Holden's world gold makes up for silver in Sydney

Mari Holden, of the United States, sped to the first world title of her career when she won the women's time-trial yesterday.

Mari Holden, of the United States, sped to the first world title of her career when she won the women's time-trial yesterday.

Holden, the silver medallist at the Sydney Olympics last month, clocked a time of 33min 14sec to beat the Frenchveteran Jeannie Longo by four seconds. Lithuania's RasaPolikeviciute came in third, 43 seconds behind the 42-year-old Frenchwoman.

Holden was the dominant figure on the 25-kilometre (15.6-mile) circuit ending in the tiny Brittany city of Plouay, particularly with the double world champion and Olympic gold medallist, Leontien Zijlaard of the Netherlands, absent. "I knew it was very close with Longo but I dreamed to race against her again," said the 29-year-old Holden.

The absence of many big names will give France's Laurent Jalabert a great chance of winning today's senior time-trial for the second time.

The double Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong,decided to skip the season's last event to take some rest, while Germany's Olympic road-race champion, Jan Ullrich, pulled out of a defence of his time-trial world title with a facial injury after crashing in Sunday's Paris-Tours classic. Russia's Vyatchelas Ekimov showed no interest in another race after winning the Olympic time-trial gold and the out-of-form Swiss rider Alex Zülle also stayed away.

Jalabert, who eclipsed many specialists in the event in San Sebastian in 1997, looks at his best after finishing an impressive fifth in Sydney. "Obviously I'm aiming at a place on the podium. I was in the same shape at the Games and I feel I can do better here," the former world No 1 said. "I know the circuit and it suits me."

The technical course runs 48km (30 miles) around this tiny Brittany town. "There are a lot of little climbs and curves with some changes in the rhythm. It suits me more than wide flat roads," Jalabert said.

"With all the favourites out, the time-trial is open and I'm certain there is something good to do here. I only fear guys like Abraham Olano, who is always tough to beat. But I feel confident and serene."

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