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SuperBikes Make Quit Exit From Olympics

July 26, 1996

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) _ The bikes were super. The people riding them weren’t.

The U.S. team was on the verge of being shut out of the Olympic medals Friday despite having the SuperBike, a high-tech creation that’s considered the best bike in the world.

The pursuit team was ousted in shocking fashion along with Rebecca Twigg, who ditched her SuperBike after a disappointing individual pursuit race on Thursday but fared no better on a conventional bike.

The Americans couldn’t figure it out.

``We had better preparation both physiologically and technologically than any team out there,″ cyclist Mike McCarthy said. ``Project ’96 was absolutely the golden egg for us.″

Instead, it turned out to be a golden dud.

``The goals we set for ourselves required us to ride on such a fine line between being super and being nothing,″ McCarthy said. ``It was basically an all-or-nothing situation, and maybe we just fell on that nothing side of the line.″

The SuperBike II was part of Project ’96, a training and technology program designed to reverse the long history of poor performances by the Americans in international competitions.

U.S. cyclists were ranked 11th in the world when the first-generation SuperBike was introduced in 1994. At the 1995 world championships, the team moved up to No. 3.

Other countries have developed their own versions of SuperBike, but the American bike was considered superior because of its ultra-slim carbon-fiber frame.

But, like auto racing, what really counts in cycling is the engine _ the athlete. In Atlanta, the U.S. cyclists have been a major disappointment.

On heavier frames, the Russians broke the Olympic record in the men’s team pursuit with a time of 4 minutes, 8.785 seconds. The old mark was 4:08.791 set by Germany in 1992.

Italy’s Antonella Bellutti, who set an Olympic record in the women’s individual pursuit on Thursday, broke it again in the quarterfinals with a time of 3:32.371.

Only two of 11 Americans remain in contention for a cycling track medal: Marty Nothstein, of Trexlertown, Pa., in the sprints and Brian McDonough, of Winston-Salem, N.C., in the points race.

The pursuit team, which finished third at the world championships last year, was a disappointing sixth in qualifying and was eliminated in the quarterfinals by world-record holder Australia, which won the silver four years ago.

Only Adam Laurent of Shell Beach, Calif., had a good ride on a team that also included Mariano Friedick of Colorado Springs, McCarthy of New York City and Dirk Copeland of San Diego.

Twigg, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who won the bronze in Barcelona and the world championship last year in world-record time, switched back to her own Hooker bike but still lost to Germany’s Judith Arndt.

The remaining Americans both ride conventional bicycles, although Nothstein’s is a modified version of SuperBike, which was designed more for pursuit races.

``I feel better mentally knowing I’m getting on the fastest bike in the world,″ he said. ``If you have to go to a drag race, you wouldn’t want to do it in a Volkswagen bug. You’d want to do it in a Ferrari.″

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