Amber Neben Diary: Focused and driven toward London

Fresh off her selection to the U.S. Olympic team for London, Amber Neben checks in on overcoming adversity and leaving her ill-timed Beijing mechanical in China

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Wow. A two-time USA Olympian. I am humbled, honored, and excited… all at the same time. At 4pm on Friday, I received the news that I was named to the USA Olympic team in both the time trial and the road race.

I had been waiting for the news since the Exergy Tour finished the racing that would count toward the selection. I was trying to be as patient as possible, to “be anxious about nothing,” but it was honestly a challenge. It was a test of faith for me, a test of surrender. And for more than 18 days, it was on my mind a lot. So when I got the news, huge waves of intense emotions came over me. There was thankfulness to God for the opportunity; there was joy that is indescribable, excitement, and even some relief. My head and my focus has been the Games over the last year, but now… now, I was really free to turn my attention 100 percent to them. To lock onto the goal.

Four years ago, I represented the USA in the Beijing Olympics. It was a dream come true in one sense, and it was a huge disappointment in another. Walking into The Bird’s Nest for the opening ceremonies with my fellow Olympians while a spontaneous chant of U-S-A broke out was one of the most amazing moments. Racing in a USA kit on the roads between Beijing and The Wall was incredible. Surviving the race day conditions of scorching heat and humidity followed by the rapid temperature drop and deluge of rain was exactly what I do well. Be ready for anything and adapt on the fly. And then with the GO moment in the race coming, feeling good and ready for the final fireworks… I was there… and then… I wasn’t.

Since that very moment, that moment when I dropped and locked up my chain, the moment where I was standing on the side of the road while the race was going up it, I have been focused on the 2012 Games. It was awesome to be there the first time, but I didn’t just go there to be there. I went there to compete. And when I had the mechanical that prevented me from having the chance to try… to try and succeed or to try and fail. Simply just to try. I know there are no guarantees. Since that moment, I have been working toward this first, but not final, goal of selections with regards to the 2012 Games.

And after a crazy four years in between then and now, including immediately winning the world championship and staying on target the first part of 2009 to two years of struggles and not having full seasons back-to-back years because of three surgeries involving plates, screws, and a skin graft, a broken shoulder and one torn adductor, I recovered in 2011 with a solid season.

Things also went according to plan this spring, and now, I have been named to the team. I have another chance to go for gold… to really GO FOR GOLD… to help TEAM USA in the road race and to go for it in the TT. Unbelievable. But believable. Can you tell I am excited?!!!

Why am I driven the way I am? Why did I persevere through so much without hanging up the bike? I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t tempted. Three times I was certainly in doubt mode. Three times there was some serious prayer and soul searching going on. When you end up in an ambulance in a foreign country three different times for three different reasons, requiring three different surgeries, you definitely wonder if you are on track. I wondered if I was still where God wanted me to be. I wondered if maybe I should change gears, literally, and try something different.

But each time, I decided that I wasn’t done. That God wasn’t shutting this cycling door just yet. That I couldn’t walk away from my unfinished Olympic business. I needed to persevere… To get up, start over, and keep battling.

I think I had been equipped to survive the last four years by the trajectory of my career, and the challenges that I had faced along the way. From the beginning, each obstacle was building and preparing me for the next. Each one was testing my faith, building my character, and developing the championship intangibles inside of me. Each forced me to respond. And each one also reminded me of how much I enjoyed the journey, the process, and the relationships developed along the way.

And so, over the last four years, I chose not to hang up the bike, but to use what I had been equipped with. And for whatever reason… through my entire career, I have always embraced adversity. I’ve embraced the challenge and the opportunity to respond to it.

And now… here I am… USA Olympian!!!!!! There are 42 days until the road race and 45 days until the time trial. I am super motivated, super focused. In fact, I am missile lock focused, driven, and determined. I am anticipating that next moment to stand on the start line and GO!!!!

HUGE thanks to all of my family and friends and sponsors who have helped me along the way. I always say that success is in the details, and each of you is a small detail. Specialized and lululemon, High Road, SRM, Shimano, HED, Oakley, Speedplay and Fi’zi:k… I am excited to take all of you guys with me to LONDON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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