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Chinese women mountain bikers eye golden breakthrough
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As Chinese Olympic cycling gold hopeful Guo Shuang only claimed a bronze on the track at Beijing Games, Chinese mountain bikers took up the responsibility to make a cycling golden breakthrough on home soil.

Two women bikers will take the mission with Ren Cheng Yuan the favorite to make the podium as she won China's first ever World Cup Series title in Switzerland last year and finished runner-up at the under-23 event of the world championships in England.

"Competing in the Olympics, my goal is very clear. That is to win at least a medal for my country. Of course, I hope that will be a golden one, " Ren told Xinhua last week.

She was joined by teammate Liu Ying, who pocketed another World Cup title in Slovenia and won the "Good Luck Beijing" international invitational competition on the Olympic track.

The Chinese girls will face ferocious challenge from Russian veteran Irina Kalentieva, German Sabine Spitz and Canadian Marie- Helene Premont on the Laoshan course.

For the men's edition, defending Olympic champion Julien Absalon of France will be the favorite to claim the gold. A winner of four consecutive world championships from 2004 to 2007 and with 13 career World Cup titles, Absalon boasts excellent descending skills to supplement his big motor ability to surmount climbs.

Veteran Roul Paulissen of Belarus, Athens silver medalist Jose Antonio Hermida will pose some challenge to the French man, while Atlanta gold medallist Bat Brentjens of the Netherland and the under-23 world champion Yuriy Trofimov of Russia should not be overlooked.

Chinese mountain biker Ji Jianhua will make his Olympic debut on home soil. However, Chinese men bikers still lagged far behind their European counterparts, the Asian champion even did not finish last year's "Good Luck Beijing" competition. For Ji, winning a medal or even entering into the last eight will be a difficult task.

Thirty women and 50 men will race on Aug. 22 and 23 respectively, competing in a series of laps on a 4.5-kilometre loop.

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)

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