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Amber Neben 'locked in' for World Championships time trial despite recent crash

Amber Neben of the United States during the 2020 UCI Road World Championships
Amber Neben of the United States during the 2020 UCI Road World Championships (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A quest to don the rainbow jersey in the elite women’s time trial for a third time is back on track for Amber Neben (Cogeas Mettler Look Pro Cycling) and Team USA at the upcoming UCI Road World Championships, just it has not been the path she had in mind.

It was just 25 days ago that a training ride near her home in California ended abruptly for Neben when a driver turned their vehicle into her path, causing a collision. The three-time Olympian, who had finished fifth in the time trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games, went down hard and suffered three non-displaced fractures in her pelvis and contusions on her leg and back.

“I plan on competing. I'm mentally locked in,” Neben told Cyclingnews, having just arrived in Belgium for Worlds, the elite women’s 30.3km time trial taking place Monday afternoon from Knokke-Heist to Bruges.

“Mentally, I always embrace these kinds of challenges. I know there is always opportunity for growth on every level. We never like the storms of life, but I say those are our championship making moments. My approach is always to respond, to choose to persevere and focus on what I can do.”

Earlier this month Neben’s participation was in question for her 17th Worlds competition in the past 20 years, a 15th time in the race against the clock. Along with two titles in the TT (2016 and 2008), she has never finished outside the top 15. This year, in addition to the best finish for a US rider in the Olympic Games time trial, she took the silver medal at the USA Pro Road Championships.

“The physical recovery process has required patience and a lot of tuning in and listening to my body. Obviously, what I could and couldn't do temporarily changed four weeks ago, but I have been focusing on what I can do. I've done my best to progress things as wisely as possible. I'm thankful for all the prayers and support from everyone,” Neben explained.

Neben has chronicled her recovery process on social media, a recent video showed her walking with crutches on the second day after the crash, her injuries severe but not requiring surgery. On the fourth day she was slowly pedalling on an upright stationary bicycle, a Lifecycle “aerobic trainer” first introduced in the late 1980s and one she bought for $25 online. Ten days after collision with car, she was on her TT bike on a proper trainer, using crutches to get positioned on the saddle. 

“I found the LifeCycle on Craig's List. I used it to let my body move in a familiar pattern. I believe gentle, pain free movement can really aid healing,” she said. “Yesterday [Wednesday], I was able to get outside on the TT bike. That was good, but it also revealed some leftover tightness that I need to figure out. This comeback exercise has been a series of progressive steps. I think all that will come in the next few days.

“Physically, I have a few more days to settle back on the bike. I certainly would have never chosen to prepare this way, but sometimes after loading like I did the previous 18 months, a rest break can be very beneficial. We shall see.”

On her Instagram feed, Neben noted she is moving ahead, saying in part, "Logically, my doctor, coach & I would all argue against trying to compete at a World Champs only 4 weeks 6 days after the accident. BUT I have also learned not to close a "door." 

The US team will have two riders in the women’s elite time trial next Monday, Neben and Leah Thomas (Movistar), who at her last two Worlds competitions was seventh in Harrogate in 2019 and fifth in Innsbruck in 2018.

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).