Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.
International Women’s Time Trialist of the Year: Kristin Armstrong
The biggest setback to Kristin Armstrong’s bid at a second Olympic time trial gold medal wasn’t without a touch of irony.
The 39-year-old American was well on the path to peaking for the London Games when she crashed and broke her collarbone on May 24.
The fact that the crash happened while time trialing (her specialty), in Boise, Idaho (her hometown), wasn’t lost on anyone; it even occurred at the inaugural Exergy Tour, the biggest women’s stage race in the U.S., backed by her trade team’s title sponsor.
Armstrong didn’t let the onslaught of bad luck distract her from her primary objective, something she’d set out to do just a few weeks after the September 2010 birth of her son, Lucas, when she decided to come back from retirement.
That pregnancy had been planned, coming a few months after her 2009 world TT championship ride in Mendrisio, Switzerland — a second world TT title to add to the gold medal she took in Beijing. She’d gone out on top, but after accomplishing one objective (starting a family), she was on to the next, the final goal of her professional athletic career.
Her 2011 season was filled with ups and downs — wins, followed by illnesses, as she juggled motherhood with racing — but during the first half of the 2012 season, she looked to be the Armstrong of old. She won international time trials at the Women’s Tour of New Zealand and the Energiewacht Tour in Holland, as well as domestically at the Merco Classic, San Dimas Stage Race, and Amgen Tour of California. In May she dominated the SRAM Tour of the Gila, winning three road stages, the individual time trial and the overall classification.
Then came the crash, with surgery the following day. Armstrong shrugged it off as forced rest — she’d been planning a break after the Exergy Tour anyhow. She returned to competition at the July 17-22 Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon, winning the prologue, stage 1 road race and stage 2 time trial before pulling out.
A minor crash in the rain during the Olympic road race was a scare, but nothing more. She finished the race 35th, with a swollen and bloodied elbow.
Come time trial day in London, Armstrong did not disappoint. She led at every time check with a slightly increasing margin, and though she was only beaten by 15 seconds, runner-up Judith Arndt said she was “very happy” to have taken silver.
“My goal was to win the gold,” Arndt said, “but Kristin is the best time trialist in the world.”
Arndt went on to win the world TT championship in Valkenberg, but by that time Armstrong was a month into her second retirement, indisputably one of the greatest women to ever race the clock.