Former World Time Trial Champion (2008) Amber Neben set the fastest time on stage 2 of the Exergy Tour, leading not only a sweep of the podium for her Specialized-lululemon team but also taking over the yellow jersey from her teammate Ina Teutenberg.
With rain falling and cool temperatures, Neben stopped the clock at 21:37 on the 10.4-mile (17.0 km) out and back course. Her teammate US National TT Champion Evelyn Stevens was 15 seconds slower while Canadian National TT Champion Clara Hughes was a further five seconds down.
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“Go fast.” Neben replied with a laugh when asked her thoughts during the time trial. “That course was just straight out and straight back so it was almost like you were on a trainer, like nothing’s changing.”
Aside from the turn-around midway through, the only turns took place in the first (or last) 100 meters and then the course was straight with a few rollers.
“Always in a time trial I’m trying to stay in the moment and think about what I’m doing right there, with every pedal stroke just power out, power out. I have to remind myself to stay tucked, keeping in my power position as far as not sliding too far forwards, I just really try to stay in the moment and just do what I can.”
Being the 88th rider to start and traveling to the start with the rest of her team, Neben followed her preferred warm-up routine.
“I like to spend a little time out on the road just riding easy, just kind of wakening my legs up, shaking out the nerves, mentally going through the race, just little meditation time, just getting ready.” she explained.
Neben was able to feel the course and the wind and experience the conditions.
“Then as soon as I’m done with that I like to jump on the trainer and I do a steady progression through my heart rate zones just trying to turn on each system. Finish that as close to the start time as possible, you always have to leave a few minutes to use the bathroom, get your clothes on, get your helmet on and get over to the start line. You try to time it as tight as possible.”
She started conservatively out of the start house until the road straightened.
“It was good in a sense that those first corners were pretty early so I just was real chill until I got to the straight and then just hit it at that point. And then the same thing coming in. I was careful at the turn-around, it was kind of tight out there. And then, that very last corner, I started to feel something slide a little bit, I just kind of backed of. The good thing was, essentially it was just straight out, turn-around and come back so there wasn’t too much to worry about. I think that was where the race was going to be won, whereas those first couple corners and those last corners, you could have lost it if you were too aggressive and making a mistake.”
Surprisingly for Idaho, the wind was not a factor in today’s time trial. “That’s one of the reasons that I like to go out on the course, right before just to see which wheels I’m going to want. It was a side wind the whole day and I was still comfortable with that really deep front and I’m small so I think that means it wasn’t too bad.”
While most of the racers rushed to get warm and start their recovery immediately after the violent stage, Neben still had to go the podium, shivering and then attend the press conference. But the experienced rider knows that recovery is of prime importance with the two hardest stages still to come.
“As soon as I’m done here I’ll be eating and drinking again, stretching, get a good massage in and just trying to rest and get focused on the next day.”
She is confident in her team to defend the jersey. “I go into tomorrow just knowing that I’ve got an awesome team around me. I think we have four people who can potentially win the race and really it doesn’t matter who goes up the road as long as it’s Specialized-lululemon. I have that to fall back on. I certainly will be prepared to do my best out there and hold on to the jersey but I also know I have a really strong team, we’re going to do our best to hold on as a team.”
It was inevitable that the questions switch to the Olympic Games where Neben is vying for one of the probably two spots for the US team in the time trial. Her competition for those spots are her teammate Stevens and Kristin Armstrong (Exergy Twenty12) who crashed out in the prologue.
“First of all when she crashed, it broke my heart because you never want to see a competitor go through that. So I really felt for her in that sense, all Olympic talk aside you don’t want to see that. I was disappointed that she wasn’t out here, I think she was disappointed that she wasn’t out here, it was the one chance that we were going to have to go head to head against each other but it wasn’t to be. We’ll see what happens going forwards.” Neben commented.
As one of the last time trials before the selection, Neben thinks that the results were important.
She continued, “But at the same time, I’m just going to keep racing and enjoying what I’m doing and working towards that ultimate goal. It’s going to be in the hands of the selection committee. I think over the course of the last year, I’ve had some really good results and made some good statements as far as that goes. Today will be a part of it, it won’t be the only thing they look at. Today I just wanted to have fun, go out there and do my best, let God take care of the rest. It was fun.”
The 37-year old concluded, “You have to control what you can control and so, like with each event, you’re trying to do your best on that day. By doing the little things, taking care of the daily goals, that puts you a step closer of reaching the bigger goal that’s further down the line.”
With two stages to go, Neben leads the GC with 11 seconds on Stevens and 14 seconds on Hughes.