American Amber Neben has lofty goals for Wednesday’s Olympic time trial.
Suffice to say, nothing short of a medal — ideally a gold one — will satisfy her. The 2008 world time trial champion missed the cut for selection for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and contested only the road race, in which she finished 33rd, in 2008 in Beijing.
This year, Neben finally has the chance to go head-to-head with rival and compatriot Kristin Armstrong, the defending Olympic women’s time trial champion.
“I didn’t come here not to medal,” she said on Tuesday. “God has got me in his hands and I am going to ride with his strength tomorrow and see what’s going to happen.”
As for her ultimate goal, Neben said, “I am certainly shooting for the podium if not the gold medal.”
While all athletes strive to control the controllables, Wednesday’s Olympic time trial will feature two things Neben cannot control: the course and her opponents. Neben, however, does not appear worried about the former, a 29km loop southwest of London.
“You know, I really like the course,” she said. “I think it is a beautiful time trial course. It’s a true time trial course. Long sections where you have to roll the power and the speed. A few different areas where you have to think about a pacing strategy.”
As for her opponents, it may be a teammate in Armstrong that plays the top rival. Armstrong, a two-time world time trial champion (2006 and 2009), beat Neben to the U.S. national time trial title three years on the trot, from 2005 to 2007. But it was Neben, in Armstrong’s absence, who won the national title in June.
“Yeah, there are eight or nine women who could be up there,” said Neben of the deep field of medal contenders. “Armstrong is coming back healthy and strong. I know she is so motivated.
“If you look at the last two world championship podiums it has been the same three people with (Judith) Arndt (Germany), (Emma) Pooley (Great Britain) and Linda Villumsen (New Zealand). I think those three are super dangerous. Clara Hughes (Canada) coming back.”
In light of her high expectations and the stiff competition, Neben said, “you are going to have to have that perfect day.”
Amber Neben will no doubt be hoping for that perfect day on Wednesday, as she looks to stand atop the Olympic podium, gold medal hanging from her neck.