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Tuesday, September 26, 2000


Finishing for fallen friend

Hughes toughs out women's road race

By RYAN PYETTE -- Winnipeg Sun
 SYDNEY -- She finished for Nicole.

 Freezing from the cold, hard rain that pounded down most of the race, exhausted from the effort, and stuck in 43rd place, 10:18 behind the winner, Winnipeg cycling star Clara Hughes crossed the finish line of the women's road race yesterday and paid tribute to the friend who couldn't be here.

 Last week, the Canadian cyclist learned her good friend Nicole Reinhart, a colleague from Mertztown, Penn., was killed tragically when she was thrown from her bike and struck a tree during a race in Boston.

 "I'm just really happy I finished, I wanted to do that for her," said the 28-year-old Hughes, who quit the sport after winning double bronze in Atlanta, but rediscovered her passion in time for Sydney. "It was a real easy day to quit, and every other girl that was riding with me did quit.

 "But I kept going, and I feel good about that.

 "I guess just to finish on a day like this, that's the Spirit of the Olympics, so I'm really happy."

 Hughes started well in the 120-kilometre, seven-lap race that began and ended near the cricket field and football stadium in downtown Sydney.

 About one lap in, a heavy rain began and continued for the remainder of the race. Hughes was as high as seventh after lap three, and she actually took the lead for a moment, but she flatted a tire, had to pull over, and never returned to the pack.

 "I just didn't have the legs," said Hughes. "Some days you do, and some you don't, and I could tell really early that I didn't. But I was still able to get up to the front again and help Genevieve (fellow Canadian rider Jeanson) move up.

 "And once the rain started, that was it.

 "And then I flatted (the tire) in lap four. I just hope the other girls (Jeanson and Lyne Bessette) are happy with their race."

 Dutch rider Leontien Zijlaard sure is.

 She won the gold in 3:06.31, while Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany took silver, and Lithuania's Diana Ziliute captured bronze.

 Jeanson, the 19-year-old wonderkid from Lachine, Que., suffered a fall on the first lap, but she worked herself back into the pack, and gave herself a chance to win in the final 500-metres.

 So did Hughes' Saturn teammate of Lac Brome, Que., 25-year-old Lyne Bessette, who actually took the lead for 20 seconds on the final lap.

 But when the pack made its final dash to the line, Jeanson finished 11th, and Bessette was 22nd.

 Hughes is looking for a comeback in the time trial Saturday.

 "I've had days where I was brutal in the road race and then great in the time trial, so I'm not worried about that," she said. "I'm lucky. I get another chance. Some people never do." Like her friend Nicole







reprinted with permission

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