Armstrong Easily Wins the Women’s International Time Trial Challenge

On a bright and sunny afternoon in Solvang, Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) easily won the inaugural Amgen Tour of California Women’s International Time Trial Challenge presented by Specialized and SRAM. The time trial took place during Stage 6 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California, with the women riding the same course as the men’s individual time trial.

A focused Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter Co & TWENTY12) on her way to victory

Originally AEG was proposing a time trial where the women would compete against the men. Prize money to be based on the number of men the women beat. Happily AEG decided to change the format. The 13 elite women cyclists competed today for the $10,000 prize pool, but competed against each other and not the men’s field.

Among those invited with Armstrong were Charlotte Becker (HTC-Highroad), Emilia Fahlin (HTC Highroad), Janel Holcomb (Colavita Forno d’Asolo), Heather Jackson (Trek/K-Swiss), Amanda Miller (HTC-Highroad), Amber Neben (HTC Highroad), Jessica Phillips (Team Ajax Tavern), Emma Pooley (Garmin Cervelo), Rhae Shaw (Hagens Berman Cycling), Alison Starnes (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), Evelyn Stevens (HTC Highroad)¸ and Tara Whitten (Team TIBCO-To-the-Top).

At 14km, Armstrong was already 11 seconds faster than second place finisher Neben. Neben flew in last night from Canada, having competed in the Chrono Gatineau. She finished on the podium in third place there then hopped on a plane to race in today’s time trial.

Third place Becker went through the split in 6th position. When asked what she did differently she stated, “I saw Kristin behind me one of the corners which was really sharp – she was maybe 15 seconds behind me,” Becker continued. “I always had the feeling that she was on my neck and will overtake me. So I think I rode the last 10km stronger than before.”

Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12)

About being 12 seconds faster today than the current world champion.  “8 months out of having a child…there several more months to the world championships. I got my general fitness back in February. I only raced a few races in March. I have a lot ahead of me on my schedule that I am aiming for.”

Were the split times being communicated?  “It was a great idea to get split times but I could not hear the screaming from the car. It was really windy and I expected a tailwind on the backside. It was pretty much a headwind the whole day today. The only thing I heard when I crossed the top of the hill was a fan yelling, ‘She is wearing #1 for a reason.’ I didn’t know if they were talking about my past reasons or my current reasons. It kept coming up to my mind that if it’s current I better keep on going.”

About coming back to racing after having a baby.  “It’s a great thing because it has given me a lot of balance. There is nothing more important. I am a mother number one and a cyclist number two. That balance is keeping me happy and keeping me really psyched about the sport. I have such a great team behind me. Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12 is like my family. That is why I chose to race for them. All of my teammates sent me messages and I had a team mate, Alison Starnes, race today. All of my sponsors are husband …my niece…everyone is part of my team to get me to London.”

About receiving advice from Levi Leipheimer and Rory Sutherland.  “I contacted Levi Leipheimer and Rory Sutherland, two great time trailers, for their advice. They called back immediately and they did not just give me advice, Levi said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to give me is secrets. He said, ‘if you beat me I am going to have to hurt you.’ He had a lot of great focusing tips for me today. Rory had some wonderful tips as well. I know that they are two completely different riders but I took both of their tips and used them to my advantage today. I actually saw the United Healthcare team on the course today. The last climb into the finish they were all cheering for me. Rory was out there. I have to thank them for giving me the advice and treating a female cyclist like I am racing their race. It was really nice.”

Point of the course you thought you were back.  “Actually two days ago I felt I was back. Today when it’s racing…when I finish and I won the race I typically don’t feel good. People always ask me how my legs are feeling. I can’t say they felt good out there. If they felt great I am in trouble. They didn’t feel great because I was hurting so bad.”

About women racing at the Amgen Tour of California.  “I feel really fortunate to be invited to the Amgen Tour of California. It is a great to have women race next to men in a premiere race in America. The women today on a stage on Versus showcasing what we are all about. One year before the Olympic games and we are able to show the nation that we are out there too, right along with the men. So I hope this continues to grow. Hope we continue to get coverage.”

How did you feel about the course? “I think the course is great. It was a race of truth. I told the media last night that the strongest rider would win today. It had technicality…it had wind…it had uphill…it had downhill. There wasn’t one thing that any one person had as a strength. It was mix out there. We are all strong on certain sections and other sections we suffer.”

Amgen Tour of California Women’s TT podium: 1st Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter Co & TWENTY12), 2nd Amber Neben (HTC-HighRoad), 3rd Charlotte Becker (HTC-HighRoad) – photo c Stephanie Gutowski

Amber Neben (HTC Highroad)

Any jetlag from flying in from racing the Chrono Gatineau Grand Prix of Cycling? “Jetlag was not too bad and the flying does take a little out of your recovery but I knew what I was getting myself into. I can’t complain about it. The Gatineau race does a really good job with women’s cycling. It’s also a UCI event. I planned on going when I set my schedule up. It was in mind already but then they added this race. I looked at the flight schedules and just thought, ‘you know I can do both.’ I knew I would feel it today but I also know that I can ride hard two days in a row. I was really concerned though the travel was crazy. I flew Ottawa-Toronto-Los Angeles. I arrived in LA at 8:15 last night….and got to bed by midnight.”

About being on the podium both days. “It feels good. Obviously a little bit of disappointment because I always set my goals to win. At the same time Clara (Hughes) rode really well and Kristen rode really well. I felt I had good rides both days. I’ll take some stuff away from each day. I am going to keep working hard making improvements. I am healthy and riding well. It’s really fun right now.”

About women racing at the Amgen Tour of California. “This race is fantastic. It really is an honor to be part of it. We ride hard and we work hard. The talent level of women is quite high. It’s special for us to share the same stage as the men. We know we are not the guys but we absolutely ride hard. We hope we can be an inspiration to some young girls.”

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