Olympics 2012: Kristin Armstrong spins wheels of fortune

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HAMPTON COURT, England — Kristin Armstrong knew she was the favorite to win time trial gold in cycling at the Beijing Olympics. But when she looked at the start list in London, she counted nine riders with a shot.

In the end, there was only one.

The defending champion blistered an 18-mile course south of London on Wednesday to win her second straight gold medal. Her time of 37 minutes, 34.82 seconds was more than 15 seconds better than world champion Judith Arndt of Germany, who took silver.

Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia won the bronze.

“My mantra was, ‘You have to live with this ride,’” said Armstrong, who briefly retired after the 2008 Beijing Olympics to start a family. “You’re only as good as your last result.”

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associated press PHOTORAPHS Kristin Armstrong won her second consecutive individual time trial ... more >

It couldn’t have been any better.

The famously stoic Armstrong let a smile slip as she crossed the finish line, slowing to a stop and then slumping over her bike. She rested just enough to catch her breath before heading to the victory stand and her second consecutive Olympic gold.

“When she stopped, she was on top. You don’t lose what you’ve got,” said Armstrong’s teammate Amber Neben, who finished seventh. “You don’t lose the fact that you’re a great bike racer.”

Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins gave the thousands of fans packing the course reason to cheer when he triumphed in the men’s race.

Wiggins captured his fourth Olympic gold medal by beating world champion Tony Martin of Germany by 42 seconds, while British teammate Chris Froome took the bronze.

It was all gold for Armstrong, even if the path from Beijing wasn’t entirely smooth.

Armstrong thought she was finished after winning the world championship in 2009 but got the itch to ride again after delivering a son, Lucas, in 2010. She got back on the bike and started to win races, only to break her collarbone during a crash in May.

Armstrong concedes that she rushed her recovery, getting back on the bike only a couple of weeks later. But she also thinks the time off allowed her to refocus on the London Olympics.

“This is an amazing moment,” she said. “A lot of people ask me what the differences were between this and Beijing. I would say this was a much more difficult journey.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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