June 21, 2005(Salt Lake City, Utah) – Chris Baldwin (Boulder, Colo.) rode to his second career elite men’s national time trial championship Tuesday as USA Cycling kicked off the 2005 Park City Cycling Festival on Antelope Island State Park.
Baldwin obliterated the 57-rider field with a time of 42 minutes 44.43 seconds over a 34 kilometer course that wound its way along the shores of the Great Salt Lake. The 2003 National Champion, Baldwin was the only rider to crack the 44 minute barrier as runner up Jeff Louder (Salt Lake City, Utah) posted a 44:00.23 to take the silver medal and Bernard Van Ulden (Belmont Calif.) rode a 44:00.58 to take third.
Starting one minute behind Chris Wherry (Boulder, Colo.), Baldwin caught and passed the recently crowned USPRO road champion with 12 kilometers remaining – a sign that he was on pace to pull on his second stars and stripes jersey for the second time in three years.
“I couldn’t see Wherry for the longest time,” said Baldwin who was the penultimate rider out of the gate. “I got a little psyched out, but I kept my composure and I really wanted to catch him, even if I didn’t put more time into him after that, just to know where I was because I knew he was going to go fast.”
Without defending champion David Zabriskie and perennial strongman Chris Horner, who are both in Europe preparing for their first Tour de France, Baldwin felt the race was anybody’s game. “I thought it was pretty wide open this year, especially with the altitude. (Scottt) Moninger, Wherry, those guys are pretty good at altitude. I knew Jeff was going to go good because it’s his hometown and he’s coming off two good rides at Philly and Beauce.”
Despite a stretch of road along the shoreline, the racecourse was anything but flat. A kilometer into the race, riders faced a significant climb before embarking on a 15 kilometer rolling course with nary a flat section. “The only tricky part was the first hill. It’s just steep enough that the big ring is pretty tough to push, but I just stayed in it and decided to go that route,” said Baldwin.
Tom Zirbel (Boulder, Colo.) and Wherry rounded out the podium placing fourth and fifth respectively.
In the women’s race – also a 34 kilometer contest along the same stretch of road – Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) bested Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.) and 34 other women to take home her first elite women’s national time trial championship.
The defending champion in the road race, which earned her a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2004, Armstrong clocked a time of 47:15.51 – a time that would have placed her in the top half of the men’s field.
Armstrong was on target for a national title since mid-May when she posted the best time of American riders in each of three time trial stages at the Tour de l’Aude, a major international stage race in France. “I had a great ride in France and I’ve been holding on to the peak fitness for about five or six weeks,” said Armstrong.
As an automatic qualifier for the world championships, Armstrong also credited a lack as pressure as a probable ally on Tuesday. Armstrong has already qualified for September’s world championships based on her victory in the time trial at the Pan American Championships in April. “I think that I came here with a lot less pressure than the other girls because I already have a spot for worlds. I think that coming into any race without much pressure, you have an advantage.”
Defending champion Christine Thorburn (Menlo Park, Calif.) also had a solid ride for third place posting a 48:29.61 behind Neben’s 47:51.50. Grace Fleury (Winston Salem, N.C.) and former world champion Mari Holden (Colorado Springs, Colo.) completed the podium in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Pre-race favorite and three-time U.S. national time trial champion Kimberly Baldwin (Boulder, Colo.) unfortunately never got a chance to factor herself into the mix after suffering a mechanical mishap less that one kilometer into the race. Without mechanical support readily available, Baldwin was forced to abandon.
Run concurrently with the elite women, the U23 classification was won by Rebecca Much (Chicago, Ill.) A silver medalist in the junior world championships last year, Much rode a 50:24.20 in her first nationals after graduating from the junior ranks.
In the other internationally recognized categories run on Tuesday, Chris Stockburger (Fort Collins, Colo.) captured the junior men’s 17-18 title with a time of 27:47.47 over a similar but shorter 20 kilometer course. Stockburger’s win automatically qualifies him for the junior world championships later this summer in Austria.
Shannon Koch (Flower Mound, Texas) was the junior women’s champion with a time of 31:54.48 on the same 20 kilometer course as the junior men. Koch’s performance also earns her an automatic nomination for the junior world championships in August.
Day two of the 12-day Park City Cycling Festival will feature the elite men’s road race and the elite and U23 women’s road race in Park City. Men will ride 125 miles and women 78 miles.