Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong resumed her place at the top of the women's time trial circuit, laying claim to the top prize in the first Amgen Tour of California women's international time trial challenge.
"It hurt really bad but I always tell people that if you're hurting so is everyone else and you just have to keep digging through and don't get discouraged," said Armstrong. "I took my own advice today. I just kept on digging and digging and digging"
"A lot of people said that the race was to the top of the climb because you can't gain time downhill, but with my strengths, I took every corner with 110% risk, took chances today and that's why I'm here. I looked back [at the monitor] and saw the number one and that normally means that you've done it."
The racing got underway in Solvang under sunny skies with big crowds in attendance to catch both the professional women and men.
With a light breeze blowing, the 13 competitors took to the course, with Canadian and world omnium champion Tara Whitten taking to the start ramp first and US time trial champion Evelyn Stevens followed right behind.
Stevens set the fastest time at the first intermediate check, but was soon surpassed by her teammate Amber Neben, who went five seconds quicker. But it was reigning Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong who put in the best time up the hill a full 12 seconds faster than Neben.
Neben, who flew in last night after racing in the Chrono Gatineau in Canada, said she was happy with her ride because it was solid.
"I can only be concerned with myself and that is the fun thing about time trialing, it's your own effort. I was happy because I felt like I had a good warm up. I had to soak up the course quickly this morning because I hadn't seen it. I had to get a strategy in my head and just be confident that it was going to work."
Becker picked up the pace in the second part of the course, moving up from sixth at the time check to claim the final podium spot by less than one second over Stevens. The German said she had special motivation for going fast at the end of the race.
"I saw Kristin [Armstrong] behind me one of the corners which was really sharp - she was maybe 15 seconds behind me," Becker said. "I always had the feeling that she was on my neck and will overtake me. So I think I rode the last 10km stronger than before."
Stevens was philosophical about being bumped from the podium. "I wanted to go fast. My idea was to break it up into different time trials. It was an awesome course, hard, but fun with inclines, down hills and turns. I know I gave it everything, I rode well and it's a race against the clock so if you get beat, you get beat."
Armstrong said she was putting it all into today's time trial, which is one of the few opportunities for her to size up her competition ahead of the world championships at the end of the season and next year's London 2012 Olympic Games.
Coming back from a brief time off the bike following the birth of her first child, Armstrong showed she was back on top form with her commanding victory in Solvang.
After a brief illness in the Tour of the Gila that prevented her from taking part in the time trial there, Armstrong bounced back to smash the 14km course in a 34:29.59, 13 seconds ahead of Neben.
Stevens faded over the second half of the course, where HTC-Highroad's Charlotte Becker made up 30 seconds on the American champion to take the final podium spot.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Kristin Armstrong (USA) Peanut Butter & Co/Twenty12||0:34:29.59|
|2||Amber Neben (USA) HTC-Highroad||0:00:12.79|
|3||Charlotte Becker (Swe) HTC-Highroad||0:00:37.75|
|4||Evelyn Stevens (USA) HTC-Highroad||0:00:38.49|
|5||Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo||0:00:47.95|
|6||Tara Whitten (Can) Team Tibco||0:00:58.59|
|7||Amanda Miller (USA) HTC-Highroad||0:01:20.99|
|8||Rhae Shaw (Can) Hagens Berman Cycling||0:01:35.97|
|9||Alison Starnes (USA) Peanut Butter & Co/Twenty12||0:01:41.48|
|10||Emilia Fahlin (Swe) HTC-Highroad||0:01:49.59|
|11||Janel Holcomb (USA) Colavita Forno d'Asolo||0:02:23.68|
|12||Heather Jackson (USA) Trek/K-Swiss||0:03:02.29|
|13||Jessica Phillips (USA) Team Ajax Tavern||0:03:15.81|