Games of the 30th Olympiad, London 2012
Preview Individual Time Trial
The women’s time trial will be hotly contested. Defending 2008 Olympic champion, Kristin Armstrong (USA) is joined by the current USA time trial champion and former World Champion Amber Neben.
Armstrong came out of retirement in a bid to defend her Olympic title at Hampton Court Palace. Her decision to retire at the end of the 2009 season to start a family cut her career short. However after the birth of a son, Armdtrong decided to return to competition in 2011 with the goal of taking aim for gold in London.
Among the steadiest performers in the "race of truth," Armstrong broke her collarbone in a racing accident in late May and touched pavement again in the women's road race Sunday 29 July, scraping her left elbow, but the veteran USA rider remains one of the favourites for the gold medal in the 29km race against the clock despite the bumpy road to London.
If Armstrong strikes gold again, she would follow in the footsteps of Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel (NED), who won gold in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, to win back-to-back gold medals in women's time trial.
Armstrong, just 10 days shy of her 39th birthday on race day, would if sh won, also become the oldest Olympic gold medallist in cycling road. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (FRA) was 37 years, 264 days when she won the women's road race at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
Armstrong will not have it all her own way. 2010 World Time Trial champion Emma Pooley (GBR), silver medallist at the Beijiing 2008 Olympic Games, will try her best to secure a medal at her home Olympics. Although the flatter London course does not suit her climbing prowess she showed great strength in the road race and could get a surprise result if the home crowd get behind her.
Current World Time Trial champion, German Judith Arndt was a silver medallist in the time trial and road race in Athens 2004. She is is great shape and as long as she has recovered from her efforts on the road she cannot be overlooked as a potential medal winner.
Also riding for Germany is Trixi Worrack. Worrack has been coming into great form over the last two years and rode to victory on stage 4 of the Thuringen Rundfahrt two weeks ago. Worrack beat compatriot and current World TT Champion Judith Arndt by 700/100th of a second over the 20.7km course. Emma Johansson (Sweden) rode home for third some 16 seconds behind Worrack and Arndt.
Amber Neben (USA), the 2008 world time trial champion, has been on top form all season, winning the Pan Am championships in time trial in March and the U.S. national time trial championship in June. She was 4th in the Thuringen TT 16 seconds behind Worrack.
Linda Villumsen (NZL), a Danish-born cyclist who now rides for New Zealand can not be discounted for a medal chance. A three-time world time trial medallist, she was fifth at the Beijing 2008 time trial and could deliver New Zealand's first road cycling Olympic medal.
Clara Hughes (CAN), who is one of only five athletes to win medals in both summer and winter Olympic Games, is looking to add to her haul of six-career Olympic medals. At 39, she remains a force in the time trial, winning the Canadian national time trial title in June. Her sole goal in coming back to road racing last year, was to go for the time trial medal. She showed great form during the road race on Saturday, she powered up the climbs and looked strong on the flat.
All three medallists from the women's road race on Sunday 29 July will start. Gold medallist Marianne Vos (NED) is not a specialist, but she has won time trials during her road racing career, including a shorter time trial stage en route to the Giro Femminile crown in July. Road silver medallist Elizabeth Armitstead (GBR) and bronze medallist Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS) will also try to double on the road.
The 29km course starts and finishes in Hampton Court Palace and loops south into Surrey. Narrow roads, shallow hills and tight corners present a formidable challenge. The nature of the course, with the absence of major climbs, tilts the medals toward powerful time trial specialists.
Forecasters are calling for mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the low 20Cs and brisk westerly winds 15-20kph, meaning the field will have head-crosswinds going out and tail-crosswinds coming back.
Amber NEBEN (USA) is ready for the ITT, she discussed 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."
Time Trial 29 km Hampton Court
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