As the silver medallist from Athens in 2004 - and after a dominant first half season - Judith Arndt of Germany and Team Columbia goes into the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games race as one of the overwhelming favourites. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins caught up with the 2004 World champion as she finishes her preparation for the biggest race of the year.
We last spoke at length to Judith Arndt back in April, after her victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Since that time the she has added a stage and second place overall in the Tour de l'Aude, La Coupe du Monde Cycliste Féminine de Montréal - further extending her lead in the World Cup - three stages and the overall of Le Tour du Grand Montréal, and most recently the overall at the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt.
This year has so far been a highly successful season, even by Arndt's standards, but she knows that the target that the whole women's peloton has been aiming at all year is the one that she will measure it against. "I'm happy for the season so far," she said. "But this year I think I would be disappointed if I wouldn't do good at the Olympics. This is the main focus and so this is something to achieve."
As well as success on the road, the off-road victory of managing to secure a title sponsor to replace T-Mobile, and one that is happy to put its resources behind both the men's and women's teams, has brought a further morale boost - and an unexpected source of humour for the German. "Of course, it's perfect; we're really happy with Columbia because everybody thinks we all come from Colombia now," she laughed. "I have met people and they asked me if I come from Colombia, it's funny."
After a stellar start to the summer campaign, Arndt rode an uncharacteristically quiet Giro d'Italia where she barely featured in any stage finishes, choosing instead to work for team-mates Kim Anderson and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. Nevertheless without seeming to make too much effort she finished the race in 10th position overall. The important Team Columbia statistic to come out though was Teutenberg's total domination of the sprint stages, laying down the gauntlet to Team Columbia's men's squad rider Mark Cavendish by taking four stage wins.
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