August 28, 2004 – Todd Wells (Durango, Colo.) equaled the best performance ever by an American male in the cross country mountain bike event at the Olympic Games this afternoon, placing 19th. His teammate in Athens, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Boulder, Colo.), finished 21st to close out the cycling events at the Olympics.
The 43.3km race was won by Julien Absalon (FRA) who gave France its second consecutive Olympic gold medal after Miguel Martinez claimed the Olympic title four years ago in Sydney. Absalon clocked a time of 2:15:02 to finish one minute ahead of silver medalist Jose Antonio Hermida (ESP) and 2:03 up on 1996 gold medalist, Bart Brentjens (NED).
Faced with seven laps of a six-kilometer circuit around the Mt. Parnitha Mountain Bike Venue, the 52-rider field was at full throttle from the gun and the intense pace created a natural selection that saw Absalon, Hermida, Brentjens, Martinez, Marco Bui (ITA), and Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) in command at the front of the race after just 12 kilometers.
“I was shocked at how fast the pace was from the start,” explained Horgan-Kobelski.
Behind, the American duo had already surrendered nearly two minutes to the leaders.
At the completion of lap four, it became a three-rider race as Peraud, Bui, and Martinez fell off the pace leaving Brentjens, Hermida and Absalon left to duel it out for the medals. One lap later, Absalon had shed the others and rode the remaining two laps by himself on his way to the gold medal.
Eyeing top-20 finishes, Wells and Horgan-Kobelski maintained their positions out on the course, Wells eventually finishing 19th, 9:35 behind Absalon to equal the 1996 performance of Tinker Juarez in Atlanta for the best male American finish in an Olympic mountain bike event. Horgan-Kobelski crossed the line 10:26 behind the gold medal pace to finish 21st.
“As an athlete, you always want to do better, but today that’s all I had,” commented Wells after the race.
Horgan-Kobelski, the reigning U.S. National Champion, also gave his best effort despite a finish well off the medal pace. “This is the Olympics,” he noted. “I wasn’t going to leave anything out there. I wanted to excel and push myself beyond my limits and I did that.
The men’s mountain bike event concludes all cycling competition at the 2004 Olympic Games. American cyclists leave with three medals, equaling their performance at the 2000 Sydney Games taking gold, silver and bronze. Leading the way was Tyler Hamilton (Marblehead, Mass.) who claimed gold in the men’s time trial. On the same day, Dede Barry (Boulder, Colo.) took silver in the women’s time trial and Bobby Julich (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) brought home the bronze to give the U.S. three medals in one day.