WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) _ Linda Brenneman surprised herself by finishing third in the first time trial of the U.S. Olympic women’s cycling trials. Then she finished first in the opening road race.
Brenneman, who retired from racing to have a baby two seasons ago, said she must win the point standings to be assured of one of the three slots because she was unsure coach Henny Topp would choose her.
``That’s the only automatic. That’s the only way of making the team,″ she said. ``It’s better that way.″
The top 20 finishers in each of the five events receive points. The rider with the most points automatically qualifies for the team. Topp picks the other two team members.
Brenneman, 30, of Dana Point, Calif., fended off Jeanne Golay and Karen Bliss Livingston to lead a pack of 38 racers across the finish line Thursday night to win the opening 47-mile road race.
Golay, 34, of Glenwood Springs, Colo., said she could not catch Brenneman on the final sprint because she did not have her speed after returning from a grueling race series in Europe.
``I’m feeling better, but there’s still no snap in my legs,″ said Golay, who finished sixth in Tuesday’s time trials in Martinsburg.
Brenneman leads in the overall standings with 87 points, followed by Golay with 66. Alison Dunlap, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo., who finished fourth in Martinsburg, has 56 points.
Mari Holden, 25, of Colorado Springs, who finished first in Martinsburg, was far back after equipment problems. She maintains 50 points from her first-place finish Tuesday.
From Wheeling, the racers move to Pittsburgh for a 44-mile road race Sunday. The women finish with a pair of races in North Carolina that wrap up June 1 in Boiling Spring.
Team Saturn finished with three winners in the top five. Besides Brenneman and Livingston, of Gainesville, Fla., fifth-place winner Julie Young of Auburn, Calif., is a team member. Laura Charameda of Indianapolis finished fourth.
The race course consisted of a hilly 4.7-mile route with several hard turns that the cyclists repeated 10 times.
Suicide Hill, a staple of past Kmart Classic road races in Wheeling, was removed from the course this year. The biggest hill was a 60-foot rise in the first mile of the course.