Giddeon Massie and Christian Stahl posted only the 11th-best time
in its preliminary race. The top eight finishers in the 12-entrant
fields rode in medal qualifying rounds later Saturday.

Also Saturday, Britain won its second track cycling gold medal
of these Olympics, when Bradley Wiggins defeated Australia's Brad
McGee in the 4,000-meter pursuit final. Spain's Sergi Escobar took
the bronze.

Wiggins was among seven riders to set either an Olympic or world
record in Friday's opening session at the banked wooden oval, and
more marks fell Saturday. Three women in pursuit qualifying topped
the former world record of 3:30.604, set earlier this year by New
Zealand's Sarah Ulmer.

Australia's Katie Mactier and Dutch star Leontien Ziljaard-van
Moorsel both topped Ulmer's old mark in their qualifying heat, with
Mactier finishing in 3:29.945, van Moorsel in 3:30.422.

Mactier's record lasted about five minutes. Ulmer took it right
back in the next heat, finishing 12 laps around the 250-meter track
in 3:26.400.

"They're flying," Mirabella said. "It's definitely real
competitive out there."

Mirabella's time in pursuit qualifying was 3 minutes, 36.992
seconds -- 1.815 seconds slower than the time turned in by Russia's
Olga Slyusareva, the eighth and final rider to advance. Still, it
was Mirabella's personal-best time for a pursuit race at sea level,
and the second fastest overall of her career.

"That was the best I could do today," said Mirabella, who will
also ride in the points race on Wednesday -- the final day of track
cycling at the Athens Games.

The U.S. sprint team finished three laps in 45.742 seconds,
shattering its previous best mark at the distance by seven-tenths
of a second. Greece, which had a time of 44.986 seconds, was the
final team qualifier for the next round.

The Americans were on the track against the Greeks, and Massie
said he and his teammates tried to use the raucous, pro-Greek,
sold-out velodrome crowd to their advantage.

"That's a feeling you don't get in training," Massie said
afterward. "That's something you only get on race day, at the
Olympics, against the home country."

Germany edged Japan in the team sprint final later Saturday,
with France -- the gold medalist in Sydney -- winning the bronze. It
was the third Olympic gold for Germany's Jens Fiedler, the
individual sprint winner at both the 1992 and 1996 Games.

Although the American trio -- the second-youngest group of riders
in the team sprint field, with an average age of 21.7 -- weren't
there, they left pleased with their time.

"We were pumped," Stahl said. "It's not everyday you get to
race in an atmosphere like this."

Wiggins didn't match his Olympic record of 4:15.165 in the
pursuit final, but didn't have to, either. He pulled away steadily
in the second half of the 16-lap final against McGee, who was 4.132
seconds behind Wiggins' time of 4:16.304.

Individual pursuit races begin with riders on opposite sides of
the track; wins come by either catching the opponent or finishing
the race distance first. In the team sprint, all three riders for
each nation are on the track together, with each leading one of the
three laps.