American Kristin Armstrong is the favourite to win the women’s time trial at the UCI road world championships in Varese, Italy on Wednesday.
With fellow Americans Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie taking part in the men’s race against the clock on Thursday, the US feel confident that Armstrong (no relation to Lance) can set the pace on the second day of the competition.
“The women’s squad is one of the strongest we’ve assembled,” said Pat McDonough, director of athletics at USA Cycling. “All three of our athletes are capable of winning a medal in the time trial.”
But Armstrong’s rivals, including Britain’s Emma Pooley and Switzerland’s Karin Thurig, won’t make it easy for her on a course that should prove less taxing than that in Beijing.
At 25.15 km long, the women’s course climbs steadily over the first 6.6km before descending and taking on a more rolling profile.
Pooley finished only 24 seconds behind Armstrong on a hillier course at the Olympics, while Thurig was nearly a minute off the American’s pace and just over a second faster than French veteran Jeannie Longo.
Armstrong won gold in the Beijing Olympics last month and the world time trial title in 2006. A regular podium finisher at the annual championships, she finished third in Madrid, Spain in 2005 and took silver last year in Stuttgart, Germany.
In Beijing, she admitted that losing the right to wear the world champion’s rainbow jersey she had won in 2006 had inspired her gold bid at the Games.
“At Stuttgart it was difficult to give up the rainbow jersey, but it was a blessing in disguise,” she said “It was a kind of wake up call that I just can’t show up and win. It re-motivated me and made me focus on the little things.”
© AFP 2008