Sydor finishes fifth in Sydney
SYDNEY (CP) -- There is a lot of racing left in Alison Sydor.
After finishing fifth in the women's Olympic cross-country cycling race, the 34-year-old Vancouver mountain biker wasn't talking retirement. She was talking as if she might go on forever.
"I'll be back next year very motivated and ready to do some damage again," she said.
Italian Paola Pezzo, 31, remains the only woman to win the women's mountain biking gold at the Games. She also won when the event was added to the 1996 Olympic calendar. Sydor took the silver four years ago, but she'd been weakened by a cold in the lead-up to the 2000 Games.
Pezzo's time for the 40.5 kilometres was one hour 49 minutes 24.38 seconds. Sydor finished two minutes 55 seconds behind.
Magpies swooped at riders at clearings on the heavily-wooded course on a farm 20 kilometres west of the city.
"It's part of the Sydney flavour," Sydor said with a chuckle.
Barbara Blatter of Switzerland won silver, and Margarita Fullana of Spain was left with bronze after losing the lead when she crashed on the third of the five 8.1-kilometre laps.
Chrissy Redden of Campbellville, Ont., was eighth, and Lesley Tomlinson of North Vancouver 19th.
The men's race is next (10 p.m. EDT Saturday, CBC). Roland Green of Victoria, currently ranked No. 7, and Geoff Kabush of Courtenay, B.C., will represent Canada.
Sydor was ill last week, and it didn't help her chances.
"I got off the plane pretty sick," she said. "My first week here was a really tough week.
"There's only so much training you can do to make things up. It was a pretty difficult lead-up for me, the last three weeks, for sure. I had some bad luck with my health. But I'm happy with myself. I never gave up trying. I did everything right that I could do. I gave everything I could. I never quit until I crossed the line."
The 30 women who raced were seeded into a starting grid according to their current world ranking. Blatter was the No. 1 seed and Sydor was No. 2. Pezzo was ranked 21st.
Pezzo waved an Italian flag and blew kisses to the crowd as she came into the finish chute. After crossing the line, she dropped from her pink bike and kissed the ground.
"It's been a long four years, a long trip to get here physically and mentally," said Pezzo. "It's a miracle I've won."
Nearly 20,000 lined the course.
After one lap, Blatter led and Fullana was a close second. Next came Pezzo, Alison Dunlap of the United States, Alla Epifanova of Russia and Sydor, who was 27 seconds behind the leader.
After two laps, Blatter and Fullana remained 1-2, Epifanova moved up to third, followed by Pezzo, Dunlap and Sydor, who now was 55 seconds back of the leader.
"I had a carrot to chase and then it was gone," Sydor said.
Fullana passed Blatter on an incline early on the third lap, and Sydor moved up to fifth place. At the end of the third circuit, it was Fullana, Blatter, Pezzo, Epifanova and Sydor, who had fallen a minute and 14 seconds behind the leader.
On a rutted turn in woods, Pezzo drew even with Fullana, and Fullana's bike caught a rut and went down on the curve. Fullana scrambled back onto the bike, but she'd lost the lead -- for good as it turned out. Pezzo led the rest of the way.
At the end of four laps, Sydor was still fifth, but she was 1:50.87 behind the leader.
Sydor began racing competitively eight years ago. She won the world championship in 1994, 1995 and 1996, was fourth in 1997, third in 1998, and second in 1999.
She'll take a much-deserved break now.
"I'm glad I have a week to enjoy the Olympics in a sport-crazy country like Australia," Sydor said.
The race was run at the Fairfield City Farm, a petting zoo where koala bears, emus, sheep and goats normally roam.
SYDNEY (AP) -- Results Saturday from the cycling competition at the Summer Olympics:
1, Paola Pezzo, Italy, 1:49:24.38, 19.58.
2, Barbara Blatter, Switzerland, 1:49:51.42.
3, Margarita Fullana, Spain, 1:49:57.39.
4, Alla Epiphanova, Russia, 1:50:45.43.
5, Alison Sydor, Canada, 1:52:19.32.
6, Mary Grigson, Australia, 1:53:22.57.
7, Alison Dunlap, Colorado Springs, 1:53:53.05.
8, Chrissy Redden, Canada, 1:54:07.38.
9, Sabine Spitz, Germany, 1:54:46.49.
10, Ruth Matthes, Durango, Colo., 1:55:16.08.
11, Chantal Daucourt, Switzerland, 1:56:49.53.
12, Caroline Alexander, Britain, 1:56:50.62.
13, Hedda Zu Putlitz, Germany, 1:58:19.65.
14, Silvia Rovira, Spain, 1:58:59.37.
15, Louise Robinson, Britain, 1:59:23.27.
16, Ann Trombley, Golden, Colo., 1:59:43.12.
17, Corine Dorland, Netherlands, 1:59:59.36.
18, Laurence Leboucher, France, 2:00:38.89.
19, Lesley Tomlinson, Canada, 2:00:44.08.
20, Jimena Florit, Argentina, 2:00:49.05.
21, Anna Baylis, Australia, 2:00:53.20.
22, Ragnhild Kostoel, Norway, 2:01:51.24.
23, Sophie Villeneuve, France, 2:02:31.71.
24, Flor Marina Delgadillo, Colombia, 2:03:17.10.
25, Erica Lynn Green, South Africa, 2:03:32.37.
26, Hiroko Nambu, Japan, 2:06:13.88.
27, Alexandra Ka-Wah Yeung, Hong Kong, 2:11:29.79.
28, Ma Yanping, China, LAP.
29, Tarja Owens, Ireland, LAP.
NR, Susy Pryde, New Zealand, DNF.