Judith Arndt brings the curtain down on her professional career at the world championships in Limburg this week and the German secured herself the perfect send-off by taking victory in the elite women's time trial on Tuesday.
The sting in the tail of the testing 24.1km course was the stiff climb of the Cauberg just before the finish, and this was precisely where Arndt confirmed her superiority by padding out her advantage over her closest challengers to claim her second successive time trial title, and the fourth rainbow jersey of her lengthy career across all disciplines.
Just 10 seconds clear of second-placed Evelyn Stevens (USA) at the second check point after 16.1km, Arndt measured her effort well ahead of the daunting finale, and her tempo on the Cauberg saw her stretch her lead out to 33 seconds by the finish.
"It was very hard with the Cauberg but I knew that beforehand and there was a descent before you get to Valkenburg, so you could get a bit of a rest there," Arndt said afterwards. "When you know the Cauberg is about 2km from the finish, it's just a mental thing and you give everything you can. It's painful, but it's three minutes where you just go with everything."
The three minutes that separated Arndt from the rainbow jersey were also the final three minutes of time trialling of her career. The 36-year-old confessed that a sense of relief that it was all at an end swept over her on crossing the line.
"I felt kind of emotional but also relieved that it's all over – not only the time trial but also my career," Arndt said. "You'd have to make yourself suffer with every race and every training ride and it was getting pretty hard in the last few years, so it's nice to end with a success like this."
Arndt smiled when she was asked why she was hanging up her wheels when she was still so competitive at world level – her gold in Valkenburg follows a silver medal at last month's London 2012 Olympics.
"Why am I stopping? Because I've had enough! I started in '91, and that's 21 years ago. I've had to train almost every day and I've had so many races, and you don't have time at home with your partner. It's just difficult and I don't want to do it anymore."
Arndt was congratulated after the finish by her partner Anna, and the German paid tribute to her support. "We didn't talk really – I had 180 heart rate so I couldn't really say anything," Arndt said. "She said before the race that she would be waiting there, so I was looking for her. She has really supported me for the last four years and I think it's quite hard for the partner."
When she rolled to a halt past the finish line, Arndt was seen to ask if she had indeed done enough to knock Evelyn Stevens out of the hot seat and take gold for herself.
"I had heard someone saying at the Cauberg that I was leading by half a minute, but I wasn't sure," she said, before joking: "I turned around at the finish to read my time, but you know my eyes are not really that good anymore, so I had to ask."
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