Judith Arndt became the first rider to win on the new look Ronde Van Vlaanderen course by outsprinting Kristin Armstrong. The pair powered away on the Oude Kwaremont 30 kilometres from Oudenaarde finish and left Canadian rider Joelle Numainville to take the group sprint for third.
The one-two result was an identical finish to the ladies' Ronde in 2008, when Arndt (GreenEdge) again edged out Armstrong who was back in Europe at the head of an American team.
"It had a good end for me," Arndt said modestly afterwards. "I was looking forward to the last 20kms – I like it better than the old course. It's kind of strange that it was exactly the same result as four years ago." She added.
The race lacked the presence Dutch champion Marianne Vos who pulled out on the eve of the race through illness, but the hundreds of thousands who lined Belgium's most famous race didn't care and gave vocal support to the 127km event.
The race came to the boil as the peloton hit the cobbles on the Paadestraat section under the pressure of Armstrong's American squad, who were determined to make the 127km race as hard as possible.
A puncture on the Paadestraat wrecked the defending champion, Annemiek Van Vleuten's chances of contending the final.
"Our goal was to be barely able to finish at the line." said Armstrong's teammate, Kristin McGrath. "We all were making attacks to keep the peloton strung out so Armstrong could attack on the Kwaremont, and the plan worked."
Numerous probing attacks were made as the race travelled over the Berendries, Valkenberg and Kanarieberg climbs at the heart of the race. According to reports the peloton was frequently split into large groups. At one point, more than a minute separated the first and second bunches.
The decisive move was made amid the screaming fans on the Kwaremont, when Carmen Small-McNellis of the United States team hit the bottom of the climb in first place and made the perfect platform for Armstrong, the reigning Olympic TT champion to make her move. Only Arndt, the World TT champion had the legs to stay with her.
However at the finish British National Champion Lizzie Armitstead said race communication broke down and the chasing peloton weren't being given time gaps or even knew who was ahead.
"We just had to pull the last 15kms and bring back the group, but weren't getting any times or numbers."
She said: "I'm disappointed. I think my inexperience showed. I've only done Flanders once before and I was too excited. In went with an attack after the Kanarieberg and again just before the Oude Kwaremont so the attack was caught and when they come past you with speed it's hard to [get on]."
While Armitstead's AA Drinks-Leontien.nl squad tried rein in the break in the closing stages, the combined strength of the two world-beating time-trialists was too much.
The pair collaborated all the way to the final kilometre. "I was surprised we were the only two left," said Arndt. "In a sprint like this you pretty much feel immediately if you are going to beat the other or not.
"We're both similar types of rider. We don't really have an acceleration so we both knew if we wanted to win we had to do a long sprint. I watched her like a track rider and she started to go at about 350m. I also started immediately." It was Arndt's fourth victory this year, including the overall at the Ladies' Tour of Qatar.
For Armstrong who has her sights firmly set on the London Olympic Games, it was a satisfying performance.
"It makes me feel good. I wanted to come into the early season so I can take a break before London. I have to come in strong to show that I can race in Europe. This is just one more step towards selection."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Judith Arndt (Ger) Greenedge-Ais||3:19:05|
|2||Kristin Armstrong (USA) USA National Team||0:00:02|
|3||Joelle Numainville (Can) Canada National Team||0:00:30|
|4||Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team|
|5||Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil 1T4I|
|6||Eleonora Van Dijk (Ned) Team Specialized-Lululemon|
|7||Evelyn Arys (Bel) Kleo Ladies Team|
|8||Christine Majerus (Lux) Team GSD Gestion|
|9||Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Sengers Ladies Cycling Team|
|10||Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Be Pink|
|11||Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team|
|12||Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team|
|13||Carmen Mcnellis Small (USA) USA National Team|
|14||Maaike Polspoel (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012|
|15||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Greenedge-Ais|
|16||Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Rusvelo|
|17||Audrey Cordon (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|18||Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team|
|19||Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Vaiano Tepso|
|20||Amélie Rivat (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope|
|21||Megan Guarnier (USA) Tibco-To The Top|
|22||Trixi Worrack (Ger) Team Specialized-Lululemon|
|23||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team|
|24||Lieselot Decroix (Bel) Dolmans-Boels Cyclingteam|
|25||Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini|
|26||Denise Ramsden (Can) Canada National Team|
|27||Chantal Blaak (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team|
|28||Andrea Dvorak (USA) USA National Team|
|29||Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) Rusvelo|
|30||Tayler Wiles (USA) USA National Team|
|31||Noemi Cantele (Ita) Be Pink|
|32||Evelyn Stevens (USA) Team Specialized-Lululemon|
|33||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Greenedge-Ais|
|34||Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team|
|35||Emma Pooley (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team||0:00:54|
|36||Liesbet De Vocht (Bel) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team||0:01:52|
|37||Martina Corazza (Ita) Kleo Ladies Team|
|38||Samantha Schneider (USA) Tibco-To The Top|
|39||Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus) Rusvelo|
|40||Monia Baccaille (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini|
|41||Leah Kirchmann (Can) Canada National Team|
|42||Ina Teutenberg (Ger) Team Specialized-Lululemon|
|43||Kristin Mcgrath (USA) USA National Team|
|44||Irina Molicheva (Rus) Rusvelo|
|45||Clara Hughes (Can) Team Specialized-Lululemon|
|46||Alexis Rhodes (Aus) Greenedge-Ais|
|47||Sarah Düster (Ger) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team|
|48||Lauren Hall (USA) Tibco-To The Top|
|49||Ludivine Henrion (Bel) Lotto Belisol Ladies||0:01:57|
|50||Annelies Van Doorslaer (Bel) Kleo Ladies Team||0:04:46|
|51||Julia Martisova (Rus) Be Pink|
|52||Ine Beyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012|
|53||Inga Cilvinaite (Ltu) Diadora-Pasta Zara|
|54||Valentina Carretta (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini|
|55||Josien Van Wingerden (Ned) Netherlands National Team|
|56||Lucinda Brand (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team|
|57||Amanda Miller (USA) Tibco-To The Top|
|58||Kaat Hannes (Bel) Lotto Belisol Ladies|
|59||Lise Nöstvold (Nor) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team||0:07:44|
|60||Romy Kasper (Ger) Rusvelo|
|61||Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team|
|62||Mascha Pijnenborg (Ned) Dolmans-Boels Cyclingteam||0:08:56|
|63||Lucy Martin (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team|
|64||Oxana Kozonchuk (Rus) Be Pink|
|65||Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini|
|66||Anne Arnouts (Bel) Kleo Ladies Team|
|67||Polona Batagelj (Slo) Diadora-Pasta Zara|
|68||Valentina Scandolara (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini Rox|
|69||Regina Bruins (Ned) Skil 1T4I|
|70||Alona Andruk (Ukr) Diadora-Pasta Zara|