The name Armstrong is synonymous with bicycle racing. And the first name associated with Armstrong is Lance, correct?
That is probably true everywhere in the world except Beijing, London and especially Boise, Idaho. Kristin Armstrong rules cycling in those venues. She won Olympic gold in time trial racing at Beijing four years ago and repeated the feat during the London games, which ended a week ago.
Armstrong is a legend in her adopted home of Boise, now dubbed the “Golden Girl” of the community.
The fact that Kristin has won two cycling Olympic gold medals doesn’t tarnish Lance’s accomplishments — winning seven Tour de France titles — but it does put her into elite company — among the world’s greatest cyclists.
It’s not like the Olympic medals were a fluke. She won the World Time Trial Championships in 2006 and 2009 and has other world cycling medals — gold in 2006, silver in 2007 and bronze in 2005. At age 38, she became the oldest Olympian ever to win a cycling gold medal.
A few months ago, it seemed uncertain that she would even compete. Kristin helped organize a major women’s cycling event in Boise — the Exergy Tour. In a prologue event May 24, she crashed, breaking her collarbone. Surgery followed and a waiting game ensued.
On June 15, the U.S. Olympic Committee had to make final choices for the women’s cycling team and Kristin’s name was included despite her continued recuperation from the crash.
She competed in the road race in London a few days prior to the time trials — her specialty. She was carrying a pretty good load throughout the race, keeping American sprinters in an excellent position to medal. But she was involved in a crash about two-thirds into the race and finished in 35th place.
She protected America’s best sprinter, Shelley Olds, for part of the race. Olds was in the final breakaway group and looked to be a medal contender, but a flat tire ended her hopes to stand on the podium and she finished fifth.
Fortunately, Kristin’s crash didn’t aggravate her earlier shoulder injury.
Like Beijing, Kristin gobbled up the competition in the London time trials. In China, she was 24 seconds faster than the silver medalist. In London, she outdistanced silver medalist Judith Arndt of Germany by more than 15 seconds.
All this wasn’t bad for someone who retired from the sport in 2009 to start a family, but decided late in 2010 to return to the sport she loved so much. Her goal was to win gold and stand on the podium with her young son, Lucas, who will turn 2 in September. She reached that plateau Aug. 1. The image of Kristin and Lucas was visible through media outlets all over the country.
This triathlete turned cyclist came home to Boise with a hero’s welcome and a celebration was held Aug. 11, her 39th birthday. More than 1,000 people attended a downtown party — and, of course, a “victory” bicycle ride that was included from the Boise Depot to Capitol Park where the celebration took place. About 200 cyclists followed her on the route.
She was humbled by all the attention and after a few emotional words at the podium, returned to the microphone moments later, holding up her gold medal, assuring those gathered that “you guys are a lot more important than this.”
Kristin has a bicycle path named after her that takes riders up to Bogus Basin ski area. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter acknowledged Kristin’s dedication to helping young people reach goals by announcing the city’s scholarships to children unable to play recreational sports will now bear the name of the Kristin Armstrong Youth Scholarships. The city awards about 3,000 such scholarships annually, worth about $150,000 each year.
The mayor even got Kristin’s son, Lucas, into the act by giving him a race jersey that proclaimed him an honorary mayor of the city.
She concluded the day spending nearly three hours signing autographs, mostly for kids who may have aspirations of becoming the next Kristin Armstrong. She certainly will do everything in her power to make that happen.
Like Lance, Kristin has completed her last competitive race. But she will continue to be an ambassador for the sport and encourage young people to reach extremely high for their goals. She talked about how she was just an average athlete who strived very hard to achieve success, making sacrifices along the way.
For this Golden Girl of Boise, it all worked out in her favor and the community in Idaho’s capital city couldn’t be more happy or proud of her accomplishments.
Bill James is a former editor and publisher of the Daily Republic now living in Meridian, a suburb of Boise, and is an avid recreational cyclist.