The national championships are always a reunion of sorts. Contestants converge on the American host town from all over the country and, for those competing on the WorldTour, from overseas. It’s often a unique opportunity for old friends and teammates to catch up, and for the best domestic talent to see how they stack up against those competing at the WorldTour and Continental level.
Yet at the start of the women’s elite time trial race this morning, a new face appeared. Making her pro cycling debut in the colors of Trek-Segafredo, the recently signed Taylor Knibb quickly found herself in the hot seat as she set a blistering time of 31:41 at the completion of the 14.6-miles course.
Knibb, however, was only the ninth rider off the starting ramp and she faced stiff competition in the second and third wave which held the likes of former world and national time trial champions Chloé Dygert, Lauren Stephens and Amber Neben.
Stephens and Dygert each managed to outpace the newcomer, moving her out of the hot seat and into third. At the intermediate timing point, it looked like Neben, the day's last starter, was off-pace and lagged behind Knibb. But the 48-year-old made up for her loss of time in the second half, unseating Knibb from the podium altogether. Still, a fourth-place finish among the best in the country is not a bad start to one's road racing career.
But Knibb is no stranger to world-class competition, and in fact, a world champion in her own right. While not yet known in the cycling world, Knibb is a star triathlete. Currently ranked fourth in the world for short-course triathlon, the 25-year-old Boulderite is the reigning Ironman 70.3 World champion and an Olympic silver medalist (team relay, Tokyo 2020).
A lifelong athlete, started competing in triathlons as a young girl, inspired by watching her mother, Leslie Knibb, compete in Ironmans. In college, Knibb competed at the Division 1 level in Track and Field and swimming for Cornell University. Knibb was selected for the US national team in 2017 at just 19 years old, the youngest age anyone has ever joined.
She made true on her potential by winning gold in the season opener of the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series and thereby becoming the youngest woman yet to qualify for the Olympic triathlon. In Tokyo, she finished 16th in the women's Olympic event before helping the mixed relay team win the silver medal.
Her rise in the triathlon world has been meteoric and many are calling her the next great American triathlete. She now hopes to also bring her talent and dedication to professional cycling with a combined triathlon and road calendar.
Already a Trek-sponsored athlete in triathlon, Knibb signed with the Trek-Segafredo road program mid-season to ‘test herself at the highest level of professional cycling and learn about all the ways I can continue to improve and develop.’
“I see the cycling events as on a parallel path to triathlon, I guess, like just adding a rail,” Knibb said in a team statement.
The idea to complete at the U.S. National Time Trial Championship was born from a lingering foot injury that prevent her from running. More time on the bike meant she was looking to find competition outside of triathlon.
“If you probably asked me like two years ago, what I would be doing in sport in general I would not have picked what I’m doing right now. And that’s just two years. So like, in four or five years? I have no idea. The whole reason why I want to try cycle racing is to learn,” she said.
Following her debut at the national championships, Knibb will combine her regular triathlon program with a small selection of races on the road.
With more and more riders competing in multiple disciplines and succeeding, such as Tom Pidcock racing road and mountain biking, and Cameron Wurf racing road and triathlon, there is much more space for multi-discipline athletes in cycling these days. Knibb may be the next to succeed.
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