Taylor Knibb races her time trial bike at the 2024 US National Championships.

Triathlete Taylor Knibb scores upset at US Time Trial Nationals

The pro triathlete earns an Olympic start spot after beating favorite Kristen Faulkner.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 16.05.2024 Photography by
Snowy Mountain Photography
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A national title and the jersey that comes with it is always a massive achievement for a pro cyclist. But at the United States Time Trial Championship held Wednesday in Charleston, West Virginia, there was even more on the line: the winner would get an automatic start spot in both the time trial and road race at the Paris Olympics.

After a shocking upset, that spot will very likely go not to EF Education-Cannondale’s Kristen Faulkner, winner of a stage at the recent Vuelta España Femenina, or longtime TT specialist Amber Neben, or veteran road and track racer Ruth Edwards (Human Powered Health), but to a 26-year-old professional triathlete, Taylor Knibb, who races in that sport for Trek Factory.

Knibb, the 2023 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, scorched the 33.7 km course in 41:55 (a 48.24 km/h average) to nip Faulkner by just 11 seconds. The pair were tied in a dead heat at the halfway point, but Knibb’s superior second-half split netted the win and the grand prize of a trip to Paris that comes with it.

On the men’s side, Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) was a much more expected winner, with a commanding 58-second margin of victory over Project Echelon’s Tyler Stites. EF Education-EasyPost’s Neilson Powless was a close third. But Knibb’s surprising upset was clearly the story of the day.

The Paris Olympics will make history as the first Games with start spot parity for men and women in both the time trial and road race. There are 35 spots for each gender in the TT and 90 for the road race. That increased start spots overall for the women, but those are mostly being used to distribute to more nations. So after finishing 12th in the nations ranking last year, the U.S. still qualified two total spots for the TT and road race (athletes race in both events and roster spots can’t be split between athletes).

USA Cycling’s Olympic team selection rules, first announced at the start of last year, put a clear emphasis on the time trial where, historically, it’s had medal success with riders like Kristin Armstrong. Riders could score automatic qualifying spots with wins or podiums in various time trial and road events like World Championships, WorldTour one-day races, and TT nationals.

Chloe Dygert nabbed the first of the two spots with her World TT Championship victory last August and should be a medal favorite in the TT. No riders satisfied any of the other automatic qualifier criteria since, although Faulkner came close with her sixth-place finish at Strade Bianche in March. That left TT nationals as the last major automatic qualifier event and Knibb, just days off a second-place finish at a triathlon in Yokohama, Japan, was more than up to the challenge. USA Cycling performance director Jim Miller confirmed to Escape Collective via e-mail that Taylor’s win earned her the automatic nomination to the Olympic team.

Knibb, who has already qualifed for the Olympics in triathlon, may have a busy week in Paris. The women’s time trial is July 27, followed by the women’s triathlon event on the 31st, the women’s road race August 4, and the triathlon mixed relay (where she’s a silver medallist) on August 5.

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