Kristin Armstrong was blazing fast when she won the Amgen Tour of California womens time trial last month in Bakersfield.
She was, as Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race and owner of a womens cycling team, said, racing a different race.
And less than two weeks later, while competing in a stage race in her hometown of Boise, Armstrong, 38, took a hard fall and broke her right collarbone. For a moment, Armstrong thought her third chance at the Olympics was over. She won a gold medal in the time trial four years ago in Beijing.
A day later, though, Armstrong had surgery and pins were placed in the right shoulder. Five days later she was riding her bike outside. On Friday, she was named to the USA womens road cycling team, having convinced the selection committee shes good to go.
Armstrong will be joined by Evelyn Stevens of Acton, Mass.; Shelley Olds of Gilroy, Calif.; and Amber Neben of Irvine, Calif., on the U.S. road racing team. Armstrong and Neben will also compete in the time trial.
Temecula, Calif.s Sarah Hammer was also named to the USA track cycling team. She was the automatic selection based on her bronze medal in omnium at the 2012 world championships. She will also contest team pursuit with Dotsie Bausch of Irvine, Jennie Reed of Seattle and Lauren Tamayo of Asheville, N.C.
Since she won in Beijing, life has changed for Armstrong.
Its not that she was showered with riches or that her husband, Joe Savola, could quit his job as a mechanic and designer of bicycle pedals. But Armstrong quit hers. She began running a cycling team instead of racing for one and in 2010 she had a son, Lucas.
Still Armstrong wanted to race.
After she got the news she had been named to the team Friday, Armstrong said, Its a good thing I have a good, easy day planned tomorrow because it felt like all the energy went out of me. I just ran out of the office. Its such a relief.
One wouldnt expect a defending gold medalist to feel such relief, but Armstrong didnt always feel wanted by USA Cycling.
Last year she traveled to Denmark to participate in the world championships, but by the time she stepped off the plane, Armstrong had received a text message from USA Cycling that Neben had been chosen to ride the time trial.
That was part of the ups and downs over the last couple of years, Armstrong said. Savola said that moment of touching down and seeing the text was devastating.
But I decided that maybe my head was ready but perhaps my body wasnt, Armstrong said. I had Lucas in September of 2010 and thought I was retired, but then by November I wanted to race again.
I would go to events and if I won I thought I should be winning by bigger margins, and if I didnt win, I wondered why I wasnt winning. Finally my coach, Jim Miller, said I had to quit trying to be Kristin Armstrong 2009 and be Kristin Armstrong 2011.
Savola said his wife has learned to be a more organized and focused trainer after the birth of their son. She just cant go for a training ride when she wants, Savola said. She has to figure in Lucas schedule. She comes back in from a ride exhausted and hopes Lucas is napping. Her competitors dont have that on their mind.
When Armstrong won the Beijing time trial, she destroyed the field, beating silver medalist Emma Pooley of Great Britain by more than 24 seconds and bronze medalist Karin Thurig of Switzerland by almost a full minute.
This would be a great comeback, Savola said. The baby and then the broken bone.
Armstrong said she has great family support. Her sister-in-law cared for Lucas when she went off racing in New Zealand and England and helps even when Savola is working and Armstrong goes off for a training ride in Boise.
Ill find myself out on the road and thinking, I said Id be home in two hours, Id better be home in two hours. And that gets me pedaling faster. Maybe thats a good thing.
Since coming back to racing later in 2010, Armstrong is 8-for-8 in time trials. And bumps in the road dont slow her down. Babies. Broken bones. She just keeps coming back.