U.S. cyclist Pearce finishes 14th

Updated: August 24, 2004, 1:52 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- America kept on struggling in cycling Tuesday when Colby Pearce managed only a 14th-place finish in the points race.

Mikhail Ignatyev, a relatively unknown 19-year-old Russian, lapped the field four times and finished the race with 93 points to collect his nation's first cycling gold medal of the Athens Games. Defending gold medalist and three-time world champion Joan Llaneras of Spain was second, and Germany's Guido Fulst third.

Pearce finished the 24.8-mile race with 23 points, tying him with Argentina's Juan Esteban Curuchet, but was officially placed 14th because Curuchet crossed the finish line ahead of him.

"It was a great experience to be here,'' Pearce said. "I'm not going to let the fact that I didn't medal ruin that.''

Also on Tuesday, Lori-Ann Muenzer of Canada won the gold medal Tuesday in the sprint, beating Tamilla Abassova of Russia. Anna Meares of Australia got the bronze.

Australia's Ryan Bayley powered his way to the men's sprint gold medal Tuesday, rallying for a 2-1 win in the best-of-three series against world champion Theo Bos of the Netherlands. In the deciding sprint, Bayley trailed Bos entering the final lap -- but overtook the Dutch star in the final straightaway for Australia's fourth gold and seventh overall cycling medal of these Olympics.

Germany's Rene Wolff won the bronze, sweeping two-time world champion Laurent Gane of France in two races.

Bos was bidding to become the first man to win the world title and the Olympic sprint gold in the same year. He defeated Bayley 2-1 in the semifinal round of the world championships earlier this year.

In points racing, riders' scores are based on how they fared in sprints held every 10 laps on the track, which they circle 160 times during the race. Riders could also get 20 bonus points for lapping the field, something Pearce managed only once.

Pearce was the only American riding Tuesday at the velodrome. Medal races in men's and women's sprint competitions were also scheduled.

Track cycling events end Wednesday, when Erin Mirabella rides her points race and two-time Olympic medalist Marty Nothstein represents the United States in the keirin.

Mountain bike medal races are Friday and Saturday, meaning four more opportunities still exist for the Americans to add to their cycling medal total of three -- all claimed last week in the road time trials, with Tyler Hamilton getting gold, Dede Barry silver and Bobby Julich bronze.

Since that magnificent showing, it has been nothing but struggles for the American cycling contingent.

The team sprint squad of Adam Duvendeck, Christian Stahl and Giddeon Massie finished 11th in a 12-team field. Mirabella beat only two riders in finishing 10th in her pursuit race, and Jennie Reed managed exactly the same showing in the sprint -- an event where she was thought to be a medal contender.

The field was loaded; four of the last five points race world champions were on the track, along with the two men who won gold and silver in the event at Sydney four years ago. Milton Wynants, who won the silver for Uruguay in 2000, was ninth Tuesday.

Reigning world champion Franck Perque of France was 10th; 2003 world champion Franz Stocher of Austria was 17th, and 2002 world champ Chris Newton of Britain failed to finish.

Muenzer, who defeated American Jennie Reed on Sunday in the first round of head-to-head racing, lost her first race of the day in women's sprint, falling to Australia's Anna Meares in the opening round of the best-of-three semifinals. She followed that up with four straight wins on her way to the gold medal.

Meares -- who set a world record in winning the time trial gold medal earlier at these Olympics -- won the bronze, defeating three-time world champion Svetlana Grankovskaya of Russia in two straight races.

The gold medal matchup figured to be a rematch of world championship final between Meares and Grankovskaya -- but both lost 2-1 in the best-of-three semifinals after winning the opening race.

In the semifinals, Abassova downed her countrywoman Grankovskaya, the 2001, 2003 and 2004 world champ.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press