Fifth In The Cycling Time Trial, 3-Time Olympian Amber Neben Scores Her Best Olympic Finish Yet

by Peggy Shinn

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.”

This is van der Breggen’s third Olympic medal. At the Rio Games, the Dutch cyclist won the women’s road race and finished third in the time trial.
Chloé Dygert, the 2019 world time trial champion, was a gold medal favorite in the Olympic time trial coming to Tokyo. But it was the 24-year-old cyclist’s first race since she crashed while leading the 2020 world championship time trial last fall. She flipped over a guardrail and lacerated her quadricep in the gruesome accident. She recovered. But her form was untested, and she appeared to struggle in the Olympic time trial.

Dygert still has her sights set on a medal in her third event of the 2020 Olympic Games, the team pursuit next week.
In her third Olympic Games, Neben gained time throughout the time trial, posting the fifth fastest time at the first split. Her plan was to ride hard the first half of the race up the climb, hang on for the downhill, then go hard when the race hit the Fuji International Speedway track, where the time trial started and finished. She tied van de Breggen for the third fastest final split. But it was not enough to move the American rider into medal contention.
This is Neben’s best finish at the Olympic Games. She competed in the 2008 and 2012 Games, finishing seventh in the London Olympic time trial.

In the men’s time trial — two laps around the 22.1-kilometer loop — Primoz Roglic stormed to a big win, an Olympic gold medal easing the pain of last year’s Tour de France individual time trial, when the Slovenian ceded the 2020 Tour de France lead to Tedaj Pogacar in the race against the clock. Roglic, who races for the trade team Jumbo Visma, crashed out of the Tour de France this year. 
The Slovenian rode the 44.2-kilometer course in 55:04.19, over a minute ahead of his Jumbo-Visma teammate Tom Dumoulin (56:05.58), who added to the Netherlands’ medal haul in cycling. Dumoulin also won the Olympic time trial silver medal in Rio. Australia’s Rohan Dennis rounded out the podium with the bronze medal (56:08.09).
Team USA’s hopes fell on Brandon McNulty, who made one of the key breaks in the men’s road race on Saturday. The cycling fans at the speedway recognized the American and cheered for him as he started the time trial.

But months of hard racing caught up with McNulty out on the breezy time trial course. The former junior world time trial champion and two-time U23 world time trial medalist finished the time trial 24th, almost five minutes behind Roglic. 
McNulty came to the Tokyo Olympic Games straight from the 2021 Tour de France.

“This really wasn’t my day, and I wasn’t able to connect the dots,” he said. ‘The first time split, I think I was good, and then I just couldn't sustain what I wanted to sustain. I think this season is starting to catch up on me.”

Lawson Craddock also started the time trial for Team USA. The Texan ended up 34th.
The individual time trial concluded road cycling at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The track events begin next week at the Izu Velodrome, about 2.5 hours south of Tokyo.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.

An award-winning freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered six Olympic Games. She has contributed to since its inception in 2008.