Aug 08 French icon Longo-Ciprelli cycling in Beijing

Aug. 08, 2008, 8:02 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) At almost 50, French icon Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli is not yet ready to retire her bike.

The grande dame of cycling is in Beijing for her seventh Olympics, riding in both the road race and time trial.

"If I come back from China with a medal, I will be very pleased," said Longo-Ciprelli, after a training session ahead of Sunday's road race - a 126.4-kilometer (78.37-mile) route that starts near Tiananmen Square and passes the Forbidden City and other Beijing landmarks before concluding with two laps on a loop course along the Great Wall.

The French veteran's first trip to the Olympics came at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, almost a decade before she won gold for road cycling in Atlanta in 1996. Longo-Ciprelli also holds 55 French titles and is a nine-time world champion, although not since 1995.

She prepared for Beijing's heat and humidity by training in the steamy mountains near Denver, Colorado, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

"I'm not afraid of the heat," she said.

The women's time trials - over the 23.8-kilometer (14.8-mile) loop course - take place on Wednesday.

Longo-Ciprelli, who turns 50 in October, faces tough competition on Sunday despite the absence of the road race world champion, Marta Bastianelli.

Bastianelli tested positive for a banned stimulant during July's under-23 European championships in northern Italy and has been dropped from the Italian team. She has denied knowingly taking the drug, but has acknowledged taking a slimming product that contained the banned substance.

Marianne Vos of the Netherlands is targeting gold in three events - the road race, the time trial and the points race on the track. Other top contenders include German rider Judith Arndt and Kristin Armstrong of the United States, as well as 2004 gold medalist Sara Carrigan of Australia.

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