Amber Neben rides during the Women's Individual time trial on day five of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 28, 2021 in Oyama, Shizuoka, Japan
TOKYO — Five years ago, Kristin Armstrong became the oldest woman to win an Olympic cycling individual time trial when she claimed her third gold medal in the event on the eve of her 43rd birthday.
At the 2020 Tokyo Games, Amber Neben wanted to do one better. She wanted to become an Olympic time trial gold medalist at age 46.
But Neben, a two-time world time trial champion (2008 and 2016) who turned professional 20 years ago, fell just short.
On a short 22.1-kilometer course — about a third shorter than the women’s time trial courses in Rio and London — Neben finished fifth in 31:26.13, over a minute behind Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands, who won her second Olympic medal of these Games (she claimed silver in the road race). Five years ago, the Dutch rider missed the Olympic time trial after fracturing her spine in a terrifying high-speed crash in the road race.
“I wasn't wearing a radio, so I didn't know where I was,” said Neben, who’s a time-trial specialist, especially when climbs are involved. “I was honestly just riding as hard as I could and leaving it out there. I just wanted to make sure I finished, and I didn't have anything that I regretted and that I didn't have anything that I wish I would have done differently.”
Switzerland's Marlen Reusser won the silver medal in 31:09.96, while reigning world time trial champion Anna van der Breggen gave Netherlands another podium spot with the bronze.
Neben was just 11 seconds off van der Breggen’s time.
“I'm a little bit disappointed, I rode hard, I left it all out there,” said the American. “I was really hoping to medal today. It's hard when you're close but not quite there. No regrets. No complaints about my effort. It was good for today.”