The U.S.’s Kristin Armstrong raced the women’s cycling time trial at the London Olympics knowing it was the last race of her career.
Armstrong beat Germany’s Judith Arndt by more than 15 seconds today over a mostly flat 18-mile (29 kilometers) course that finished at Hampton Court Palace southwest of London. Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia took bronze.
“My mantra was: You have to live with this result whatever it is,” said Armstrong, 38. “There is a power you have when you know it’s your last ride.”
Armstrong, who returned to cycling after having a child in 2010, beat Jeannie Longo’s 1996 mark as the oldest Olympic road cycling champion. It’s the American’s second straight time-trial gold medal.
She said her 37-minute, 34.82-second ride past thousands of cheering fans went past in a blur.
“There were very few moments of the course I remember,” Armstrong told reporters. “I had to drive it, drive it: I knew if I let off my power for one moment I could have gone from first to fourth.”
Armstrong, last to start the course, put her head in her hands when she came to a halt. She sat on a golden throne and carried her son, Lucas, on the podium in front of the 16th Century palace of King Henry VIII.
She said preparing for London had been the “hardest journey” of her career because of the responsibilities of being a mother. She also broke a collarbone in the run-up to the London games.
Armstrong, who gets a $100,000 bonus from USA Cycling for winning gold, said she will now devote time to mentoring riders like Evelyn Stevens.
Arndt, 36, said she too plans to end her career. The German had also won silver in the road race and time trial at the 2004 games.
Britain’s Emma Pooley, the silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing games, wept as she spoke with reporters just after finishing sixth today.
“I just wasn’t quick enough,” the 5-foot-2 (1.57-meter) Pooley said as she slumped on her bike. “A lot hangs on this: British cycling, my coach and a lot of people who have been helping me.”
Pooley, 29, said there was too much emphasis placed on the Olympic medal table in Britain.
“I do find the counting medals thing a little bit depressing,” Pooley said. “The thing that people come to watch is the story and the competition. We did our best.”