Former two-time world champion Amber Neben crossed the finish line with the seventh-fastest time in the elite women's time trial at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships on Tuesday. The American, who turned 43 this year, told Cyclingnews that she is considering trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"I'll probably keep it rolling a little bit longer, just to see what happens," Neben said when asked if she would continue racing, given that the Olympics Games are just over a year away.
"There are a lot of challengers, lots of talent out there, but I can taste it still. I didn't have my best day today – you're always chasing that best day."
Neben won time trial world titles in Varese in 2008 and Doha in 2016. She has also represented the US in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. She lost an arbitration for a spot on the Olympic team in 2016.
"Nationals was my focus this year, and that was a big deal," Neben said. "I didn't even know if I was going to race this year, but I waited it out through the spring and decided to give it a go. I won Pan Ams, and then I won Nationals, so I tried to get it up one more time for Worlds."
The elite women raced 27.8km from Hall-Wattens to Innsbruck. The route was entirely flat for the first 10km to Baumkirchen before kicking up over the short climb. The second half of the circuit was hillier with a climb up to Absam at roughly 18km, followed by a descent and then a rolling section before a fast run-in to the finish line.
Annemiek van Vleuten won the time trial in 34:25, crossing the line 28 seconds ahead of Anna van der Breggen and 1:25 ahead of Ellen van Dijk. Leah Thomas was the top American, finishing fifth at 1:32 down, while Neben finished in seventh place at 1:47 down.
"It was tough, really fast, and even faster than any of the days that I previewed the course a couple of months ago," Neben said. "Even training the last week here, it rode very fast today. There were some places on the course where I felt like I needed a 55 on, just to take advantage of the course.
"I had good legs. The thing about Worlds is that you have to nail the day. I've won twice, and I've missed out on a lot more than that, so it's hard to do.
"I think, maybe, that I was better a couple of days ago, but at the same time I gave it everything I had and I just wasn't fast enough. I wasn't good enough. Congrats to those Dutch girls – they rode well."
Asked if she had considered retiring from the sport, Neben said that it has crossed her mind and that she will take the off-season to think about how much more time and energy she wants to put into racing. Ultimately, she said, she would likely continue racing until the next summer Olympic Games.
"I have to honour the national champion's jersey, so I'll probably still race," she said. "Mostly time trials, I have to see about a schedule, I might add in a little bit of road racing.
"The thing about being 43 is that there is only so much left in the tank. I might be able to put together a season, but the body is different at this age. I'm not as predictable in figuring out how to dose the workload correct and the intensity correct so that I can get it right on the day."
She thinks about the idea of retirement but keeps coming back into the sport each season with a desire to be competitive and to win, which hasn't dwindled after nearly two decades of world-class bike racing.
"Coming back, always – if I'm going to come back, I'm going to come back to win," she said. "That's what this is about – winning – that's what the challenge is, and I enjoy the process as much as I enjoy the winning. You take the good with the bad and the lower places on totem pole versus the top."