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LONDON OLYMPICS

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong wins gold in time trial

Armstrong, who retired after winning the event in Beijing, had a son in 2010, then came back for a second gold, says this was her last race. Tour de France champ Bradley Wiggins wins men's time trial.

August 01, 2012|By Helene Elliott
  • American Kristin Armstrong passes through the gates at Hampton Court Palace on her way to winning the gold medal in the women's cycling time trial at the London Olympic Games on Wednesday.
American Kristin Armstrong passes through the gates at Hampton Court Palace… (Frank Gunn / Associated…)

SURREY, England — Some of the women who sat upon a throne at Hampton Court Palace, a residence favored by King Henry VIII, met unhappy ends. Some of the cyclists who perched on the cushioned thrones set up Wednesday outside the stately building had happier fates: They got Olympic medals.

Kristin Armstrong of Boise, Idaho, earned a place among cycling royalty by winning her second consecutive women's time trial gold medal, a remarkable feat considering she retired after the Beijing Games, had a son in 2010 and broke her collarbone in May as her comeback was gaining steam.

Armstrong, the oldest women's Olympic time trial champion at a week short of 39, powered through the final third of the scenic 29-kilometer course to win in 37 minutes 34.82 seconds. Judith Arndt of Germany was second in 37:50.29 and road race bronze medalist Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia was third in 37.57.35.

PHOTOS: Kristin Armstrong wins gold

"I was just a normal kid that never was told by their coach that they had anything special, that maybe I should go after something," Armstrong said. "It's just a determination and sacrifice I had all the way since elementary school.

"To come back and have the stars align four years apart on one day is something very special. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of work from my family, sacrifice from my coach. I have 12 family members here. I'm so glad I can do it for them and all the moms out there."

Amber Neben of Lake Forest was seventh in 38:45.17 but was in the top three for a few minutes and briefly tried out one of the purple thrones. "That's pretty cool," she said.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins of Britain set off roars at the finish line by covering the men's 44-kilometer time trial course in 50:39.54. Tony Martin of Germany was second in 51:21.54 and Great Britain's Christopher Froome was third in 51:47.87. American Taylor Phinney was fourth in 52:38.07.

PHOTOS: London Olympics, Day 5

Armstrong shared her moment on the podium with her son, Lucas, who will be 2 next month. He wore a blue USA shirt and played with her congratulatory bouquet. And yes, he has a push bike. If he inherited his mother's resolve, he might be a champion too.

"You think back two years when it all started and it was really hard. Everything she got, she worked for, she earned. She did it the hard way," said her coach of 10 years, Jim Miller, also the vice president of athletics for USA Cycling.

"Today's race was exceptionally hard. It was a heavy course. The time checks were really, really tight. One second at the first one, five seconds at the second one, seven seconds to the third. So 20K in, you knew you were within five to seven seconds of winning or losing everything, and she just crushed the last 9K. But she couldn't let up for one second, not a single second on the way back."

Armstrong said she won't try for a third straight medal.

"My mantra was, 'Kristin, you must live with this result, whatever it is,'" she said. "Because no matter what, yeah, I was the Olympic gold medalist in Beijing, but any athlete knows this: You're only as good as your last ride, and this is my last ride. That's it."

A royal decree if ever there were one.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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