Kristin Armstrong is in her last week of competitive bike racing at an international level. She's at the World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland finishing up a career that has had its share of successes. As we have seen with athletes like Brett Favre, sometimes it is hard to retire, but Kristin is calling it quits at the international level and looking to spend as much time as possible back home in Idaho.
Kristin came to cycling from triathlons at the turn of the millenium. It was clear she was strong on the bike, but like most riders crossing over from tri, she needed to learn some bike handling skills to be able to translate her talent to the top level of women's racing. Luckily, Kristin was a quick study. So quick in fact that she earned a spot on the 2004 Athens Olympic Team by winning the US Olympic Trials Road Race, beating Christine Thorburn in a two-up sprint.
In Athens, Kristin had an OK ride in the road race. She was America's top finisher in 8th, but she was a long way from the medal podium. It was in 2005, that Kristin started showing her dominance in the event that would eventually lead to an Olympic gold medal in Beijing. To be sure, Kristin was an excellent stage racers notching wins in top US races as Nature Valley Grand Prix, Tour de Toona and Tour of the Gila.
But, was in the time trials, that Kristin started winning World Championship medals. A bronze in 2005 was followed by gold in 2006 and a silver in 2007. Clearly, Kristin was one of the favorites for the gold in Beijing. Kristin spent a year in serious preparation for the event and it paid off as she dominated the Olympic Time Trial and won the race.
After an Olympic gold medal and a World Championship gold medal Kristin had very little left to prove, which probably factored into her decision to hang up her cleats. But, what makes her a true champion is that in her last time trial at the international level, she took the gold medal at the World Championships by absolutely crushing her competition, winning by almost a minute. That's the way a true champion ends a career, going out on top and leaving no doubts as to who was the best on that day.