ATHENS - Sarah Ulmer's chances of winning the individual pursuit cycling gold may have been enhanced in dramatic circumstances here today when defending champion Leontien Zijlaard Van Moorsel spectacularly crashed out of the road race.

The Dutch legend, who also won the road race and time trial in Sydney 2000, was stretchered off the course and taken to hospital by ambulance after falling on an innocuous stretch of the course near the start-finish line.

It was not immediately known how badly she had been injured but the fall is likely to compromise her preparation for the pursuit qualifying on Saturday. She is also entered in Wednesday's time trial.

Ulmer, who arrives with the track team in Athens tomorrow, was expected to meet Zijlaard Van Moorsel at some point during the pursuit competition, probably in the medal round.

The New Zealander smashed Zijlaard Van Moorsel's four-year-old world mark for the pursuit en route to winning the world championship gold medal at Melbourne late May, but the Dutchwoman had vowed to make amends by undertaking a training regime concentrating on the track and time trial.

Zijlaard Van Moorsel, 34, clipped Lyne Bessette's back wheel with two laps of the 118km journey remaining, triggering a mini collapse that also doomed the Canadian, who retired on the penultimate lap.

The Dutchwoman's demise dominated the race won by Australian Sara Carrigan who out-foxed Germany's Judith Ardnt on the final sprint.

Carrigan, who was well supported by Oenone Wood, made her move inside the last kilometre when Ardnt looked the wrong way over her shoulder.

Ardnt was livid to be caught out and raised a middle finger in frustration in Carrigan's direction as she crossed the line seven seconds behind the Australian.

Russian Olga Slyusareva, another of Ulmer's track rivals next week, took the bronze.

New Zealand's Joanne Kiesanowski finished 17th in three hours 25 minutes and 42 seconds -- 1min 18sec down on Carrigan.

Michelle Hyland was the last recorded finisher in 56th, 16min 19sec down on the winner while New Zealand's other team member Melissa Holt withdrew on the sixth lap after suffering cramp.

Kiesanowski, who came into the race ranked 10th on the World Cup standings, said she had no problems with the climate but was annoyed not to finish higher.

"I should probably have been in the top 10 or top 15 so I'm a little frustrated. I'm not happy but I am satisfied."

In practically a carbon copy of the men's race yesterday, New Zealand's leading hope was left to her own devices after support riders Holt and Hyland found the heat and blustery winds too hot to handle.

"I didn't see them after the first two laps. It's a shame but it's okay," she said.

Meanwhile, Julian Dean is looking forward to winding down a hectic road season in France next week.

Dean finished 15th in the men's road race, less than three weeks after completing the arduous Tour de France.

"It's pretty much over now," Dean said of a season that also featured two broken elbows eight weeks before the Tour.

"It's been quite a stressful year with the elbows and the call up to the Tour de France. Then I still had to try and stay focused for this."

The Rotorua rider has signed on for another two years with French pro team Credit Agricole and another crack at the Tour de France is high on the agenda for 2005.

"I want to give the world (road) championships in Madrid a good go as well. The course is a good for me and I think I'll do pretty well there," said Dean, who has been based in Valencia for six years.