RIO DE JANEIRO -- Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara announced last winter that he will be retiring at the end of this cycling season. After he won the gold medal in the men's time trial Wednesday at age 35 and Kristin Armstrong won the women's time trial just one day short of her 43rd birthday, he was asked whether he might reconsider retiring.
"No,'' he swiftly replied. "Definitely not.''
"If you're 35 or 43 or whatever your age, it's everyone's choice,'' he continued. "I knew it was going to be a special year when I said I would retire at the end of the season.''
Cancellara said he was uncertain whether he will ride in another race again this year, but if not, he went out in special fashion. Riding a difficult course in windy, drizzly conditions, the man known as Spartacus won with a time of 1 hour, 12.15 seconds that was 15 seconds faster than silver medalist Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands. Tour de France champ Chris Froome took bronze.
"That guy came by me pretty fast,'' American Taylor Phinney said of Cancellara. "He's somebody I always looked up. Talk about somebody who believes in himself and has put in a great career. So I'm happy for him. Hopefully this can be a nice cherry on top of a big career.''
Cancellara, who has been racing professionally for 16 years, is one of the sport's top and most famous cyclists. A great rider in the Classics, he also has worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France 29 times while winning seven stages there. He won a gold medal in the time trial at the 2008 Olympics as well.
"I'm just grateful I came out here and I was healthy and I came through,'' Cancellara said. "I'm just super proud. Reaching this today means a lot for me. This is sport's highest event that the world presents. And when you win a gold medal in your retirement year? I think I'm just proud.
"This won't give me any doubts about my retirement.''
Phinney finished 22nd, five minutes and nine seconds behind Cancellara, while fellow U.S. rider Brent Bookwalter was 23rd. The son of Olympic medalists David Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney, Taylor Phinney's career took a gruesome hit two years ago when he suffered a severe leg fracture.
Phinney was disappointed by his finish and frustrated with the steep climbing on the course -- "It was definitely a bitch'' -- but says he feels better where he is now after recovering from his broken leg.
"I have the motivation, I have the determination,'' he said. "Considering the last couple years I have to be happy. Happy with where my head's at, happy with where my body's at.'' He said riding Wednesday was a step up, albeit "not a step as quite as I had dreamed.''
At 26, Phinney is a much younger athlete than Cancellara or Armstrong, but he will be 30 when the 2020 Olympics are held, and he looks to perform better there. Considering how well the older cyclists did Wednesday, he has plenty of motivation.
"I'm motivated to do what I can over the next four years and continue to grow,'' he said. "Honestly, I was in a head space even a couple months ago where I was really down on this sport. And being able to train for this has really turned my head around and gotten me to a point where I understand what I'm doing here. And that's all you can really hope for.''
Cancellara, however, will not be competing against him. He'll just be looking back at everything he has accomplished, including Wednesday's gold medal ride.
"It was a perfect day," Cancellara said. "A perfect day to make history and make another hook you can put on the side and look back on everything you did. ... Reaching this makes me proud and super happy and thankful for this day.''