By Lindsey Gelwicks | BSU at the Games
Nearly an hour before the women’s road race began; crowds start to appear beside the gates lining the track near Buckingham Palace. Up until that point, small clusters of people space themselves out along the edge of the road for one of the few free events of the Olympic Games.
Several groups hang their nations’ flags over the railing, clanging bells and cheering as their favorite cyclists ride past warming up before the 140-kilometer race.
Many are supporting athletes they’ve seen only in the media, but one group of Americans is there for a more personal reason—to support their family member.
Nieces, nephews and brothers- and sisters-in-law of U.S. Olympic cyclist Kristin Armstrong stand near the 500-meter mark of the race awaiting the start.
“I’m more anxious,” Armstrong’s nephew Matt Wilson said about what it’s like being there for a family member.
Matt was joined by his girlfriend, Laura Tedrick, his parents (Armstrong’s in-laws), Brady and Marge Wilson, and his sisters, one of which held Armstrong’s nearly 2-year-old son, Lucas.
This wasn’t the first time the family has supported Armstrong in her cycling endeavors. Brady and Marge were in Beijing in 2008 when Armstrong won gold in the time trials.
According to Brady, she keeps her medal in the gun safe.
“We’re from Idaho; everyone has a gun safe,” Matt added.
Brady is convinced Armstrong will win the time trials again this year on Wednesday. He isn’t as convinced about this race though, he said amid gasps from his family, telling him he couldn’t say things like that.
“She’s not much of a sprinter,” he said, defending himself.
Brady explained the end of the road race comes down to sprinting head-on against the other competitors.
As the 30-minute mark before the race approaches, the previously sunny sky becomes overcast. Rain falls as umbrellas pop up along the track, sheltering spectators.
“I’m hopeful it’ll pass momentarily,” Matt said, who unlike the rest of his family had forgotten to bring a rain jacket or umbrella.
“At least we’re all packed in here. We can’t get too cold,” his father said.
A little rain isn’t a problem; they were more worried about the track being wet. Armstrong broke her collarbone after crashing in an Idaho race in May. Her family doesn’t want her to slip.
“It makes her more cautious,” Marge Wilson said of the uneasy weather.
The race is getting closer as the announcer introduces each of the countries in the day’s event. As the U.S. is called, the family cheers and pounds on the railing to make noise.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Tedrick said. “People come from all over the world to support their countries. I expected Europeans to be here, but there are people all the way from South America.”
Finally, the sky begins to clear up minutes before the race begins.
“Ten! Nine! Eight!” shouts the crowd, counting down to the start. Even little Lucas joins in.
Seconds later, the 66 cyclists fly by.
Armstrong’s family doesn’t have any signs or American flags to hang over the edge, a fact they lament Matt said, but they do have loud cheers of support to provide as Armstrong zooms past with the pack of riders.
“Did you see mommy?” Marge asked, turning to Lucas.
“Yeah!” Lucas shouted as he raised the red lollipop clutched in his hand up in the air.
Kristin Armstrong finished 35th in the women’s road race. Two-thirds of the way into the race, at the bottom of Box Hill, she was involved in a minor crash. Her final time was 3:36:16. Armstrong competes in the time trials Wednesday.
Lindsey Gelwicks is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Lindsey and the BSU team at @lbgelwicks, @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.