Monday, May 27, 2024

Olympic triathlete Taylor Knibb wins US cycling time trial to earn spot in Paris in a second sport

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Olympic triathlete Taylor Knibb stunned even herself by winning the women’s time trial at the U.S. road cycling championships.

Now, she will have the opportunity to compete in two different sports at this year’s Paris Games.

Knibb ripped over the flat, out-and-back course around Charleston, West Virginia, in 45 minutes, 54 seconds Wednesday, beating pre-race favorite Kristen Faulkner by 11 seconds. Three-time Olympian Amber Neben was 49 seconds back in third place.

That means that Knibb will contest the time trial and road race in Paris alongside Chloe Dygert, who will be heavily favored to win the gold medal in the race against the clock. Dygert is not competing at nationals because she already had qualified for the Olympics by winning the time trial at last year’s world championships.

Knibb also had previously qualified for Paris, albeit in the triathlon, when the 26-year-old from Washington, D.C., finished fifth at a test event held over the Olympic course at the historic Pont Alexandre III bridge last August.

“I’m in shock. I’ll be perfectly honest,” Knibb said at the finish line Wednesday. “There are so many incredible riders out here — it was such an incredible day riding with them. I’m like, ‘Wow, this is so cool. They ride on the World Tour. That’s amazing!’”

In the men’s time trial, defending champion Brandon McNulty finished the 20.9-mile (33.7-kilometer) course in 37:42, beating runner-up Tyler Stites by 58 seconds. Neilson Powless finished another four seconds adrift in third place.

The U.S. qualified two women’s entries for Paris — Knibb and Dygert now have secured them — and three spots for its men’s team. McNulty locked up one Wednesday while the other two will be announced at a later date and are dependent on several factors, including which American riders will be competing for their pro teams in the Tour de France.

Three years ago, Knibb became the youngest woman ever on the U.S. triathlon team for the Olympics. She finished 16th in the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics but helped the Americans win the silver medal in the mixed team relay.

The two-time IRONMAN 70.3 world champion, who has been spending more time on the bike the past couple of years, covered the first half of the time trial course in 20:59, putting Knibb in a dead heat with Faulkner, who rode into West Virginia on a wave having already won Omloop van het Hageland and a stage at La Vuelta Feminina this year.

Knibb pulled away over the second half of the ride, though, securing her spot on the U.S. road cycling team for Paris.

“There were four turns and that’s it,” Knibb said. “Last year, there were so many turns and my coach said, ‘You’re really good at holding race pace. Your weakness is getting to race pace.’ So, only four times I had to get to race pace. And that was a relief for me. If it did get a little bit more surgey, it would have probably favored some other women a lot better.”

The Olympic schedule should work in Knibb’s favor. The women’s time trial has moved up to July 27, giving her a cushion before the women’s triathlon on July 31. The road race is Aug. 4 and the triathlon mixed relay is the following day.

McNulty, who won a stage at the Giro d’Italia last year and was third overall at Paris-Nice this season, was the final rider off in the men’s time trial Wednesday. By the intermediate time check, the UAE Team Emirates rider already was more than 30 seconds ahead of Stites and Powless, who had started just ahead of him, and he never slowed down from there.

The U.S. road cycling championships continue through the weekend in Charleston, the new host city for the event. The men’s and women’s road races wrap up competition Sunday, though there are no automatic Olympic berths on the line.

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AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

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