Tuesday, July 30, 1996
Sydor happy with Silver
By JIM O'LEARY --
Executive Producer SLAM! Sports
ATLANTA -- When Alison Sydor was three she hopped on the oversized bike of
the boy next door and, to everyone's shock, rode it effortlessly.
That was 26 years and many racing victories ago. Yesterday, Sydor was
the odds-on pick to culminate years of cycling excellence by winning the
first-ever Olympic gold medal in cross-country cycling.
But on a day when the sun was almost hot enough to smoulder the rubber
on her tires, the North Vancouver racer encountered one cool Italian.
Paola Pezzo handled the heat and the hills with equal aplomb, winning
the gold with surprising ease. Sydor battled hard to win the silver, finishing
ahead of American Susan DeMattie.
"I'm not disappointed at all,'' Sydor said. "The Italians focussed
their entire season on this race. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to do
well and Paula came through. She had an awesome day.''
The other Canadian in the field, Lesley Tomlinson of Vancouver, fell
and skinned a leg. But she got back on her bike and finished the race, placing
Pezzo covered the 19.8-mile course in 1:50.50, coasting over the last
couple kilometres to beat Sydor by 67 seconds. Sydor admitted that her day was
less than "awesome.'' She pretty much conceded the gold midway through the race
when Pezzo put her feet to the pedals to take an insurmountable lead.
"When Paola went by me there was no one who could keep up with her,''
Sydor was philosophical about the silver. Yes, the gold was her
objective, but she was proud of the race she cycled after it became apparent the
Italian would be unbeatable.
When Pezzo pulled away, she left Sydor in a three-man pack with
DeMattie and Rita Dahle of Norway. It was obvious that one of the three women
would miss the medals and Sydor was determined that it wouldn't be her.
The trio stayed packed together, with Sydor in front, until there was
about 6.5 kilometres to the finish. That's when Sydor made her move. She dug in
to surge up a hill and, when she noticed that her two competitors failed to
match her push, the started to feel comfortable about her medal chances.
"When I made that little effort on the hill and the other two weren't
able to match it, i was confident I could give my maximum effort for the rest of
the race,'' she said. "I just put my head down and counted the hills to the
Placing second wasn't what Sydor had in mind when she came to Atlanta.
She has been the winningest mountain biker in the world the past two years,
winning the 1995 world championship and six of the first seven World Cup races
this year. She came to Atlanta on a gold hunt.
"I thought I'd be disappointed but I'm not,'' she said. "At the very
start I knew I wasn't having an awesome day. Paola has beaten me a number of
times in World Cup races. I wasn't surprised that she won. She was one of the
favorites going in.''
The heat, in the mid-90s, made the race torture for the competitors.
Many experienced cramping and a dehydrated Japanese rider was taken away on a
stretcher after collapsing at the finish.
"Everybody knew it would be bad,'' Sydor said. "We only see this type
of heat and humidity a couple times a year. I felt uncomfortable from start to
Sydor will take a short holiday and then return to the World Cup
the series final in Hawaii in September. Then she's off to Australia
two weeks later to defend her world championship title.