United States women’s cycling great Kristin Armstrong’s confirmation in the NZCT women’s tour of New Zealand in the Manawatu from February 22 to 26 is music to the ears of race director Jorge Sandoval.
The appearance of the 2008 Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion time trialist comes hard on the heels of the securing of another former world champion Judith Arndt, of Germany. With Armstrong competing for the USA national team, Arndt for the new Australian professional team, GreenEdge-AIS, and the Italian national team the first announced the field is already shaping as an absolute standout on the international calendar.
Sandoval expects to confirm the appearance of other overseas teams, in addition to a strong group of New Zealanders who will take part. Understandably Sandoval is excited, and maybe even a little surprised, that his tour has attracted so much international interest from the sport’s power bases in the northern hemisphere.
“We are so far away from the rest of the world, and top overseas teams are reluctant to come all the way to New Zealand for a five-day race,” Sandoval said. “However, those coming know the importance of winning the tour, and picking up international ranking points which will help qualify riders and teams for the London Olympic Games later in the year.”
Armstrong’s other accomplishments include capturing the US time trial title on three occasions, and winning the NZCT tour in 2008. The following year the 38-year-old won her second world time trial gold medal, and soon after she retired to have a baby. A son, Lucas, was born in September 2010. However, she returned to competition with the London Olympics very much in mind. Being selected in the USA team for the Manawatu tour is a positive step in that direction.
She has already been named in the preliminary USA squads for the Olympics, along with three other members of the team in New Zealand, Kristin McGrath, two-time USA time trial champion Evelyn Stevens, and Theresa Cliff-Ryan. The team’s fifth rider coming, Ally Stacher, is similarly accomplished, having shone as a member of the HTC Highroad professional team.
Armstrong is often confused as the wife of Lance Armstrong, whose former wife was also named Kristin.
The NZCT tour starts with the individual time trial around Massey University on February 22 at 6.00pm