Age is just a number for Amber Neben.
In a statement sent to VeloNews and posted on her Instagram account, Neben declared her intention to try and quality for the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Neben, now 43, would be 45 years old for the Tokyo games, which run July 24 until August 9, 2020.
An Olympian in 2008 and 2012, Neben said she initially planned to abandon her quest for a third Olympic berth after she was not chosen for the American team for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After Neben won the world title in the individual time trial in 2016 she still said she saw 2018 as the date to end her career.
“Even after winning the world championship in 2016 and two national championships in 2017, I still wasn’t sure I would compete beyond 2018,” Neben said. “However, as 2018 progressed, I continued to win races which actually kept me cycling through the season. Additionally, as the season unfolded, the idea of chasing after the 2020 Olympics was stronger and stronger on my heart.”
The push for the Olympics pens another chapter in Neben’s 17-year professional career. Neben turned professional in 2002 and quickly blossomed into one of the top American female stage racers of her generation, winning the Tour de l’Aude and Route de France Feminine, as well as the U.S. road national championship title in 2003. In 2008 she won the UCI world championships in the individual time trial, a victory that focused her career on the race against the clock.
Neben nearly retired after breaking her hip in a crash at the 2013 Tour of California but returned to racing after sitting out much of the 2014 season.
After the crash Neben switched her focus away from European one-day races, following a pared-down competition schedule focused on the U.S. national championships, select North American and European races, and the UCI world championships. Neben has said the lighter schedule allows her body to recover between efforts. Neben said the schedule helped her build up for the 2017 U.S. road championships, where she won both the individual time trial and the road race.
“I did a full [European road campaign] from 2002 until 2012. I loved it and I thought it was so cool, but for me, being in my 40s and having so much going on, the risk aspect is big too,” Neben said in a 2017 interview. “I do a good job following my plan so I don’t need a ton of racing.”
Neben said she will continue to race a limited campaign in 2019 with the Swiss UCI team Cogeas-Mettler.
A devout Christian, Neben said her desire to pursue a third Olympic berth had roots in her faith.
“I know this sounds weird to most, but God has put the Olympics back on my heart,” Neben said. “I don’t know what will happen, but I will move in faith, relying on His strength.”
Neben’s full statement is published here.