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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
Just 24 hours before some of top European road pros get down to business in the hunt for Olympic medals, confusion was the order of the day after the UCI attempted to conduct drug tests on several high profile teams at the Olympic Village in Athens.
According to a report on the T-Mobile Web site, Germans Jan Ullrich, Andreas Klöden, Erik Zabel, Jens Voigt and Michael Rich arrived for the test, but after an hour-long wait it became clear that it wouldn’t take place. It was cancelled because the Italian and Dutch team management objected to the UCI conducting drugs tests at the Olympic Village. Drug testing at the Olympic Games are the responsibility of the IOC. The protest was upheld.
“It has turned our whole schedule upside down,” said German coach Mario Kummer, who later motorpaced Klöden, Rich, Voigt and Zabel over the stretch of Saturday’s road race that loops around the famed Acropolis.
Ullrich didn’t join the others on the dry run, opting instead for two hours indoor training on the rollers. A press conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. was subsequently cancelled.
After lunch and massages, the German riders took a stroll through the Olympic Village. Ullrich was delighted. “There is lots to see,” he said. “Exhibitions, shops, arcades. It is a good place to unwind and that is important.”
All wasn’t good for Ullrich, though. Those who saw him couldn’t help but notice he was sporting a bandage on his right arm. The 2000 Olympic gold medalist suffered the slight injury while training on the Greek Island of Crete. “I overcooked a corner on a training run and have skin grazes in a few places,” he explained. “It looks worse than it actually is.”
Aussie road hopes look strong
The Australian men’s road team is boasting $5 million worth of talent, as they look for a winning start to the Olympics on the streets of Athens on Saturday.
The Australians are fielding one of the strongest teams in the race, and will be spearheaded by Stuart O’Grady and Robbie McEwen. McEwen, the winner of the green sprinter’s jersey in this year’s Tour de France, is 11th on the latest UCI world rankings and O’Grady, who won a World Cup race in Hamburg earlier this month after landing a stage in the Tour de France, is ranked 13th.
Along with Germany, Italy and Spain, The Aussies are considered one of the teams to beat.
“We’ve got one of the best teams in the world and certainly the best team Australia has ever fielded,” team coach Neil Stephens said Friday. “Australia should be very proud these guys are so patriotic and put such a high priority on the Olympic Games.
“If I was to have to sign these guys to ride for me, I’d have to spend $5 million and Australia and I have got them for nothing, riding for the love of country. That’s an enviable position I’m in.
“Stuart and Robbie are two of the top five bike riders in the world at the moment. If Saturday’s race is based on the past, Stuart would be the best rider, but you can’t put all your eggs in that basket. Robbie is one of the world’s best, he’s just won the green jersey.”