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Armstrong, Wiggins are good as gold

Associated Press / August 2, 2012
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HAMPTON COURT, England — Kristin Armstrong knew she was the favorite to win time trial gold in cycling at the Beijing Olympics. But when she looked at the start list in London, she counted nine riders with a shot.

In the end, there was only one.

The defending champion blistered an 18-mile course south of London on Wednesday to win her second straight gold medal. Her time of 37 minutes, 34.82 seconds was more than 15 seconds better than world champion Judith Arndt of Germany, who took silver.

Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia won the bronze.

‘‘My mantra was, ‘You have to live with this ride,’’’ said Armstrong, who briefly retired after the 2008 Beijing Olympics to start a family. ‘‘You’re only as good as your last result.’’

It couldn’t have been any better.

The former two-time world champion had already gained a second on the field by the first time check, and the advantage had swelled to five by the time she reached the 12½-mile mark.

Armstrong knew she was headed for another gold when she started to pick off riders in the run-up to the finish, including Dutch champion Marianne Vos, who won gold in the road race.

The famously stoic Armstrong let a smile slip as she crossed the finish line, slowing to a stop and then slumping over her bike. She rested just enough to catch her breath before heading to the victory stand and her second consecutive Olympic gold.

‘‘When she stopped, she was on top. You don’t lose what you’ve got,’’ said Armstrong’s teammate Amber Neben, who finished seventh. ‘‘You don’t lose the fact that you’re a great bike racer.’’

Bradley Wiggins gave the thousands of fans packing the course reason to cheer when he triumphed in the men’s race. The 32-year-old, who became the first British rider to win the Tour de France 10 days ago, beat world champion Tony Martin of Germany by 42 seconds, while British teammate Chris Froome took the bronze.

It was Wiggins’s fourth Olympic gold — after three previous ones in track cycling — and gave him a British record seven overall. He had shared the mark of six medals with Steve Redgrave, although the rowing great won five golds.

It was all gold for Armstrong, even if the path from Beijing wasn’t entirely smooth.

Armstrong thought she was finished after winning the world championship in 2009, but she got the itch to ride again after delivering a son, Lucas, in 2010. She got back on the bike and started to win races, only to break her collarbone during a crash in May.

Armstrong admits that she rushed her recovery, getting back on the bike only a couple weeks later. But she thinks the time off allowed her to refocus.

‘‘This is an amazing moment,’’ she said. ‘‘A lot of people ask me what the differences were between this and Beijing. I would say this was a much more difficult journey.’’

The race went through the Surrey countryside, twice crossing the River Thames, before finishing back at the palace.

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