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UPDATED: Neben replaces Armstrong at worlds, puts Olympics in doubt

BOULDER, Colo. (VN) — Amber Neben has replaced Kristin Armstrong on the U.S. national team for the time trial at next week’s world road championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Associated Press reported Friday morning that Neben, a former world TT champ, won an appeal this week to replace the Olympic gold medalist.

In an email to the AP, Armstrong said she learned of the decision after arriving in Copenhagen Friday.

“I landed in Denmark to only find out that I had been replaced,” she wrote. “Three hours later in the airport I am on my way home.”

USA Cycling communications director Andrea Smith told VeloNews that as policy the federation could not comment on the specifics of the appeal outside of the following, which will run in a press release this afternoon.

“After USA Cycling announced its team selection on September 2, 2011 for the road world championships in Copenhagen, a protest was filed concerning the selection for the women’s individual time trial.

“Following consideration of the protest USA Cycling’s Selection Committee reconvened and, after further review, named Amber Neben as the discretionary nominee to compete in the women’s time trial alongside Evelyn Stevens, an earlier announced automatic qualifier based on her time trial win at the national championships. Ms. Neben will fill the spot originally awarded to Kristin Armstrong.”

USA Cycling COO Sean Petty told VeloNews that he was not involved with the appeal and could not comment on the situation.

Neben has played a key role in a number of team time trial wins by her HTC-Highroad squad this season, including stage 1 in July’s Thüringen-Rundfahrt. Most recently Neben finished 10th in the second-stage time trial at the Tour de l’Ardèche last week.

Armstrong’s top result this year was her Amgen time trial win at the Tour of California in May. Neben finished second to Armstrong that day.

Armstrong struggled in the spring with Norwalk virus, but came back to take the overall at the Mount Hood Classic and the 2011 Aspen/Snowmass Women’s Pro Stage Race in August. She did not race internationally, opting instead to stay close to home and her infant son Lucas and husband Joe.

Armstrong’s Peanut Butter and Co.-Twenty12 team director Nicola Cranmer said she was too frustrated to comment.

“I think the process is seriously flawed,” she told VeloNews. “It’s so unreasonable that the selection panel who already voted in favor of Kristin could turn this around while she was in the air.”

The world championships, which open with the time trial on Tuesday, are a key step along the path toward 2012 Olympic qualification. Armstrong earlier this year outlined her path back to the London Games following a one-year retirement and worlds were a major piece of that journey.

“I said first things first. I have to nail two races: the Tour of California and nationals. I hope I’m one of two women to be selected for Denmark this September. After that I can focus on London if I hit those marks,” Armstrong told VeloNews in May. “To me, the selection in Denmark is key because only two American women are chosen.”

At that time, Armstrong said that without a worlds selection, the Olympics were likely out of reach. The defending Olympic champ against the clock said she would only target the Games if she felt she could win. With a third-place at June’s national championships behind Evelyn Stevens and Neben, and now the non-selection for worlds, it is unclear how Armstrong will move forward.

“How can I not be chosen for the world championships and out of the blue be selected for the Olympic Games? I’m a realist. I know what marks I have to hit and I’m going to give it everything I have to give until I continue to hit these marks,” she said.

“If I don’t hit these marks, I’m only trying to make it back to London to win again. I have no expectations as far as… going to London and participating isn’t interesting to me. I want to win, so if I’m not top in America, hey congratulations, somebody else go. I want to be the best again.”

Armstrong, Neben and USA Cycling vice president of athletics Jim Miller were not immediately available for comment.

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