Clara Hughes can make Canadian Olympic history with podium finish in cycling time trials at London Games

It will be a chance for Clara Hughes to make Canadian Olympic history.

It will probably also be her last opportunity to prove any doubters wrong. She can show that a 39-year-old _ nearly a senior citizen in the world of athletes _ can be competitive in a field of younger competitors.

Hughes will become Canada's most decorated Olympic athlete if she wins a medal in the cycling time trials at the London Games Wednesday. A podium finish would give her a seventh Olympic medal, one more than speedskater Cindy Klassen.

"I'm a 100 per cent ready for Wednesday,'' Hughes told reporters in London after finishing 32nd in Sunday's road race.

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Her tangle of brilliant long red hair offers a glimpse of the competitive fires that burn inside Hughes. She deals with her age like she would a mountain on the course, something to be conquered.

"The defending Olympic champion (Kristin Armstrong) is a year younger than me," she told the Toronto Sun prior to leaving Canada. "Women have proven over and over they get better with age.''

In the men's time trial Canada's hopes will be carried by the strong legs of Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal. The 31-year-old from Victoria finished 63rd in the road race and knows he's in a battle in the time trial.

"There's going to be a lot of specialists that have shown themselves in a top-three capacity,'' he told The Toronto Star last week. "I'm going to do my best.''

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Where the road race can be about strategy and team work, the time trial boils down to power and endurance. The strong succeed.

Riders start at 90-seconds intervals on a road course. The men will travel 44 kilometres, starting and ending at Hampton Court. The women follow a similar route but race 29 kilometres.

The person with the fastest time wins.

Simple to say. Painful to do.

Riders will wear teardrop-shaped helmets fitted for them and long sleeves to help reduce drag. The bicycles are tested in wind tunnels. They have aero bars on the handlebar which allow riders to stretch out, further streamlining their posture.

Hesjedal is the lone Canadian in the men's race. Also wearing the Maple Leaf in the women's competition will be Joelle Numainville of Montreal and Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife, N.W.T.

Numainville was 12th in the road race while Ramsden placed 27th.

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In the men's time trial Britain's Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who finished first and second in the Tour de France, will be looking for redemption after disappointing showings in road race. Defending Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland will race after being involved in a crash during the road race.

Among the women's favourites are world champion Judith Arndt of Germany; Britain's Emma Pooley, who won the time trial silver at the 2008 Beijing Games; and Americans Armstrong, Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens.

Hughes won two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Games. As a speedskater competing at three Olympics she won a gold, two silver and a bronze.

She is one of five athletes to have won medals at both the Winter and Summer Games and the only person to have won multiple medals in both.

Her experience could prove a benefit in what might be her last Olympic race.

"I know from experience that a lot of things can go wrong. What matters is how you deal with it,'' she said.

"I have no idea what my best will be but I think I have as good a chance as anybody in the field."

More London Olympics coverage at Yahoo! Canada Sports:
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Tsonga beats Raonic in historic match
Canada's heavy medal day

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