Kristin Armstrong of the United States, who took a break from cycling in 2009 to start a family, has successfully defended the Olympic time trial title she won in Beiing four years ago to clinch the gold medal in London today. The American, as defending champion the last rider out on the course, completed the 29 kilometres in 37 minutes 34.28 seconds, a shade over a quarter of a minute quicker than the time set by the rider who had started immediately in front of her, world champion Judith Arndt of Germany.
Those were the only two riders to beat the time of 37:57:35 set by early pacesetter Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia, tenth of the 24 starters, who clinched her second bronze medal of the Games following her third place behind Marianne Vos and Lizzie Armitstead in Sunday's road race.
Both Vos, who finished 16th and Armitstead, 10th, were off the pace today. Britain's other rider here, Emma Pooley, who won silver behind Armstrong in Beijing but was competing on a course today that didn't suit her strength going uphill, finished sixth, nearly a minute and a quarter down on the winner.
The 38-year-old Armstrong, herself a two-time world champion in this discipline, was the quickest rider through both the intermediate time checks today. She passed the first of those, after 14.1 kilometres, in 13 minutes 56.38 seconds, around one and a half seconds faster than New Zealand's Linda Villumsen, with Canada's Clara Hughes third and Pooley less than a second off the podium in fourth spot.
Zabelinskaya, who by now was sitting in the chair of virtual leader in the start and finish area against the splendid backdrop of the red-brick Tudor facade of Hampton Court Palace, was only sixth quickest at that point and looked unlikely to end the day with a medal.
By the second time check at 20.4 kilometres, however, the podiium was starting to take shape, with Armstrong still first and Arndt and Zabelinskaya posting the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Hughes had moved to second but her challenge would fade in the final few kilometres, and Villumsen and Poolley had already dropped down the rankings.
As she headed towards the final kilometre, Armstrong caught and passed Vos, who had started three minutes before her. The Dutch woman had been caught earlier by Arndt, the rider who had gone out on the course 90 seconds after her, and who seemed to be benefiting from a bit of drafting from the cars following Vos which could have given her a crucial margin over her rivals. Armstrong's emphatic victory however means that didn't become an issue.
Olympic women's time trial 1 ARMSTRONG Kristin USA 37:34.8 2 ARNDT Judith Germany 37:50.3 3 ZABELINSKAYA Olga Russia 37:57.3 4 VILLUMSEN Linda New Zealand 37:59.2 5 HUGHES Clara Canada 38:29.0 6 POOLEY Emma Great Britain 38:37.7 7 NEBEN Amber USA 38:45.2 8 van DIJK Ellen Netherlands 38:53.7 9 WORRACK Trixi Germany 39:20.7 10 ARMITSTEAD Elizabeth Great Britain 39:26.2 11 SUNDSTEDT Pia Finland 40:01.7 12 ANTOSHINA Tatiana Russia 40:12.5 13 GILLOW Shara Australia 40:25.0 14 JOHANSSON Emma Sweden 40:38.6 15 CORDON Audrey France 40:40.5 16 VOS Marianne Netherlands 40:40.8 17 FAHLIN Emilia Sweden 41:15.9 18 FERNANDES Clemilda Brazil 41:25.4 19 RAMSDEN Denise Canada 41:44.8 20 TCHALYKH Elena Azerbaijan 41:47.1