Sydor leads Canadian mountain bike team to Athens 

Germany only country to send more mountain bikers to Olympics

A strong World Cup season with two podium appearances boosted North Vancouver’s Alison Sydor to the top of the list of 12 cyclists who will represent Canada in Athens in August.

She is currently ranked fourth overall in the UCI World Cup standings, and hasn’t finished outside of the top-10 all season.

This will be Sydor’s fourth Olympic appearance. In 1992 she finished 12 th in the women’s road race. In Atlanta in 1996 she won a silver medal in the first off-road bike event ever held at the Games. In 2000 she finished fifth in Sydney.

During that period she has won 12 world championship medals, and was considered from the beginning to be an automatic selection to the team by the Canadian Cycling Association. The CCA released its Olympic roster on July 19.

Sydor will be joined by Marie-Helene Premont of Chateau-Richler, Quebec, the 2004 national champion and one of Canada’s top World Cup racers is ninth overall in UCI standings. Kiara Bisaro of Courtney, B.C. – formerly of Whistler – is the third rider selected to the team and sits eighth overall. For both Premont and Bisaro, it will be their first appearance in the Olympic Games.

The men’s team will be comprised of Victoria’s Ryder Hesjedal, currently ranked 19 th in the world, and Seamus McGrath of Millgrove, Ontario, who is ranked 38 th . Roland Green, a two-time world champion and the 2003 national champion, only finished one World Cup race this year, in 29 th place.

Only five Canadians will compete in mountain biking at Athens. According to the UCI, based on world and Continental Cup rankings, Canada has qualified two men and three women this year, which is down from six athletes in 2000. A total of 50 men and 30 women from 34 different countries will take part.

Only Germany qualified a full six mountain bike athletes for the Games. Switzerland and Canada have five each, and the other 31 countries represented have four qualifiers or less. Only two men and one woman from the U.S. will race this year.

The Olympic course, at the Parnitha Olympic Mountain Bike Venue, is not technical enough to be an advantage for the Canadian riders, but Mount Parnitha features long climbs and fast descents on hard-packed dirt that will favour strong legs.

In the women’s race the undisputed favourite is Gunn-Rita Dahle of Norway, who is undefeated on the World Cup circuit this year. For the men it’s a toss-up between Bart Brentjens of The Netherlands and Filip Meirhaeghe and Roel Paulissen of Belgium.

In addition to five mountain bikers, Canada will be sending seven road and track cyclists to Athens this year.

On the track, Canada will be represented by Lori-Ann Muenzer of Edmonton, a bronze medal winner at the 2004 World Championships and national champion.

On the road the team includes Michael Barry of Toronto, Gord Fraser of Ottawa, Eric Wohlberg of Levack, Ontario for the men and Lyne Bessette of Knowlton, Quebec, Susan Palmer-Komar of Hamilton, Ontario and Mamon Jutras of Montreal.

The mountain bike events will take place in the last days of the Games with races on Aug. 27 and 28. Road events take place Aug. 14 to 18, and track events from Aug. 20 to 26.

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