France and Germany sizzle, US fizzles, in Olympic mountain biking

Until I look at the results, I'd assume that the US would dominate in mountain biking at the Olympics. Didn't a cast of characters racing down Mt. Tam in Marin County, California, on old bikes launch the modern sport of mountain biking just 30 years ago?

That may be true, but the sport caught fire and spread across the globe so quickly that cyclists from other countries routinely eat our lunch.

That's what happened at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday morning. Two Frenchmen and a Swiss cyclist took all three medals in the men's mountain bike competition; cyclists from Germany, Poland and Russia medaled in women's mountain biking.

US finishers

In the women's race, US cyclists Mary McConneloug and Georgia Gould finished  respectful 7th and 8th places in a field of 30.

In the men's race, the lone male entry from the US US mountain biker Adam Craig was lapped on his last trip around the 2.7-mile cross-country course. He was awarded 29th out of 50 racers. The other US entrant, Todd Wells, was lapped earlier and awarded 43rd place.

Men's race

The winner of the men's race, Julien Absalon, 24, of France, became the first cyclist to win back-to-back mountain bike gold medals in the sport introduced to the Olympics in 1996. He's also a four-time world champion.

He beat countryman Jean-Christophe Peraud over the 22.1-mile, 8-lap course by 1:07. Finishing 3rd, with the bronze, was Nino Schurter of Switzerland, who finished nearly 2 minutes behind Absalon.

In addition to Absalon's golds in 2008 and 2004, a Frenchman won the race in 2000. The Netherlands won in the inaugural race at the 1996 Olympics.

Women's race

Sabine Spitz of Germany took the gold in the women's race, taking the lead in the first of 6 laps and never looked back.

Maja Wloszczowska of Poland finished in second place, 41 seconds behind. Russian Irina Kalentyeva took the bronze by a slim margin over Catharine Pendrel of Canada.

Medal count

The US final tally in cycling events is 1 gold, 1 silver, and 3 bronze out of 18 events in 2008.

Kristin Armstrong won the gold in the cycling time trial for women, and Levi Leipheimer took the bronze in the men's time trial.

Mike Day won the silver in BMX, where Donny Robinson scored the bronze. Seattle's Jill Kintner won a bronze in the women's BMX.

The US was shut out in the 10 track cycling events and mountain biking.

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