Christine Thorburn won yesterday's national women's cycling elite time trial championship in Moreno Valley, Calif., guaranteeing her a spot on the Olympic team.

Thorburn, considered an underdog entering the race, finished the 24-kilometer course in 34 minutes 16 seconds, eight seconds better than Amber Neben of Irvine, Calif.

It's the first Olympic berth for Thorburn, a medical doctor who is working on her postdoctoral fellowship in rheumatology at Stanford. Her cycling pursuits from 2000 through 2002 were limited because of her medical studies, but she managed to make a full-fledged return to the international circuit last year.

"I just kept riding as much as I could, maybe just as a mental release more than anything during those two years of residency," Thorburn said. "And when I started my fellowship, I decided I could ride more."

Dede Barry, who is already assured one of the three women's road cycling spots on the Athens team, finished third, followed by Kristin Armstrong and three-time defending national time trial champion Kimberly Bruckner, who finished 31 seconds off Thorburn's pace.

Mari Holden, a five-time national time trial champion who won both the world title and an Olympic silver medal in 2000, finished sixth.

Meet Me in . . .

A century since becoming the first American city to host the modern-era Olympic Games, St. Louis welcomed back the Olympic torch yesterday.

"The eyes of the world are on St. Louis today," Mayor Francis Slay told hundreds who gathered at the Gateway Arch on the flame's second leg of a four-city U.S. tour.

Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee of nearby East St. Louis, Ill., is among torchbearers who will take the flame on its 34-mile tour of the city.

The route includes Washington University's Francis Field, site of the track and field events in 1904, and a pause at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church to recognize the Games' link to Greece.

Right on Target

Vic Wunderle and Jennifer Nichols remained atop the standings yesterday after eight men and eight women were eliminated during round-robin matches at the U.S. Archery Olympic team trials in Mason, Ohio.

Wunderle, a two-time medalist at the 2000 Games, led all men with a score of 3,022, just ahead of top-ranked Butch Johnson (3,001), a three-time Olympian.

Nichols leads the women's division by 159 points, with a score of 2,959. Two-time Olympian Janet Dykman is in second.

"I came in expecting to do well," Dykman said. "I always expect to shoot my best and staying positive helps me be successful. I want to stay in the same mode for the rest of the tournament, come out shooting strong and work on be consistent."

Seven round-robin matches will be held today and Saturday. Points will be tabulated and the top three men and women will make up the 2004 Olympic team.

Christine Thorburn, working on her postdoctoral fellowship, wins time trial, spot on Olympic team.