Olympic-size pressure for U.S. women at worlds TT

The American women's contingent has a great shot at medalling in the world's TT, but they're also racing for spots on the Olympic team.

RICHMOND, Virginia (VN) — A two-time Olympic gold medalist and two former worlds bronze medalists stack an American women’s time trial team for whom any place off the podium will be seen as a disappointment. “It’s definitely possible to put three in the top five,” said Carmen Small, who was third in the worlds time trial in 2013. “It’s not a pipe dream.”

Small will be joined by Kristin Armstrong, who won gold in London and Beijing, and Boels-Dolmans’ Evelyn Stevens, third at worlds in 2014, in the women’s individual time trial on Tuesday.

As a combined force, American squad looks to be among the strongest in the field, on par with a German team led by defending champion Lisa Brennauer. Putting one or more rider onto the podium is possible for the American trio.

“It’ll be a good race, we’ll see what happens. If everyone is on form, and everyone races to their potential, then it’s a going to be a stellar race, and a really close race,” Small said.

Small pointed to Brennaeur, the defending world champion and part of the Velocio-SRAM team that won the team time trial on Sunday, and the Netherlands’ Ellen Van Dijk as the two riders most likely to spoil and American run at the rainbow bands.

As if worlds isn’t stressful enough, the impact of Tuesday’s individual women’s time trial result could stretch into all the way to next summer’s Rio Olympics.

When the three American women roll down the start ramp in Richmond they’ll do so in full knowledge that a spot on the podium guarantees them a spot at the Olympics in Brazil next summer. If more than one rider earns a top three, both earn an automatic selection.

“It is important, it’s automatic, it’s our first chance to auto for Rio,” said Small. “Personally, I’m trying not to put so much pressure on myself to podium because I think that will put negative pressure on me.”

“With worlds you have to have a flawless run, everything has to be perfect,” she said.