Former multi-time trial world champion Kristin Armstrong of the US finished fifth overall at the TT World Championships in Richmond Tuesday. The American raced in the first wave of competitors, fighting winds while setting the foundation time her rivals would beat later that afternoon. Linda Villumsen won gold for New Zealand, 21 seconds ahead of Armstrong. As a previous world champion and two-time gold medallist in the discipline, the American could not help but feel disappointed at the end of the day.
“The other girls had a stronger ride today,” Armstrong said. “My goals going into here was, of course I always want to win, that’s who I am, but really I wanted to get top three.”
Armstrong was given the second time slot in the first of four waves for her starting time, despite being a previous world and Olympic TT champion. The women raced two laps to complete the 29.9 km course.
“I’m used to starting later, so you have to have a different mindset. You can’t let it eat you up,” Armstrong said. “There is an advantage to starting later, just because you have the time splits.
“It was a tough, tough course,” Armstrong said. “I definitely left some time behind on the technical pieces of it. There was some gusty winds and I think if I wasn’t laying down the foundation time, maybe I could have taken some more risks. I gave it everything I had today, so I felt really good about it."
Armstrong found herself in the hot seat for more than an hour until the final wave and the last few riders bumped her down to fifth. Still, she was the top finishing American, with her compatriot, Evelyn Stevens, behind her in sixth.
“I am a competitor so [disappointment] is still very difficult,” she said. “I know that this year was going to be my foundation year and that 2016 is going to be the year that I want to make another jump. I didn’t start training until this February. My last hip procedure was in last December.”
Road to Rio
Armstrong returned once again to the top level of racing in May after three years away. The 42-year-old had endured three hip surgeries during that time, the most recent in December of 2014 before returning to training this February. Besides working as a director of community health at her local hospital, she made her return in hopes of defending her Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
In typical Armstrong fashion, upon her return she became the USA national time trial champion before going on to win the TT and overall at the Women’s USA Pro Challenge in August. The top three finishers at the time trial in Richmond will receive an automatic qualification for Rio. The American women will have to wait to see who USA Cycling choose to take to Brazil next summer.
“That was a really important step for me towards Rio,” Armstrong said. “I think for now, both the time trial spots go to the coaches selection. I always find that very difficult. I’ve been in very difficult situations in the past and I’m not sure how that outlook will be.”
Armstrong lives with her husband and now 11-year-old son Lucas, in Boise, Idaho, where she works and trains.
“I have a very balanced lifestyle,” she said. “I look at it as training for a marathon. A lot of professional women train for a marathon at the top level, and I can do the same in the time trial.
“I think at this point, looking at Rio there needs to be an understanding on what are my hopes and is it okay if I don’t race in Europe. I have a family and I don’t believe that racing in the top of the time trial, you need to race over there. I was fifth today racing in America and staying at home."
For now Armstrong plans to continue racing in the US with occasional races in Europe.
“I’ve had a couple of set backs in the last couple of months but nothing to take me out of contention,” Armstrong said. “I’m looking to do a few things better going into 2016. I started working more with my strength. It’s a build back, and I can’t expect to come back overnight and be on the top step. But again, my goal was to be in the top three today and so I am disappointed.”