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Amber Neben: Three-time Olympian on chasing dreams at 46

Amber Neben (USA)
Amber Neben (USA) (Image credit: Getty Images)

When the clock stopped Thursday in the elite women’s time trial at US Pro Road Championships, four-time and defending national champion Amber Neben (Cogeas Mettler Look) knew she had not made up enough time after the intermediate time check to keep the stars-and-stripes jersey. 

Her ride on the 23.2km time trial course was good for silver, but a 27-second margin gave Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM) the championships crown.

“For me, honestly, today, it was the flattest [day] I’ve ever had, but at the same time I rode hard. Chloe was on point today, so huge congrats to her,” Neben told Cyclingnews at the finish line. 

“It was not my day today. For me, the course ran a little slower, I think just with the air and the [humid] conditions, it was just a slower day. Secondly, I was flat today.

“This was a tough race with timing for the Olympic Games. To be on-form here and again at then again at the Olympics , for me and my preparation, isn’t ideal. I actually just came off a really big 10-day training block where we were able to get 1,000 miles in, so huge volume.”

The duo, separated by a 22-age difference, are both former world champions in the time trial – Neben, now 46, won world titles in 2008 and 2016, and while Dygert, 24, won the world title in 2019. They will be teammates at the Olympic Games next month for the first time, each vying for a podium spot in the time trial, and then Dygert will also compete on the track in the Team Pursuit and in the road race.

Neben’s first appearance was in the road race at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, finishing 33rd just months after having surgery for a diagnosis of melanoma. In 2012, at the London Games she finished seventh while her teammate Kristen Armstrong took her second gold medal (2008, 2012).  Dygert was a silver medalist from the 2016 Rio Games on the track in Team Pursuit.

“My third Games, it’s such an honour. It is one of those things that is so special to be able to wear USA on the jersey and represent America at the Olympic Games. It’s probably the most special of all of them, with regards to the journey to get there, and just what God is doing on the faith journey and the people involved, so I’m excited and proud to represent USA,” Neben told Cyclingnews.

About being 46 years of age and still competing at the highest level, Neben laughed and said, “I own it.” She said she’s proof to always aspire to achieve your goals.

“I love it. It’s just evidence of the story that God’s writing with my life. I think you’re never too old, you’re never too young, or too anything to dream. And so I hope it’s an encouragement to other people to think outside the box of their current circumstances and what might be a label to believe they can be bigger and better. 

“And to know too that sometimes achieving a dream or a goal takes a really long time, there’s a lot of perseverance required. You know there’s no overnight dream deliveries, and you’ve got to be willing to put the work in and never give up. I’m still chasing goals at 46, and I’m excited to be able to go back [to the Olympic Games].”

She said the word retirement has to enter into her vocabulary at some point, but not just yet since she’ll be working hard in the road race on Sunday at USA Cycling Pro Road Championships as part of her preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Right now I am so focused on this year and really staying in the moment. I’m enjoying every moment and every detail. Certainly I know the end is near, I’m closer to the end than the beginning, so it makes these last few races even more special.”

Jackie Tyson

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).