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Two Very Different Cyclists Steer The Way From Idaho To London Olympics

Jul 23, 2012
Originally published on July 23, 2012 5:49 pm

Two American women cyclists from Idaho will race at this summer's Olympics. And their events couldn't be more different: Kristin Armstrong races the clock, wearing an aerodynamic teardrop helmet in the time trial.

Meanwhile, mountain biker Georgia Gould combines speed with technical prowess to navigate rocky descents and dirt trails.

Training In The Desert

It's 108 degrees on this strip of road in southern Idaho's desert. That's where Armstrong takes handfuls of ice — and shoves them down her skin-tight jersey.

"I'm just trying to keep as cool as I can 'til the start," she says with a laugh.

Armstrong has come to this spot nearly every Thursday night for the past eight years, to compete in a time trial outside her hometown of Boise. It's nothing official; no medals get handed out. But for this Olympian, "Ten Mile Creek Road" is a proving ground.

"Time trial is what we call the race of truth," she says.

The event is also Armstrong's specialty. She's a two-time world champion. And four years ago, she won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

"The fastest time at the end of the day wins," she says. "It's a race of truth because it's just you against the clock."

There's definitely a science to the event, as well as fitness: Armstrong can average 30 miles per hour on her super-light and aerodynamic bicycle, with its saucer-shaped wheels.

After a countdown, she takes off. Cyclist Scott Hoover watches Armstrong disappear into the heat and sagebrush.

"Oh she's the whole package," he says. "I mean, she's got the genetic ability, and the drive, and the mental toughness."

Armstrong finishes the 10-mile time trial in just 19 minutes and 43 seconds — the fastest time of the night.

"It went really well," she says. "I mean, I was within a 10-second range of where I normally am on my fast days."

Even though Armstrong has trained in this desert, she's not very worried about London's rainy weather.

"If I go in with a mindset that it's going to be a wet rain day it's ok," she says. "I'm from Boise, Idaho. I train here. I have weather, but it always helps me to be strong in my mind, and to know what I'm up against. And then I just move forward."

From Running To Riding, In The Mountains

If Kristin Armstrong's approach is a bit scientific, then mountain biker Georgia Gould's sport is more of an art.

Earlier this month, Gould rode to her fourth national mountain bike cross-country championship in Ketchum. The town, with its endless miles of trails, is where she learned to ride back in the summer of 1999.

"I started trail running when I moved out here, and I saw a lot of people on mountain bikes," she says, "and I thought, 'Man, that seems like a great way to explore the area, and see more of the area than you can on foot.'"

Back then, Gould had dreadlocks and a sense of adventure.

"So it wasn't too long before I found a race that I could enter. I'm pretty competitive," she says with a laugh. "So as soon as I heard of a race, I entered it. And I moved up pretty quickly through the ranks."

Gould worked part-time prepping food at a local restaurant to try to pay her bills and race fees.

"My husband and I were driving to all of the races in a 15-passenger van with a futon in the back of it," she says. "I mean, it was totally shoestring budget camping at the races, and I definitely was pretty broke that year."

At the end of that year, 2005, Gould got an offer to ride for one of the best women's mountain bike teams in the country: Team Luna Chix. A year later, she won her first national title. London will be her second Olympics.

"Even though it's not just another bike race, it is just another bike race," she says. "My success in recent races is the result of good prep, and if I keep doing the same thing that I'm giving my best chance to have a great race in London."

In the Beijing Olympics, Gould came in eighth. But this summer, in London, there's a very good chance she'll take home an Olympic medal.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.boisestatepublicradio.org.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Two female cyclists from Idaho will compete in the London Olympics, but in very different events. Kristin Armstrong pits herself against the clock, wearing an aerodynamic helmet, trying to shave fractions of seconds off her time. Georgia Gould is a mountain biker. She combines speed with technical prowess to navigate rocky descents and dirt trails.

Here's more on both women from Sadie Babits of Boise State Public Radio.

SADIE BABITS, BYLINE: It's 108 degrees on this strip of road in southern Idaho's desert. Cyclist Kristin Armstrong takes handfuls of ice and shoves them down her skintight jersey.

KRISTIN ARMSTRONG: I'm just trying to keep as cool as I can 'til the start.

BABITS: She's come out here nearly every Thursday night for the past eight years to compete in a local time trial outside her hometown of Boise. It's nothing official. No medals get handed out, but for this Olympian, 10 mile Creek Road is a proving ground.

ARMSTRONG: Time trialing is what we call the race of truth.

BABITS: This is Armstrong's specialty. She's a two-time world champion and, four years ago, she won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

ARMSTRONG: And the fastest time at the end of the day wins and so it's a race of truth because this is you against the clock.

BABITS: There is definitely a science to this. There's the fitness. Armstrong can average 30 miles an hour on her bike. And there's the super light and aerodynamic bicycle with its saucer-shaped wheels.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Five, four, three, two, one, go.

BABITS: Scott Hoover watches Armstrong disappear into the heat and sagebrush.

SCOTT HOOVER: Oh, she's the whole package. I mean, she's got the genetic ability and the drive and the mental toughness.

BABITS: Armstrong finishes this 10-mile time trial in just 19 minutes and 43 seconds. It's the fastest time of the night.

ARMSTRONG: It went really well. I mean, I was within, you know, a 10-second range of what I normally am on my fast days.

BABITS: And, even though she's trained in this desert, she's not even that worried about London's rainy weather.

ARMSTRONG: If I go in with the mindset that it's going to be a wet, rainy day, it's OK. I'm from Boise, Idaho. I train here. I have weather. But it always helps me to be strong in my mind and to know exactly what I'm up against and then I just move forward.

BABITS: So, if Kristin Armstrong's approach is scientific, mountain biker Georgia Gould's sport is more of an art.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is how to finish the bike race. Seals the deal wire to wire. Georgia Gould, now a four-time national champion...

BABITS: Gould points her mountain bike down a steep rock drop on her way to win her fourth national mountain bike cross-country championship in Ketchum, Idaho earlier this month. This community with its endless miles of trails is where she learned to ride back in the summer of 1999.

GEORGIA GOULD: I started trail running when I moved out here and I just saw a lot of people out on mountain bikes and thought, man, that seems like a great way to explore the area and kind of see more of the area than you can on foot.

BABITS: Back then, she had dreadlocks and a sense of adventure.

GOULD: So it wasn't too long before I found a race that I could enter. I'm pretty competitive, so as soon as I heard of a race, I entered it and then I moved up pretty quickly through the ranks.

BABITS: She worked part time prepping food at a local restaurant to try and pay her bills and race fees.

GOULD: My husband and I were driving to all the races. We had a 15-passenger van that we had a futon in the back of and, I mean, it was totally, you know, shoestring budget, camping at the races and definitely was pretty broke that year.

BABITS: At the end of that year, 2005, Gould got an offer to ride for one of the best women's mountain bike teams in the country, Team Luna Chix. A year later, she won her first national title. London will be her second Olympics.

GOULD: Even though it's not just another bike race, it is just another bike race. My success in recent races has been the result of good preparation and then, if I continue to do those same things, I'm giving myself the best chance to have a great race in London.

BABITS: In the Beijing Olympics, Gould came in eighth, but this time in London, there's a very good chance she'll take home an Olympic medal.

For NPR News, I'm Sadie Babits in Boise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.