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Nothstein, Americans shut out

8/25/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Marty Nothstein's hopes of becoming the
sixth person to win individual cycling medals in three consecutive
Olympics ended Wednesday after he failed to get past the opening
round of the keirin competition.

Nothstein, the sprint silver medalist at Atlanta in 1996 and the
sprint gold winner four years ago at Sydney, placed fourth in the
repechage, or second-chance race, ending his medal hopes. He had to finish
first or second to advance.

"The mind was good. The body was good,'' said Nothstein, who
lives in Orefield, Pa. "I lacked a little bit of the power I'm
used to racing with, but I put on my big gear and I was right
there.''

That result, combined with Erin Mirabella's fourth-place showing
in the points race, meant the United States would leave an Olympics
without at least one track cycling medal for the first time since
1976, when it was blanked in Montreal. The United States boycotted
the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

Since 1984, American track cyclists had won 11 medals at the
past five Olympiads. Mirabella was the only American to finish
better than fourth at the Athens velodrome; no other member of the
seven-rider U.S. track contingent placed higher than 10th.

Points races award scores based on placings in intermediate
sprints held every 10 laps; Mirabella scored three points in the
first sprint, three more in the fifth, one in the eighth and two in
the ninth for a 9 points. She needed at least three more to
advance.

"I had no idea I was in fourth place,'' Mirabella said. "I
didn't think I had it anyway. I was blown.''

It was her best finish at a major international points race. She
was 10th at Sydney in the points race, and never finished higher
than sixth in any world championship. Russia's Olga Slyusareva, the
four-time defending world champion in the event, won the points
race gold medal.

Australia's Ryan Bayley won the men's
Keirin final Wednesday, becoming the only cyclist to win two
individual gold medals at the Athens Games.

Bayley, 22, held off Spain's Jose Escuredo in a sprint to the
finish. Australia's Shane Kelly was awarded the bronze.

Germany's Rene Wolff crossed the line in third place, but was
disqualified for impeding the path of France's Mickael Bourgain on
the final straightaway. Bourgain crashed into the wall surrounding
the banked track and did not finish; race officials ruled that
Wolff moved outward "with the intention of forcing (Bourgain)
up."

Fittingly, an Australian won the final track cycling event,
capping a dominant performance throughout six days of racing at the
Athens velodrome. Australia won nine medals -- five golds, two
silvers and two bronzes -- in track cycling, more than double the
total any other nation.

Bayley also won the sprint title.

Keirin races are eight-lap events, with riders jostling for
position behind a motorbike for the first 5½ laps. The motorbike
gradually increases its speed to about 30 mph, and when it ducks
off the track competitors begin a mad 500-meter sprint for the
finish line.

The top two finishers in the opening-round races earned
automatic spots in the second round. In Nothstein's seven-man
opening heat, he opted to begin his sprint from the back of the
field and gradually worked his way to second place, but was edged
at the finish line by Spain's Jose Escuredo.

That relegated Nothstein to the repechage. He again tried to
work from the back of the pack, but only passed one of the five
riders in his heat.

Australian duo Graeme Brown and Stuart
O'Grady won the gold medal in the Madison race Wednesday, giving
their country its eighth cycling medal of the Athens Games.

Australia finished with 22 points. Franco Marvulli and Bruno
Risi, the 2003 world champions, won the silver for Switzerland with
15 points; Britain's Rob Hayles and Bradley Wiggins won bronze,
scoring 12 points.

It was the second time the Madison was included in the Olympic
program; Australia also won gold in its first offering four years
ago in Sydney.

The race -- named for Madison Square Garden, where it was first
held in the 1890s -- features a mass start, with one rider from each
team racing at a given time while his teammate typically coasts
slowly around the higher sections of the banked oval.

The inactive rider replaces the active one by "handslinging,"
where the racer grabs his teammate and pulls him ahead, thereby
making him the active rider. Scoring is similar to the points race,
with points awarded during intermediate sprints and bonus points
offered for lapping the field.

Argentina's team of Juan Esteban Curuchet and Walter Perez, who
won the Madison at this year's world championships, finished ninth
Wednesday.