Armstrong wins Olympic gold medal in time trial; Leipheimer bronze
Beijing, China (August 13, 2008)—With a victory in the individual time trial on Wednesday, Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) became just the second woman in American cycling history to win Olympic gold while compatriot Levi Leipheimer (Santa Rosa, Calif.) continued a streak of bronze medals for U.S. men in the race against the clock.
Armstrong joined 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter-Phinney in the exclusive club on Wednesday when she finished the 24-kilometer race in 34 minutes, 51.72 seconds, besting silver medalist Emma Pooley of Great Britain by 24 seconds. As Olympic champion, Armstrong became the third American woman to medal in the event, joining silver medalists Mari Holden (2000) and Dede Barry (2004).
"It's the most amazing day of my life," Armstrong said. "I've been working for this for the last eight years, especially the last four, and to time everything right on one day is an accomplishment of its own. The moment I had today, it’s one of those dreams you have as a child in America.”
Armstrong’s accomplishment was the result of impeccable preparation and focus ever since realizing her potential as an Olympic champion upon winning her first of three career world championship medals in Madrid three years ago.
"Man, it's indescribable," USA Cycling Director of Endurance Programs and Armstrong’s coach Jim Miller said. "We had splits we wanted to hit from the get-go and she was on top of every one. We were right on, the training was on and she had the best bike here. We’ve gotten her drag down to a point that is just ridiculous. We ran wheels that are lighter that her usual Sub-9 Zipps. We’ve tested different helmets, materials, configurations of wheels and bike parts. We got her doing specific 23-minute efforts. I’ve been here three times scouting this course and I’ve ridden it no less than 30 times myself.”
Starting two hours after Armstrong received her gold medal and the Star Spangled Banner rung out, Leipheimer was given a boost of inspiration.
“To see her win definitely gave me morale,” Leipheimer said. “It was great to see. I know how hard she’s worked.”
Finishing 1 minute, 9.68 seconds back from gold medalist Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and 36 seconds off the pace of Norway’s Gustav Erik Larsson, Leipheimer added a bronze to the U.S. medal count for the third consecutive Olympic Games. His effort in the 48-kilometer time test matched those of fellow bronze medalists Lance Armstrong (2000) and Bobby Julich (2004).
Along with Tyler Hamilton’s gold medal in Athens four years ago, the U.S. has now captured seven total medals in the men’s and women’s time trial since the event’s inception at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The most any other country has won in that time span is three, by both Russia and Switzerland, further illustrating the United States’ strength in the discipline over the years.
For the second consecutive Olympic Games, Christine Thorburn (Sunnyvale, Calif.) rode to a top-five finish, missing the medal stand by a mere 3.17 seconds. After placing fourth in Athens four years ago, Thorburn returned to the Olympic stage with her sights on a medal, but came up just short, placing fifth, just a few seconds behind bronze medalist Karin Thurig (SUI).
The United States’ other entry in the men’s time trial, David Zabriskie (Salt Lake City, Utah) finished 12th, 3:06.36 behind Cancellara.
As the world champion in 2006 and a three-time medalist in the world championships (2005-07), Armstrong entered the race as one of the heavy favorites on paper. However after Sunday’s road race, the prevailing thought was that Armstrong was one of many who could capture the gold on a course that suited strong climbers and all-arounders alike. Covering one lap of a 24-kilometer circuit, the women’s field faced a challenging route that began with a 12-kilometer ascent at an average grade of 4 percent, followed by a slight 11-kilometer descent into a headwind and a final one-kilometer uphill finishing kick. Regarded as one of the international peloton’s best climbers, Armstrong crossed the mid-race time check in second place, just 3 seconds behind Pooley. But by the time Armstrong crossed the line, she had managed to make up the few ticks necessary to claim the gold, and then some, stopping the clock at 34:51.72. With 6 competitors in the 25-rider field yet to finish, Armstrong waited until one by one each rider finished, failing to eclipse the standard Armstrong had set.
In the men’s race, the consensus was that Cancellara would be the man to beat after watching his remarkable performance during Saturday’s road race in which he quickly bridged a seemingly insurmountable gap to the leaders on the final downhill stretch. That move earned him the bronze medal a few days ago, but sent a message to the rest of the 39-rider field that he’d be unbeatable in the time trial. And if Cancellara was the heavy favorite on race day, Leipheimer was as safe a bet as anyone to challenge the reigning world champion. After starting slowly and crossing the third intermediate time check in fifth place, Leipheimer moved himself into the bronze medal position by recording the second-fastest final leg.
“I've got to say, it's fantastic to get a medal for the United States,” said Leipheimer. “It’s a lifelong dream just to be an Olympian. And to win a medal, it’s just indescribable. I can’t tell you how proud I am. You work your whole life, you sacrifice so much and then you have these fleeting moments of glory. I’ve worked my whole life for this.”
With road events now complete at the 2008 Olympic Games, track cyclists will compete next beginning on Friday, Aug. 15 at the Laoshan Velodrome. In action on Friday are Michael Blatchford (Cypress, Calif.), Adam Duvendeck (Santa Barbara, Calif.), and Giddeon Massie (Zionhill, Pa.), who will contest the team sprint, and Sarah Hammer (Temecula, Calif.) and Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo.), who will race the preliminary rounds of the individual pursuit.
2008 Olympic Games
Women's Individual Time Trial
1. Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) 34:51.72
2. Emma Pooley (GBR) +24.29
3. Karen Thurig (SUI) +59.27
5. Christine Thorburn (Sunnyvale, Calif.) +1:02.44
Men's Individual Time Trial
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 1:02:11.43
2. Gustav Erik Larsson (NOR) +33.36
3. Levi Leipheimer (Santa Rosa, Calif.) +1:09.68
12. David Zabriskie (Salt Lake City, Utah) +3:06.39
About USA Cycling
Recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling is the official governing body for all disciplines of competitive cycling in the United States, including road, track, mountain bike, BMX and cyclo-cross. As a membership-based organization and sanctioning body, USA Cycling consists of 64,000+ members, including 57,000 competitive cyclists, 1,500 coaches, 4,000 student-athletes, 2,200 officials, 350 professional cyclists, and 200 certified mechanics. USA Cycling also sanctions 2,500 competitive and non-competitive organized cycling events throughout the United States annually, as well as 1,800 clubs and teams. Associations of USA Cycling include the United States Cycling Federation (road, track & cyclo-cross), the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (mountain bike), the BMX Association, the National Collegiate Cycling Association and the United States Professional Racing Organization. USA Cycling is also responsible for the identification, development, support and promotion of American cyclists through various athletic initiatives and programs including the USA Cycling National Development Team, the USA Cycling Women’s National Team, the USA Cycling Junior Development Team, Talent Identification and Regional Development Camps, domestic and international race calendars, direct athlete funding and support programs, and educational camps and seminars. USA Cycling also fields and supports U.S. National Teams for various international events, including the Olympic Games, World Championships, Pan American Games, Continental Championship and World Cups across all levels and disciplines of competitive cycling. USA cycling further supports grass roots and locally-based initiatives through its 32 Local Associations and comprehensive network of licensed and certified coaches and officials. Additionally, USA Cycling conducts National Championship events for amateur and professional cyclists, awarding more than 600 national titles annually to men and women in junior, U23, masters, elite, professional and paralympic categories throughout the various disciplines of competitive cycling. To learn more about USA Cycling, visit www.usacycling.org. For media-related or general inquiries, please contact USA Cycling Director of Communications, Andy Lee at 719-866-4867 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Article Published August 13, 2008 For more information contact: