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BARBADOS - cycling

Forde Sees Road To Medal

- Monday 23, August-2004

Barry Forde: Barbados' last medal hope.Barry Forde: Barbados' last medal hope.

ATHENS – Against the odds, Barbadian Barry Forde is through to the final eight of the men’s match sprint here at the Athens Olympic Games, but he took the long, hard road to get there.

While others needed just one ride to advance, Forde was forced to go through the repechage of both the Round of 16 and Round of 8 to meet up with the top boys in today’s quarter-finals at 5:05 p.m. (10:05 a.m. Eastern Caribbean Time), proving he is among the best in the world.

“I actually made it. It was a hard road to come,” he said. “I am happy. Coming the hard way through the reps all the time isn’t easy. Three-ups are hard and I had some hard heats.

“Coming up against these countries at this level, everyone is really hungry. The competition is stiff and there is no room for mistakes.

“All of the riders who have come this far are really strong. It is just a matter of who draws the right position and when the speed is high it is hard to pass.”

Only his best will get him into the semifinals, coming up against the No. 1 seed, Australian Ryan Bayley. The other quarter-finalists are world champion Theo Bos of The Netherlands, Edgar Ross of Great Britain, Rene Wolff of Germany, Poland’s Damian Zielinski, Frenchmen Laurent Gant and Mikael Bourgain.

In the morning, he qualified with a time of 10.597 seconds, riding at No. 3. This unfortunately placed him at No. 13 of the 18 riders, and he came up against England’s Ross Edgar in the evening.

Forde stayed back, waiting to move on the final lap, but left himself with too much to do and could not get past, losing on the line by less than half the width of a bicycle wheel.

It was on to the first repechage.

He went on to beat Poland’s Lukasz Kwiatkowski and Stefan Nimke of Germany in 10.731 and he was through to the round of eight.

“Small island, big heart!” screamed a man from the crowd, while the Barbadian contingent which included Barbados Olympic Association top brass Steve Stoute and Erskine Simmons; International Olympic Committee member Austin Sealy, National Sports Council chairman Desmond Haynes, Esther Maynard and Wallace Griffith surged to its feet.

Next up was Germany’s Wolff who had cruised through all of the rounds. This was a race Forde should not have lost, but he allowed Wolff to get the jump on the bell lap with too big a lead which he could not pull back.

It was on to thesecond repechage.

This time, Forde had to get past Teun Mulder of The Netherlands and Spain’s Jose Villanueva who took the early lead.

“The guy that was racing in front [Villanueva] is my training partner I was with in Japan. Both of us have similar styles. We like to come from behind, come late and come hard,” he said.

“I knew he probably wouldn’t want to go from the front coming from a long distance out, and would make someone come out on the top so he could run late and try to pass them at the finish.

“Knowing that, I tried to leave the sprint as late as possible, gamble a little bit. It was the last race. It could have been another day (today) or at that point it was over and call that a day, the Olympics games finished.”

It was a gamble that paid off. Forde took off in the final sprint and there was no catching him. He won in a slow 11.294 seconds, but it was enough.

That was a fitting end to the night’s cycling, and the appreciative crowd roared at the tactics and speed of the man from a country some of them had never heard about.

“This year has been a really difficult year. Going to Japan and not being able to train as much as I should, going to Worlds and having a crash then having to take a month off in the middle of the season. Right now I am a little down on preparation. I am not at my best, my form is better than last year, but it could still be better.”

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