The USA rode off with a silver medal in the women’s team pursuit on Sunday when Sarah Hammer (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Kelly Catlin (Arden Hills, Minn.), Chloe Dygert (Brownsburg, Ind.), and Jennifer Valente (San Diego, Calif.) clocked a time of 4:12.454 in the gold medal final against Great Britain.
“I’m still so proud of the team and what we accomplished. We wanted gold, but you know what, we went out there and rode our bikes,” Hammer said. “I feel like we’re kind of like the little team that could going against the big ole’ machine of Great Britain… you can still go for it and try to win. That’s what we tried to do and we came up short today but it was a heck of a ride.”
After qualifying with the second fastest time on Thursday, the American foursome faced Australia in round one on Saturday morning.
It was a world record setting day as the reigning world champion team of Hammer, Catlin, Dygert, and Valente first set a new world record of 4:12.282 when they beat Australia to make it to the final round. Then moments later that record fell again as Great Britain beat Canada in their round one heat with a time of 4:12.152.
In the final round, the U.S. took an early lead with Hammer pulling on the front. By the halfway point however, Great Britain had more than a second on the Americans. Team USA lost Catlin off the back close to the finish and although Great Britain also lost a rider with only one lap remaining, they were able to set a new world record time of 4:10.236 en route to the gold.
Canada came in third after beating New Zealand in the bronze medal match.
For Hammer, who is now a three-time Olympic silver medalist, Rio is her third Olympic Games. Teammate Dygert, who is relatively new to the cycling world, said she values Hammer’s leadership and experience.
“I’m not really familiar with the cycling world, and I came to the track kind of clueless as well. It’s nice having Sarah to give me all her experience. I couldn’t be more thankful for that. She was there for my first day on the track bike to help me with my exchanges, with pulling and with being in an aero position.”
“It’s very, very exciting to be a part of this young squad,” Hammer added. “By your third Olympic Games, you don’t get excited about certain things because you’re just used to them. Seeing the spark in their eyes, the excitement that they see, it’s something that I get to relive over again.”
Coach Andy Sparks said it’s about focusing on the journey and the process.
“If you looked at us last year, no one would have bet money that we’d be here,” Sparks said. “It just shows how hard the team is working. I would have loved to win, but is there anything we could have done better? No, GB was just better than us today. We knew it would be a battle over three days and three rides and our goal was to get better and better which we did. Our goal for qualifying was to ride a 4:14. Our goal for round one was a 4:12. Our goal for this evening was to ride a 4:11. We came up a little bit short on that but it was our best effort. It just wasn’t quite good enough today but it wasn’t because we didn’t execute on our plan and do our best.”
Photo by Rob Jones/Canadian Cyclist/USA Cycling