Kristin Armstrong said that her consolation for a fourth place finish in the women’s World Championship road race in Mendrisio on Saturday afternoon would be her lasting legacy to women’s cycling in the United States.
Having taken her second World time trial title on Wednesday, the 36-year-old from Idaho announced that she would retire after today’s road race. She signed off on Saturday with a brave but luckless display, eventually trailing home at the back of the three-strong group that chased in vain behind the Italian Tatiana Guderzo on the final lap.
Speaking as she made her way to a post-race doping control for the final time, a smiling Armstrong revealed that the outcome might have been different had it not been for two slices of misfortune.
"I crashed on a wet corner, about two kilometres before the second climb, at about the halfway point in the race," Armstrong explained. "My teammate Amber [Neben] also got taken out with me. I had to chase back on, did one lap with the front group, then my derailleur broke off going into the first climb with three laps to go. I’m sure it had been broken in the first crash. I got a bike change and managed to chase back on again, but it took a lot of energy, even with my teammates bringing me back. In a road race, you need a bit of luck. That’s what was missing today."
In spite of the two, costly efforts she made to rejoin the leaders, Armstrong still looked strong as she and Marianne Vos gave chase behind Guderzo on the final lap. On the final ascent of the race, the climb to Novezzano, Armstrong accelerated and briefly looked capable of threatening Guderzo. With only another Italian and the flagging Vos for company, alas, she wasn’t to end her career with a second gold medal of these championships. .
"I felt really good today," she said this afternoon. "The problem was that Vos is a power climber and so is Cantele. If the climb had been a little longer… The problem was that every time it got steep, then it levelled off again, and the sprinters can cope with that. When I came to the line for the sprint, I knew that I was going to do my best, but Cantele and Vos weren’t the two best people to go to the line with."
"Fourth is sort of the worst result you can have," she said. "I’m a competitor and I always want to get a medal. Having said that, I was happy with my performance. It’s the best result an American has had for many years and I hope that I’ve given the American women’s team and women’s cycling in America a boost for years to come. We worked great together. We did our best."
Asked whether the women's race, which saw just 56 riders make it to the finish, would offer any indicators for the men’s equivalent on the same circuit tomorrow, Armstrong did have some advice for her male counterparts. "It’s going to be a really hard race," she said. "The most important thing on this circuit is patience. Those first breakaway groups can go but this is a really hard course, and I think it will come back.
"Even with some rainy conditions today, a few people tried to get away early but it was always brought back. Having said all of that, women’s racing is always different to men’s racing. What I did see is that on every lap there was attrition. If you have power in numbers on the final laps then you can start playing."
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