BOISE, Idaho — Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong was bumped from the U.S. time trial team at the world championships after USA Cycling reviewed Amber Neben’s protest.
Armstrong told The Associated Press in an email on Friday that Neben challenged USA Cycling’s decision earlier this month to enter Armstrong as one of two American riders in the time trial at worlds in Copenhagen, Denmark.
USA Cycling issued a statement Friday confirming its switch to Neben more than six hours after Armstrong disclosed the decision. It declined to give a reason for the change.
“USA Cycling does not publicize the details of any specific selection process or individual protests,” the organization said. “Following consideration of the protest USA Cycling’s Selection Committee reconvened and, after further review, named Amber Neben as the discretionary nominee.”
Armstrong ended a brief retirement from professional cycling in 2010 after giving birth to her son. She had been hoping for a top-three finish in Denmark that would have automatically qualified her for the U.S. Olympic team bound for London next summer.
Instead, she’s returning home to the uncertainty of having to qualify in races next year while Neben, the 2008 world champion, rides the race against the clock next Tuesday.
“I landed in Denmark to only find out that I had been replaced,” Armstrong wrote in her email. “Three hours later in the airport I am on my way home.”
Evelyn Stevens finished first at the U.S. national championships time trial in June, winning the automatic bid. She was followed by Neben and Armstrong.
But Armstrong was named as the discretionary nominee for the time trial squad by USA Cycling on Sept. 2 after winning the Tour of California time trial in May by 13 seconds over Neben, as well as the Aspen Women’s Pro Race in August.
An email to Neben on Friday through her professional team, HTC-Highroad, didn’t receive an immediate response.
Neben placed sixth when Armstrong won her second world championship time trial in 2009 in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
In addition to the time trial, Armstrong was scheduled to compete along with Neben in the road race at worlds, which begin Monday and run through Sunday.
Armstrong’s husband, Joe Savola, said Friday she decided against participating in the road race on Sept. 24 because her focus had been on the time trial.
“Her heart was not in it,” Savola said. “She’s got to regroup and really think about what’s next.”
Savola said they learned of Neben’s protest from USA Cycling on Tuesday evening, giving them just hours to prepare a defense.
USA Cycling’s decision was made Thursday while Armstrong was still flying over the Atlantic Ocean, he said, adding he’s frustrated the selection and protest process weren’t more transparent or timely.
“They’re both top-notch time trialists,” Savola said. “What hurts and gnaws on me is, an athlete can file a grievance, and they can reverse the decision based on criteria that’s unknown.”
Armstrong learned the news of her ouster in a text message from Savola when she stepped off the plane.
There was nobody in Denmark from USA Cycling to greet her.
“Usually I could be there, to give her a hug,” Savola said. “I was trying to think if there was a way to beat her to Denmark. It was physically impossible.”
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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