Rand surprises Olympic hopefuls

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Dave Rand overshadowed Britain's Olympic hopefuls with a surprise victory in the British road race championship here yesterday. "I cannot believe it," he said after shooting between Andy Naylor and David Cook to take the title after 140 miles.

Neither could many others, but it was a day for surprises. Those in contention for the final place on the plane to Atlanta were missing from the top placings. Instead, it gave fresh hope to tiros like the 22-year-old Rand who was in a breakaway group after the first seven miles.

They put more than five minutes between themselves and Chris Boardman, six days away from his Tour de France start. The Olympic champion graced the line-up but retired after 100 miles. His decision was aided by going off-course for a mile just when he was starting a lone chase.

"It was a daft way to go out," he said, "but I was told not to do too much because I have not got the time to recover before the Tour. The race marshals just stood there and I looked back to see if anyone was going to say anything because I was not sure if I was on course. A motorcycle marshal eventually came after me and I lost about two minutes, but it's no big disaster."

Boardman's plan for the day was a final workout for his three weeks of toil on the Tour. He got what he wanted and left satisfied.

As a final selection race for Atlanta it seemed a non-event. Matt Stephens chased home in 10th place and said: "I am very disappointed with today, but I feel I've done enough to get selection."

Malcolm Elliott, who had come from his base in the United States to fight for the final spot, was a disconsolate also-ran on a day when many top riders were expected to show their worth.

The move that undermined selection dreams originally comprised 18 riders, but as they entered Abergavenny to begin 10 circuits on a 5.5-mile course the number dwindled. Then, with two laps remaining, Rand, Naylor and Cook opened a gap of 15 seconds on their other co leaders.

Of the Atlanta selections, John Tanner and Brian Smith made it into the first nine.

LAFARGE-PRICE BRITISH ROAD RACE CHAMPIONSHIP (Abergavenny, 140 miles): 1 D Rand (Team Energy) 5hr 32min 18sec; 2 A Naylor (Wembley-Butler) 1 length behind; 3 D Cook (Middridge CRT) +1sec; 4 S Bray (Team Energy) +10; 5 I Gilkes (Parker International) +12; 6 J Tanner (Gill-Peugeot); 7 M Lovatt (Optimum Performance); 8 J Charlesworth (Giro-Unijet); 9 B Smith (Team Plymouth); 10 M Stephens (North Wirral-Kodak all +1min 19sec.

n Mariano Rojas Gil, a Spanish member of the ONCE team, died yesterday in hospital in the southern Spanish region of Murcia. Rojas, 23, was injured in a traffic accident on Friday when his car collided with a truck.