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By Fred Dreier
Antelope Island, Utah –While last year’s elite time trial championships were held in Southern California’s sweaty 100-degree heat, this year’s event was held on a remote, windy rock in the middle of the Great Salt Lake –the uninhabited Antelope Island. Despite the clouds of biting flies and ever-present stench created by the coastal marsh, most riders saw the venue as a major upgrade from last year.
“The course is great. With the climb and descent it really fit me well because I’m a bigger rider,” said T-Mobile’s Kristin Armstrong.
Armstrong, who won the 2005 Pan American time trial championships earlier this year, beat a stacked women’s field that included 2005 Tour de l’Aude winner Amber Neben (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint), T-Mobile teammate and 2000 world time trial champion Mari Holden, teammate and three-time national time trial champion Kim Baldwin and Athens Olympics time trial fourth-place finisher Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders).
Neben and Thorburn, both building up their form for the upcoming Giro d’Italia Femminile, finished second and third respectively. Holden came through in fifth.
For Baldwin, the time trial championship was her primary individual race of the season. As the Boulder, Colorado, native made the first turn and headed out on the 34-km course, her handlebars twisted freely –the result of an untightened stem. Baldwin slumped down in tears, knowing her race was over.
“We have a full squad of girls here, and all of their bikes worked fine. But this was my race. This is what I was focusing on. It’s a heartbreaker,” Baldwin said. “I could spin the screws with my fingers they were so loose.”
Luck fared better for Baldwin’s teammate Rebecca Much, who won the women’s Under-23 national championship, as well as for Baldwin’s husband Chris (Navigators Insurance), who smashed the men’s field, winning by more than a minute over teammate Jeff Louder and Bernard Van Ulden (Webcor Builders).
Baldwin said the win was a bit of redemption after failing to defend his 2003 title, finishing third in last year’s race behind winner David Zabriskie and John Lieswyn (Health Net-Maxxis).
“I did a lot of time trial specific training last year. Mentally, I think I just cracked,” he said. “This year I’ve done a little time trial stuff here and there, but I think I was just able to stay calm and keep my head in the game.”
In his first full year on the pro circuit, Van Ulden said the third-place finish was the biggest result of his young career.
“Yeah, I’m definitely proud of the result, but I still can’t believe I missed second place by less than a second,” he said.
Van Ulden is familiar with near-misses. At last year’s collegiate nationals criterium, the UCLA rider threw his arms up prematurely at the line and had to settle for second place.
Baldwin’s and Louder’s 1-2 finish, matched with teammate Nathan O’Neill’s victory at last week’s Tour de Beauce, is music to the ears of the Navigators Insurance team. Besides Vassili Davidenko’s victory at the Athens Twilight Criterium (April 30) and the Captech Class (May 2), the Division II team has had a slough of second and third-place finishes at NRC races.
“I think the slump is officially over,” said Baldwin.
National Time Trial Championships
Antelope Island, Utah,June 21MEN
1. Chris Baldwin, Navigators Insurance, 34 km in 42:44
2. Jeff Louder, Navigators Insurance, at 1:16
3. Bernard Van Ulden, Webcor Builders, at 1:17
4. Tom Zirbel, Sports Garage, at 1:26
5. Chris Wherry, Health Net-Maxxis, at 1:30
6. Ryan Blickem, Target Training, at 1:40
7. Scott Moninger, Health Net-Maxxis, at 2:02
8. Colby Pearce, TIAA-CREF, at 2:15
9. Jeffrey Hartmann, Pro Peloton, at 2:25
10. Clayton Barrows, RMCEF, at 2:42WOMEN
1. Kristin Armstrong, T-Mobile, 34 km in 47:15
2. Amber Neben, Buitenpoort-Flexpoint, at 0:36
3. Christine Thorburn, Webcor Builders, at 1:14
4. Grace Fleury, Quark, at 2:28
5. Mari Holden, T-Mobile, at 2:33
6. Kele Hulser, Ford Basis, at 3:13
7. Kristin Sanders, JC Investors, at 3:28
8. Kori Seehafer, T-Mobile, at 3:49
9. Catherine Dickson, Bicycle Ranch, at 3:57
10. Candice Blickem, Quark, at 4:12