Juli Furtado can be awesome. Juli Furtado can fall apart.
Which one shows up today in the woods of Conyers, Ga., will largely determine who goes down in history as winner of the inaugural Olympic mountain bike race.
“The bugaboo that has followed Juli around has been her inability to come through for a one-day race,” says Geoff Drake, editor of Bicycling magazine. “She seems to run out of steam toward the end of the year.”
Furtado, however, has enjoyed success in July, though she is not happy about being a favorite in the women’s race.
“It would almost be better not to be favored,” she said. “Then I could enjoy it more.”
Furtado has her share of worries. The mountain bike site lacks the steep power climbs she loves.
In fact, it better favors world champion Alison Sydor of Canada.
Still, a lot of people are expecting Furtado to pull the U.S. cycling team out of its Olympic doldrums.
“I’ve seen Juli excel on every kind of course there is,” said U.S. mountain biker Susan DeMattei. “She’s the best all-around rider I’ve ever seen. When she’s on, she’s on, and she’s really hard to beat.”
What she’s been on a lot are the pages of Newsweek, the New York Times, etc. Her surgery-scarred knee has been immortalized by photographer Annie Liebovitz. The photo is on display at the Swatch Pavilion in Centennial Olympic Park.
Furtado became the sport’s covergirl after a remarkable 1993 season - she won almost every race around - after a disastrous accident in a ‘92 downhill race. But she’s been spotty since.