By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
The Olympic trials this past weekend in Redlands, California, offered two automatic Olympic team nominations to the winner of the road race and the time trial. Having raced for 16 years, I have competed in a few Olympic trials. In past years, I felt a lot of pressure while trying to make the team; this year, as the first American in the UCI international points standings, I was fortunate enough to be automatically qualified before the trials began. This is not to say I was completely pressure-free, however. My T-Mobile team wanted all three slots on the women’s road squad, which meant we had to win both the time trial and the road race.
Last year at the national championships, T-Mobile swept the top five in the time trial. Our team has also had much success in international time trials in the past two years, including a few recent wins, so we were the overwhelming favorites and had every reason to believe that one of us would win the jersey. Instead, we were all bettered by Christine Thorburn of Webcor, who won the race by eight seconds over Amber Neben. T-Mobile had to settle for second through sixth this year, and the automatic Olympic selection went to Christine.
Honestly, I wasn’t even sure that Christine would be racing the time trial in Redlands. She is well-known for her climbing and road-racing strength, but I had never seen her time trial well before, and last year, she opted not to ride the time trial at nationals. She surprised us all. I later heard that this time trial was a goal she targeted last winter, and that she had trained specifically for this event. It all paid off, obviously, and she showed that she is capable of being a medal contender in Athens.
Having lost the time trial, our team really banded together for the road race. With so many of my teammates having the capability to win, it was difficult to pick a leader. After riding the course the day before it was decided that Amber was to be our leader, and we developed our race plan around her. With nine riders, we knew we had the capacity to control the race from start to finish.
We decided we could attack on the second lap. Dotsie and Lara went to the front and rode tempo leading into the climbs, and once we hit the hills, Kim and Kimberly took over, the group shrank quickly, and by the time we were over the second hill, we were down to 15 riders in the front bunch.
Our team rode tempo at the front for the rest of the lap, and then in the third lap, Kristin Armstrong and I attacked. Kristin took off like a motorbike and opened up a huge gap immediately; only Christine Thorburn could follow. The two of them rode away together, building a lead of 90 seconds.
At that point, we decided it was time for Amber to bridge up. I attacked with Amber on my wheel, and when I started to slow she went for it. Amber got away, but could not hold her gap, as Rona and Genesis were chasing hard.
Once Amber was caught, we tried to send other riders up the road, attacking one by one, but soon realized that Kristin had good legs up there and we decided we were comfortable leaving the race in her hands. Kristin came through and beat Christine in the sprint, winning the race, the national champion’s jersey and gaining a start position in the Olympic Road Race.
The race did not turn out exactly as we had planned, but in the end, we were ecstatic with the result, and it was great to have had everyone on the team playing a part. It is a great feeling to win together.
Our sponsors, especially T-Mobile, have been incredibly supportive of our Olympic quest, and it was especially fitting that we had several of the T-Mobile executives on the hills cheering us on. Their presence motivated us to “Get More.”
With only three start positions in the women’s road race in Athens, many strong riders are left out, some of them my T-Mobile teammates. I wish we could all race in Athens, but I feel we will have a very solid American team, and I am excited at the thought of riding with Kristin and Christine.
After some photo shoots and interviews the next few days in Los Angeles, I will be going back to Europe for a little rest, rejuvenation, and a whole lot of training in preparation for Athens.