Women’s Vlaanderen reactions: “It’s strange that it was the same as four years ago”
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Monday, April 2, 2012

Women’s Vlaanderen reactions: “It’s strange that it was the same as four years ago”

by Ben Atkins at 8:14 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders
Judith Arndt reflects on an identical one-two to 2008; mixed fortunes for others on the new course finale

Judith ArndtJudith Arndt (GreenEdge-AIS) outsprinted Kristin Armstrong (United States) at the end of the Ronde van Vlaanderen voor Vrouwen in Oudenaarde yesterday; the venue was different, their racing kits were different, but the scene was an identical one to the 2008 edition of the race. Back then, the slightly higher octane engine of the German had overcome that of the American, but the fact that the two riders are the reigning World and Olympic time trial champions respectively, meant that they were able to escape the peloton and stay away to the finish.

VeloNation had actually joked with Arndt as she queued up for the morning’s team presentation that, since Armstrong was back at the race - as she works to qualify for the London Olympics in the summer - that maybe the two of them should escape together.

“Yeah, I think it had a good end!” Arndt laughed as VeloNation asked if she’d enjoyed the race. “It’s just strange that it’s the same, like four years ago…

“I was actually looking forward to the last 20 kilometres,” she added. “I liked it better than the old course.”

It was Armstrong that had made the decisive move as she bridged across to a three-rider break on the Oude Kwaremont. Arndt followed and the two of them quickly pulled away from the rest.

“I was surprised there were only the two of us left,” Arndt remarked.

Between them, the two riders combined their time trialling powers to open up the gap over the rest that was to prove decisive. Despite a concerted chase from the AA Drink-Leontien.nl team, the gap grew to more than a minute, but the two riders in front were not fully aware of this.

“Yes, you know, we were a good match!” she laughed. “But you never know, there are strong teams behind us with sprinters… When we finally had over a minute, and I saw my car behind us, that’s when I knew ‘it’s going to work’

“It was a bit confusing,” said Arndt. “It’s a new course and you don’t know exactly when the climbs come. Also, we didn’t know who was behind us, and how far to go, and the time gap…”

Only once they could be sure that they would not be caught did the two riders begin to think about how to play the sprint; only then did the waiting game begin.

“A little bit the last kilometre, but I think we are both kind of the same rider, we don’t really have acceleration,” Arndt explained. “We both know that if we want to beat the other one we have to do a long sprint.

“I was in front, so I watched her like a track rider, and then I saw she tried to go - it was about 350 to go - and the I also started immediately… I think in a sprint like this you pretty much know immediately if you’re going to win or not.”

Like Tom Boonen - who won the men’s race a few hours later - Arndt has now won the Ronde on the previous Meerbeke finish, as well as the new one in Oudenaarde. As she had already mentioned, the German had enjoyed the new course, and she confirmed that it still felt like the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

“It’s kind of the same race,” she said. “I mean, there’s cobblestones, and you have climbs, and it’s left-tight, left-right; the character is still the same.”

Arndt’s teammate Tiffany Cromwell was understandably delighted with the victory for the new Australian outfit.

“Yeah, it worked out perfectly, we had the numbers there, we got the win, it’s what we wanted,” she told VeloNation. “It’s a perfect day for GreenEdge-AIS.

“We tried to put in a lot of attacks, because that was our plan. We go into most races to try and get a selection because we don’t have a pure sprinter, so we tried to put the pressure on. It was a hard course, just filled up with climbs after climbs, and cobbles, so a lot of people were really feeling it; then it was just on the Kwaremont Judith managed to get the gap with Armstrong and we didn’t see her again.”

As one of the increasing number of teams that fields both men’s and women’s squads, the win is extra important to Cromwell after the early success of some of her male teammates.

“There’s a lot of competition between us and the boys,” she laughed. “We had to get one back after [Simon Gerrans won] Sanremo!”

AA Drink-Leontien.nl’s Britons try and fail to foil the breakaways

Lizzie ArmitsteadBouyed with confidence after her victory in the previous weekend’s Gent-Wevelgem, British champion Lizzie Armitstead had been hopeful ahead of the race. Having only ridden once before - back in 2008 - because her spring campaigns had always been focussed on the track however, the 23-year-old’s inexperience on Flanders’ biggest stage showed.

“It was good but I spent my beans too early,” she admitted at the finish. “I was in two attacks just before the climb of the Kwaremont, so I was dead when they attacked on the Kwaremont; then we just had to pull for the last 15-Ks, to try and bring back the group, but the motorbikes were s**t, we didn’t know there were two away; there were no times, or numbers or anything…

“I think my inexperience showed,” she added. “I only did Flanders once before and I was too excited maybe, and went too early.”

Armitstead’s more experienced teammate Emma Pooley had known exactly what was going on however, and was burying herself in the service of sprinter Kirsten Wild.

“I knew,” she said. “That’s why I was still working. The problem is that the two off the front are the two strongest in the World and there wasn’t really any information about what the gap was.”

Despite the diminutive climber’s professed dislike of racing over cobbles, Pooley has often raced well in Flanders; finishing tenth in the previous year’s edition. This time, however, her personal ambitions ended after Arndt and Armstrong escaped, putting her 100% in the service of Wild.

“It split up on the Kwaremont like it did last year, but I was too far back,” she admitted, before conceding: “Could have been worse.”

Adrie Visser (Skil-1t4i) was one of the riders to get the best view of the sprint for third place, since she was mixed up in the middle of it. The Dutch rouleur has been a protagonist in the Ronde in the past - having been part of Grace Verbeke’s winning move in 2010, and was feeling good again this time.

“Until 90-K I was with Regina [Bruins] in the main group, and at that moment I started to feel that I have good legs, but before I didn’t feel really well,” she explained to VeloNation. “It was really hectic, but every hill I was top ten in the peloton, so it was perfect.

“In the bunch sprint I tried to follow Kirsten [Wild], but the Canadian gir [Jöelle Numainville] l and her ‘smashed’ me, and so I had to come around; but I came third in the peloton, so I think I can be satisfied with fifth place.”

As a Ronde veteran, Visser is a good judge of the merits of the new course and, like many, she feels that it misses one of the race’s iconic climbs.

“I liked it, but the Muur is typical Vlaanderen,” she said. “I like the parcours, and I like that people can see us more times, especially the men’s, so it’s a nice lap and it’s a nice place to finish. Only the Muur, you know, is really special, and makes the race harder I think at the end.”

Despite her experience then the race, or perhaps because of it, once the two breakaway riders had escaped, she knew there was to be no pulling them back.

“They were just too strong on the Oude Kwaremont,” she admitted. “It’s a little bit of a longer hill, and they are good time triallers! And I am Adrie Visser; a good rider, but not a time triallist!”

Her verdict on former HTC-Highroad teammate Arndt’s performance?

“A good winner,” she smiled. “A nice winner.”

Former World champion Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giambenini) was less happy with the course change, however, unable to use her climbing powers to make a difference in the closing kilometres.

“I prefer last year’s circuit,” she told VeloNation at the finish, “because it the final part was harder, and for me the Tour of Flanders has lost its difficult part, without the Muur. This part was important for me.”


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