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Power Take: Why Olympic cycling time trials reached a fitting conclusion

“Did I win?” Kristin Armstrong asked as she crossed the finish line Wednesday. Learning that indeed she had won her third straight Olympic gold medal in the individual time trial, she got off her bike and crumpled to the ground. Later that morning, Fabian Cancellara had to wait until Tour de France winner Chris Froome crossed the line before weeping with joy, secure in the knowledge of his second Olympic gold.

They were perhaps two of the most inspiring, appropriate cycling wins this season. Armstrong came out of retirement, for a second time, and her appointment to the U.S. team came with controversy. She hadn’t raced enough internationally in the last two years, her critics said. She was too old, they claimed. Yet on the eve of her 43rd birthday she dug a little deeper in the pain cave.

Cancellara, in his last year of pro cycling, is one of the most respected riders in the peloton. Fittingly, the 35-year-old leaves the sport with an emphatic win in his specialty. In a race that focuses on how much one can sustain form in the depths of pain, both riders demonstrated it can be done with class and heart.

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