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A crash in the first 300 metres of a race is the stuff of nightmares for any bike rider – and that?s exactly what happened to Liam Killeen in the Olympic MTB race on Saturday.

In a frantic start to the 35.6 kilometre event, Killeen was threading his way through to the front when he touched a wheel briefly with another rider.

It was only the slightest of crashes, but it had a snowball effect, sending him into what he called ?a bit of a gully.? and then crashing out completely.

?It was one of those things in bike racing, one minute you?re upright, the next you?re on the floor.? the Londoner said later.

?I just had a very unfortunate first 300 metres. I was trying to battle through to the front, when all the other guys are trying to do the same.?

?I guess I just touched wheels early on, went into a gully and went over the bars.?

?That wasn?t the worst thing: my bars were twisted, I had to ride to the pits, the mechanic had to work on the bike and it was just mentally a little bit frustrating.?

48th after the first lap, Killeen then gained between three and nine places per lap, moving his way up to seventh.

It was a superb performance – and one very reminiscent of Athens, where he also crashed early on but then clawed his way back into contention, finally finishing fifth. As Killeen said, a podium ride would have been possible – had he not had that nightmare start.

Riding on a course that did him no favours whatsoever, five-times national champi Oli? Beckingsale turned in a steady, incident-free ride that took him through to 12th place – although at one point he was lying 10th overall.

?I took it steady, rode at my own pace, the distance we had to do meant you almost rode one notch back.? Beckingsale said.

?I caught [Jose Antonio] Hermida [of Spain] and [Manuel] Fumic [of Germany] on that last lap, tried to get past Fumic on the switchback, cocked it up, had to get back on again and then lost them and then went back to twelfth.?

?That?s the only thing I?m a little bit annoyed about, being 10th, and dropping back to 12th. But other than that, I think it went all right.?

The race was finally won by Frenchman Julien Absalon, the 2004 Olympic champion and four times World Champion who went clear alone after two of the eight lap course.

The gap stretched inexorably as Absalon had one of his usual faultless performances on a very technical, if fairly dry course through dense woodland.

He finally finished over a minute ahead of team-mate Jean Christophe Peraud – the second time in 24 hours that France had taken gold and silver in a cycling event at Beijing.

OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: MEN’S MTB CROSS-COUNTRY

1. Julien Absalon (Fra) 35.6km in 01hr 55min 59sec


2. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) at 1min 07sec

3. Nino Schurter (Swi) at 1min 53sec

4. Christophe Sauser (Swi) at 1min 55sec

5. Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) at 4min 00 sec

6. Christophe Soukup (Aut) at 4min 12sec

7. Liam Killeen (GB) at 4min 15sec

8. Iñaki Lejaretta (Spa) at 4min 22sec

9. Sven Nys (Bel) at 5min 01sec

10. Jose Antonio Hermida (Spa) at 5min 02sec

British

12. Oliver Beckingsale (GB) at 5min 26sec

SPITZ TAKES WOMEN’S GOLD

A bronze medallist in 2004, Germany’s Sabine Spitz took the Olympic title with a dominant display in the women’s cross-country mountain bike event.

Maja Wloszezowska (Poland) came in 41 seconds behind Spitz to take silver, with Russia’s Irina Kalentieva securing bronze.

Several of the pre-race favourites – including defending champion Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Norway) – did not finish the race due to mechanical problems or due to suffering with the stifling Beijing heat.

OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: WOMEN’S MTB CROSS-COUNTRY

1. Sabine Spitz (Ger) in 1hr 45min 11secs


2. Maja Wloszezowska (Pol) at 41secs

3. Irina Kalentieva (Rus) at 1min 17secs

4. Catharine Pendrel (Can) at 1min 26secs

5. Chengyuan Ren (Chi) at 2min 29secs

OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: TRACK

Track day five in pictures

Track day five summary

Wiggins and Cav miss out in Madison

Gold for Hoy and Pendleton, silver for Kenny

Track day four in pictures

Preview: Day five at the Laoshan

Brad on Cav: He’s like a schoolkid he’s so up for it

Day four as it happened: Team pursuit gold and another world record

Day three summary: Gold for Romero. Pendleton, Hoy in charge in sprints. Kenny the revelation

From rower to cyclist: Romero takes an emotional gold

Brits smash world team pursuit record in round one

Tough day for the Dutch

Preview: Monday at the Laoshan

Day two in pictures

Sunday’s action as it happened

Preview: Sunday at the Laoshan

Day two at the track: Summary of the action

Hoy and Edgar clean up in the Keirin

Wiggins gets pursuit gold, Burke wins bronze

Newton storms to bronze in points race

Saturday’s action as it happened: Two gold, a silver and two bronze for Britain

Blog: Life in Laoshan

Day one in pictures

Brits blast to team sprint gold

Day one at the track: Summary of the action

Friday’s action as it happened: Gold for team sprint trio; Wiggins, Houvenaghel and Romero well in control

Burke blasts to new individual pursuit PB

British track stars raring to go

What makes the Laoshan such a challenge

Picture special: CW takes you inside the Laoshan velodrome

Saturday’s preview

Friday’s preview

Can these legs make an Olympic champion?

Cavendish unlikely to ride individual pursuit

How many medals will Britain’s riders win?

OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: NEWS

Cooke and Thomas to get heroes’ welcome in Wales

Positive test for cyclist at Olympic Games

Bettini chasing second Olympic gold

Romero poses nude for ad

British quartet eyeing new world record

As Olympics approach two new drugs emerge

Beijing Blog

Beijing Blog 2

Beijing Blog 3

OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: ROAD

Picture special: Women’s time trial

Cancellara wins men’s time trial gold

Men’s time trial reaction: Steve Cummings on his ride

Women’s time trial reaction: I feel fantastic, says Pooley

Pooley wins silver in women’s time trial

Cooke’s secret was the skinsuit

What the papers say… about Nicole Cooke

Analysis: women’s road race

Gold for Nicole Cooke in Women?s road race

Reaction: It?s a dream to win Gold, says Cooke

Women’s Olympic road race picture special

Sanchez gives Spain gold in thrilling men?s road race

Who is Samuel Sanchez?

Tactical analysis: Reading the men?s Olympic road race

British riders suffer in hot and humid Olympic road race

Rebellin misses out on golden birthday

Brailsford confident ahead of women?s road race

OLYMPIC GAMES 2008: GUIDE

Olympic Games 2008 homepage>>

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Track results at the Worlds and Olympics 2004-2008