The USA started its world championships campaign in fine style by winning the gold and bronze medals in the women's time trial. Kristin Armstrong (Boise) became the country's third ever elite women's TT champ by beating two time champion Karen Thürig of Switzerland by 25.57 seconds, while teammate Christine Thorburn won the bronze medal. The other US competitor, Amber Neben, placed 10th in the event.
Armstrong joins 1994 victor Karen Kurreck and 2000 winner Mari Holden as the other American world champions in this discipline, which was introduced to the world's program in 1994.
Going into the event, Armstrong was one of the pre-race favourites after winning the Euregio Tour. She suffered a mishap early on as she dropped her chain on the second of three climbs on the course, which cost her some 10 seconds, but she recovered well.
"When I got to the first climb, I kept a nice rhythm," Armstrong said, "but going up the second climb, I put just a little too much pressure on the pedals when I shifted down into my little chainring and dropped it. It's just a mistake you make sometimes when you're going too hard. I actually went over that scenario in my mind yesterday after training, but for the third hill. On the second hill, I thought there was no way that would happen.
"Our mechanic was great. He ran out, calmed me down, pushed me, and I was back in. (Team Director) Jim Miller was behind me in the car and got me refocused and told me we were still on track. I didn't know if he was lying to me or not. If you have a mechanical, as an athlete, you can either go one way or the other. You can give up because you just lost ten seconds, or you can use it to get a little bit of an adrenalin rush. I think I used it to my advantage. It was pretty early in the race, maybe 11 or 12 minutes into it, so I just had to refocus and do what I can. When he (Miller) said 'you can win if you go hard, if you give it everything you have,' I knew that he wouldn't put that winning idea in my head unless I really could."
Armstrong also won a bronze medal in the world's in Madrid last year, although she was contemplating retirement at the end the season. She lost motivation after the 2004 Olympics, but decided to have a try for the 2008 Games in Beijing. "One of my other dreams before I retire from cycling was to wear the world champion's jersey. After I placed third last year, I remember telling myself I have three more tries if I go through 2008. The rainbow stripes, in the sport of cycling, continue with you forever. Olympic medals do too, but there's really a different respect when you carry the rainbow stripes in the peloton. It's great I have them early enough to carry them for the rest of my cycling career."
Armstrong's teammate Thorburn had the fastest time for a while, until she was bettered by Armstrong herself. "I've been in that position before," recalled Thorburn. "In Athens I went pretty early and had the fastest time for a while and was in a similar situation at the world championships in 2004, so I tried not to think about it too much when I was in the hot seat. I knew Priska (Doppmann, 4th-place finisher) was a good time trialist and she was in second place at that point. To be honest, I was a little bit surprised that some of the other favourites came through with slower times.
"I did pretty well at nationals, so I decided to focus on time trialing instead of the road race," Thorburn explained. "I figured if I focused on time trialing, it's fewer hours I'd have to train and I could still do well in the time trial and be useful in the road race."
Armstrong added, "I think that American cycling has really developed. It's really fun now because we have the steps in time trialing where we can have two or three riders on the podium. It's very hard to all have the same perfect day, but I think we all have the potential on any given day. It's fun to see the road team as well because I remember just a few years back we'd go to worlds and Dede (Barry) was our leader and we couldn't really do much for her. But now I feel that we have a team that can really race and we have some depth. We can actually go into the race Saturday with a tactical plan and I don't see why we can't go for the podium."
Click here for the Full results, report & photos and from the women's TT.
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