Brentjens sees off snakes and rivals

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The Independent Online
Bart Brentjens thrived in the clay and granite terrain of Georgia to become the first Dutchman in 24 years to win an Olympic cycling gold, writes Robin Nicholl.

He dominated yesterday's 47 kilometres in the mountain bike race, as expected of a world champion, to win with two minutes and 35 seconds to spare over Switzerland's Thomas Frischknecht. Miguel Martinez gave France the bronze.

Brentjens, the tallest competitor at 6ft 2in, stands 10 inches higher than Martinez but, apart from bikes, they have a common factor. Brentjens is trained by Gert Jan Theunisse, who won the mountains title in the 1989 Tour de France, and Martinez's father Mariano.

This race in the Georgia International Horse Park marked the Olympic debut of mountain biking but the Americans who pushed for this sport to be included in the programme were way off the medal pace over the arid land where snakes, appropriately known as black racers, came out in the sun.

Britain's best rider was Gary Foord, who finished in 12th place, nearly 12 and a half minutes behind Brentjens.

Today, Max Sciandri can lift British hopes in the 222km road race where the best in world racing clash over the Buckhead circuit on the city outskirts. Born in Derby of an Italian father, Sciandri, frustrated at not winning Italian selection for the World Championships, exercised his birthright and took out a British racing licence.

Selection followed and today he is Britain's best hope of a medal on a course where good luck and timing rather than team tactics will score. His Motorola team-mate Lance Armstrong calls it "a one shot deal" for nearly 200 medal seekers, including the five times Tour De France winner, Miguel Indurain. The Spaniard was a non-finisher in the Los Angeles Olympics road race but returns to this medal hunt a wiser and much stronger opponent.