August 01, 2012 (London, UK) – Today’s Time Trials at the Games brought the USA it’s first Olympic cycling gold medal in London courtesy of defending champ Kristin Armstrong, while Britain basked in shining glory of two medals delivered in royal fashion by Bradley Wiggins who decimated the field with a gold medal run and Christopher Froome added bronze to keep local fans on their feet a bit longer.
She came out of retirement to defend the title she won in Beijing four years ago. American Kristin Armstrong put her bike on the backburner in 2009 to have a child and now the mother of a toddler, she’s back, ten days shy of her 39th birthday as the oldest gold medalist in Olympic cycling history.
On a course that had climbs – but none that would significantly challenge the pure time trialists – Armstrong scored gold, facing head-crosswinds on the first half of the course and tail crosswinds on the return as wind was approximately 15-20 kph while parts of the course had light rain showers.
Her time over the 29km course was 37:34.82 which put her at 46.30 kph. Veteran German cyclist Judith Arndt, who won the 2011 World Time Trial championships, took silver at 15.47 seconds back. Bronze went to Olga Zabelinskaya, (22.53 sec). It was her second medal of the Games, following her third place finish in the road race.
New Zealand’s Linda Melanie was fourth, 24.36 seconds back while veteran of six Olympics, Clara Hughes, was fifth at 54.14 seconds back. Denise Ramsey, Canada’s second rider, was 19th at 4:09.99 minutes back out of field of 24 cyclists.
“This is an amazing moment,” said Armstrong. “A lot of people ask me about the differences between Bejing and London and I would say this was a much more difficult journey. When I was going to Beijing I looked at the start list and would say I had three other riders to beat. I had won a world championship, so people were saying Kristin was the favourite.
“Coming into London it as different. It was a real rollercoaster 22 months – a lot of ups and downs. I wouldn’t say things were easy and when I looked at the start lists morning I picked out eight or nine women that I knew could beat me.”
Arndt echoed Armstrong’s thoughts. “I am really happy about the silver medal. My goal was gold, but yesterday I would have named Kristin as my favourite today. I also looked at the start list and saw nine riders to beat. You really had to have a good day to win a medal – and I had a good day. My material was good – the physio, and my coach took care of me.”
After the race Hughes told a large Canadian scrum she was going to “…drink some beer with my husband.” This after she described her race, “I was just giving everything I had – just racing my bike. Nothing was going on in my brain at that time.” She races “…until my eyeballs feel like they’re going to pop out of my head.”
Now she can take some time to relax – not as she had hoped as an Olympic medalist again – but she is still quite happy as someone who gave all she could in a race and a career.
Men’s Time Trial – Wiggins Puts the Great Back in Great Britain
Bradley Wiggins is not only going to be knighted; he is also Britain’s first cycling saint as he came through golden after Team GB’s disasterous men’s road race. This after becoming the first English rider to win the Tour de France in July.
On the first day of August he saved Great Britain’s men’s team from international embarrassment by out-classing the time trial field and taking gold in 50:39.54 for an average speed of 52.113 kph.
The Olympic medal became the country’s seventh overall – a British record. Teammate Chris Froome helped re-establish their position in the sport with a bronze medal (1:08.33 min back) while 2011 world champion Tony Martin put Germany on the podium with a silver (42 sec back).
Fourth place went to USA’s Taylor Phinney (1:58.53 back) – matching his finish in the road race. Excellent results from a still young rider who celebrated his 22nd birthday last week.
Marco Pinotti of Italy was fifth, (2:09.74 min back) while Australia’s Michael Rogers was 6th (2:11.85 min back). Reigning Olympic champion, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, who fell heavily in the road race and hurt his right arm, took 7th.
Ryder Hesjedal, Canada’s only entry, was a disappointing 28th out of 37 riders. With a back of the pack road race finish, it just wasn’t the Olympics he hoped would follow his victory in the Giro d’Italia.
“I cannot put it into words. I wouldn’t do it justice. It was really incredible,” said Wiggins, who was given a throne to sit in after the race. “To win an Olympic gold in your home city… when you win in the velodrome there are three or four thousand people cheering. Here, around the streets of London, the noise is just amazing. I don’t think anything will top that. I’ve just won the Tour de France. It’s just been pheonomenal.”
Indeed, the trains headed for Hampton Court were packed as were the many kilometres lining the course. The British acted as if they were in France, sitting in outdoor cafes, bikes beside them, watching the best in the world fly by. Road cycling, has had massive support from the public.
Martin paid tribute to Wiggins and to what he has accomplished. “There was some hope at the beginning to beat Bradley, but the gap became bigger and bigger and I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t beat him. He was unbeatable today and I respect this. No one can beat him.” Martin then added, “A bit like I was last year.”
Froome, meanwhile, thanked the super-enthusiastic fans. “The crowds were phenomenal. Even after the experience of the Tour de France, I didn’t expect anything like this today. Everyone out there knew our names and they were just telling us to go faster. You cannot slow down when you’ve got something like that behind you.”
Wiggins decided to soak up the feeling of being on the podium. “I was trying to savour it. I have no memories of my other Olympics. I was either too young or it was over to quick. There is not much better than this setting, with that castle [Hampton Court]. It’s so British isn’t it? The sun came out. It was just fantastic.”