American Kristin Armstrong left her mark at the 2012 edition of the Tour of Flanders. The 38 year-old teamed up with eventual winner Judith Arndt (GreenEdge - AIS) to hold off the rest of the field on the Flemish cobbles and climbs. In the sprint Armstrong was no match for the German rider but the Olympic gold medalist of Beijing 2008 didn't have any regrets after the race. Armstrong aims to claim a spot in the London Olympics team in both the time trial and the road race where there are respectively two and three spots available for American riders.
"I'm pleased as I wanted to come into the early season strong. That way I can take a break ahead of London. To make the London team I have to come in strong and show that I can race in Europe. This is just one more step into making the selection. It's not an automatic [selection] but it shows that I can race," Armstrong said.
"I'm really happy. Coming over here with the national team and racing here in Europe after not having been here for two years… this is Flanders and it feels like the world championships," Armstrong said.
Regarding the sprint Armstrong said she tried to put up a fight though her legs didn't have much left. "You never know. I tried with 300 meters to go. My legs said go and then bye, bye. Most important was that I worked really hard until the finish line because I knew that if I came in with a group of thirty I wouldn't have had a chance."
Twenty kilometers before that sprint the race was decided when climbing the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Armstrong and Arndt gapped the rest of the peloton on the long cobbled climb and extended their gap over the next climb. "On the Kwarement we had a gap. The last rider behind us on the climb was Emma Pooley. Emma saw Judith and I go away. I thought it was perfect. World championships time trialist and previous world championships time trialist; that would be good to do a time trial. We worked together after the top into the next climb. When we got up the Paterberg we saw we had a nice gap and worked together," Armstrong said.
The duo went full gas but didn't know much about the formation and distance of the chase group. "We were not well informed. We had no time gaps so we just worked hard together and took equal pulls. We both wanted to go on together and then go for the sprint," Armstrong said. That plan worked out well. In Oudenaarde the chase group of about fifty riders sprinted for third place at half a minute from the duo.
Regarding her time trial skills Armstrong added. "Every time trial I've done this year whether that was in America or New-Zealand, that is another important marker for me. So far, so good. My next important race is Wednesday with the Energiewacht Tour with the time trial against the best. So now I need to recover in the next coming days. What I don't want to do is chase, chase, chase and then not show up at the Olympics. I want to race consistently, show my fitness level and be able to go into London with a good preparation."