By Jean-François Quénet in Adelaide, Australia
There must have been some confusion at the Finnish cycling federation about the Olympic qualification via the ProTour ranking. Although the game remains open for the women's road race until the end of May, the 145 starting spots for the men were allocated to the different countries at the end of October last year. Still, some officials in Finland asked their only two ProTour riders, Jussi Veikkanen and Kjell Carlström, to ride the Tour Down Under with the ambition of scoring qualifying points.
Finland has in fact qualified one rider for the individual time trial, but only athletes who enter either the road, mountain bike, track or BMX races can take part in the time trial, and the Scandinavian country hasn't secured any spot for the road race.
Veikkanen was replaced at the last minute by Tom Stubbe at Française des Jeux since he almost broke a scaphoid while training before Christmas. But Carlström made his way to Adelaide still with the idea - if not the certainty - that scoring points at the Tour Down Under could eventually qualify his country for Beijing. His Liquigas team lined him up in Australia upon his request.
"I'm used to race in this country anyway", he shrugged on the start line in Mawson Lakes. "I never rode the Tour Down Under before but I did Melbourne to Warnaambol, the Sun Tour, the Tour of Queensland - I won a stage there with Amore e Vita -and the Tour of Tasmania where I finished second on GC and won a stage in 2006. Australia is very suitable to me."
The rider from the North actually loves the South. "Unfortunately I got a bit of a cold while training in Italy last week. I kept going because of this possibility to qualify for the Olympics and also because I'm convinced I can do well in a stage here - but not in one of the two first ones that I believe to end in bunch sprints, something I'm not good at." Carlström is known for being a dedicated domestique in Grand Tours, but this season he doesn't know yet if he'll do his favourite job at the Giro d'Ialia or at the Tour de France again like he did in the past few years.