August 4, 2012 / 9:30 PM / 5 years ago

Cycling: Underdog spirit drives Americans to silver

Jennie Reed, Dotsie Bausch and Sarah Hammer of the U.S. compete in the track cycling women's team pursuit first round heats at the Velodrome during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 4, 2012.Cathal McNaughton

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States may be an Olympic superpower but its cyclists accept they are underdogs to Britain's all-conquering riders, the American silver-winning women's pursuit team said on Saturday.

Dotsie Bausch was part of the spirited team that surprisingly made the final at the Olympic velodrome, but gold was never really an option against the British speed machine.

The gold medal showdown was little more than a procession as Britain won by more than five seconds, a huge gap in an Olympic final, taking the hosts' gold medal haul from the track cycling competition so far to four.

Bausch, something of a cycling rarity at 39, described her team mates as "gladiators" but said Britain were in a different league on the polished boards.

Britain, backed by huge investment in elite cycling, won seven track cycling golds in Beijing and the hosts are already halfway to achieving the same in London.

Bausch said no one should be surprised.

"I'm not on the inside of it, so I don't really know how they do it," she told reporters. "Track cycling in Great Britain is like basketball is in the United States.

"The depth of the program, no stone is left unturned. Everything is so detailed. They had three phenomenal athletes today, no doubt, so hats off to them."

While the U.S. track cycling team had six members, the British one had 13, all of them gold medal contenders.

"I think they drew from their men's program," Lauren Tamayo told reporters. "But we have just had to figure it out for ourselves. We couldn't race conventionally. I wouldn't even make the team in Australia."

AMERICAN "GLADIATORS"

The underdog tag applied to the American team is not without good reason.

Bausch is one of life's great survivors, taking up cycling in 1998 to conquer anorexia, recreational drug use and depression.

Team mate Jennie Reed, a keirin specialist, retired after Beijing but returned for the "camaraderie" of team pursuit.

Sarah Hammer quit the sport and was working in a bagel shop in Colorado Springs in 2004 when the Athens Olympics inspired her to return and win four individual pursuit world titles.

"The four of us are the gladiators of women's team pursuit," said Bausch. "We are a real miss-match. We have Sarah who is a four-times world champ and Jenny a keirin champion, and two roadies.

"We just wanted it more these last few days and we fought every pedal stroke, every lap. It's pretty wild to think of the deep richness of the programs in Britain and Australia.

"With us it's just the four ladies."

Reed, who was deprived of her place on the podium after being left out of the final, added: "We don't have a big program behind us, a lot of it was just experimenting.

"When we did 3:16 in the first round, we had never done that in training. It was all fight."

Editing by Matt Falloon

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