Three US riders will be going for medal in the time trial tomorrow at the London 2012 Olympic Games: the 200o Gold Medal winner Kristin Armstrong, reigning USA time trial national champion Amber Neben and Taylor Phinney, who finished fourth in the men’s olympic road race
The time trial starts and finishes at Hampton Court Palace in south-west London, and incorporates sections of Richmond, Kingston-upon-Thames and Surrey. Both the men’s and women’s events are held over a single lap, with slight variations in the courses reflecting the different distances – 44 km for men, 29 km for women.
A total of 24 women and men will be starting on Wednesday, each starting at one minute and 30 seconds interval. The first woman goes off at 12:30 pm BST (or 4:30 am PDT) and the first man at 2:15 pm BST (or 8:15 am PDT). Neben starts at 12:55:30 pm BST, the 18th rider to start and defending champion Amstrong is the last out of the gate at 1:03:30 pm BST. Phinney will be off at 3:04:30 pm BST, the 34th rider to start. (See women start list and men start list).
The trio shared their thoughts with USA Cycling on the eve of the race of truth.
On first impressions of 29km course. “It’s a challenging course. It’s a true time trial course. It has a little bit of everything. It has some technicality to it. It has some rollers going and coming back in. It’s windy and the rain may come as well. There are a lot of variables out there. They call the time trial the ‘race of truth’ and I think that it will be the race of truth tomorrow.”
On her recovery from the women’s road race on Sunday. “I am recovering from the hard effort on Sunday. It was a hard race. Everyone is trying to take two days to recover. The men have three days between, the women have two. The men raced longer, but when you’re at this level, there is no fitness to be gained now. It’s all about resting and recovering for tomorrow.”
On her left elbow injury from a crash in women’s road race Sunday. “I think the hurt that I am going to suffer during the race is by far going to outweigh the hurt that is on my elbow. It’s a little sensitive, but it will not affect me. Once I am down on my pads (on the aerobars), it feels like I have a bruise.”
On how it feels to be starting the time trial as defending Olympic champion. “It’s very special, but there is also some pressure. I feel the pressure. Normally, a day or two before the time trial, I start feeling stress. Knowing that I am coming back trying to defend, I know I have a target on my back.”
On her top challengers. “There are a lot of people who are riding very well right now. You can never count out the reigning world time trial champion, Judith Arndt (GER). Clara Hughes (CAN) has come back out of retirement, just like I have, because we love this Olympic moment. She’s here to do one thing, and that’s to medal. Ellen van Dijk (NED), who is going to put down a good show. Trixi Worrack (GER) had a great ride last week. Amber Neben (USA) is always consistent in her time trials. There is a big group of us who could medal. And you never know what you’re going to get out of (road cycling gold medalist Marianne) BVos (NED) tomorrow.”
On her comeback after child birth. “It is amazing. It’s been a very hard 20 months. I have had a lot of support behind me, from my team, my husband and family. My child will be two years old in September. I want to give him something to play with.”
On the course. “You know, I really like the course. I think it is a beautiful time trial course. It’s a true time trial course. Long sections where you have to roll the power and the speed. A few different areas where you have to think about a pacing strategy.”
On the main contenders. “Yeah, I think with the women there are eight or nine women who could be up there. Obviously, my teammate Kristin Armstrong coming back healthy and strong. I know she is so motivated. If you look at the last two world championship podiums it has been the same three people with (Judith) Arndt (GER), (Emma) Pooley (GBR) and Linda Villumsen (NZL). I think those three are super dangerous. Clara Hughes (CAN) coming back. Ellen van Dijk (NED). I think the time gaps are going to be really close. You are going to have to have that perfect day.”
On her personal ambitions. “I didn’t come here not to medal. God has got me in his hands and I am going to ride with His strength tomorrow and see what’s going to happen. I am certainly shooting for the podium if not the gold medal.”
On the attention cyclists are getting from the public. “This is the first time (at the Olympics) I have signed any autographs. I always like to stop and say ‘hi’ but the crowds in general, based on Saturday, have been really incredible. The best crowd experience I have ever come across in a race, like deafening for 250km on Saturday, which was quite special. I am hoping it is similarly loud for tomorrow. That makes our job more enjoyable when you have the energy and passion from the fans to feed off of and push ourselves faster.”
On the course: “I like the course, it’s a good course for me, relatively flat, rolling. You know it is a little bit tricky finding your way, finding the right way through some of the roads. They are a little bit bumpy, but we are used to that. I think it is going to be really cool, the last couple of kilometers coming through Bushy Park. There will be a ton of people going round that pond and finishing up. It is going to be really, really special. I think it’s a great course.”
On his hopes of a medal. “I got fourth place in the road race and was happy to be up there. But it was one of the more difficult places to get at the Olympic Games, and leaving the race with nothing after being so close to a medal. So I know my form is good and I have really been working specifically for this. I know that if I have a really good ride I can be up there and I am hungry from the road race. That’s extra motivation.”
On his rivals. “I would love to get a medal tomorrow but I know it is a pretty big task with (Bradley) Wiggins (GBR), (Chris) Froome (GBR), Tony Martin (GER), Fabian Cancellar (SUI). You know, older than me and more experienced. They’ve proved themselves in the past to be very, very good, obviously. But I am up-and-coming.”