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Road pro Arndt wins her first mountain bike race

First place female Judith Arndt navigates her way through the Otways.

First place female Judith Arndt navigates her way through the Otways. (Image credit: Rapid Ascent)

HTC - Columbia's Judith Arndt raised her arms in victory as she crossed the line to win the Otway Odyssey this weekend in Australia. Winning is often business as usual for members of the HTC-Columbia women's team, but what was unusual was that Ardnt was winning a mountain bike race, not a road race.

The 33-year-old German, a former road World Champion, was in her first mountain bike race, a 100km mountain bike marathon called the Otway Odyssey.

"I thought it would be fun to race the Otway Odyssey and it was. It was bike riding, but it was different. It wasn't road riding, and I was looking for some variety in my training," said Ardnt to Cyclingnews. "I have been a road rider for so long. I was looking for something different."

After finishing the Ladies Tour of Qatar, Arndt is training in Australia as she prepares for her next road race, a World Cup in Italy in March. While in Australia, she also raced the Australian Open Road Race Championships.

Overall, Arndt's experience off-road was a "good" one. "I really enjoyed the mountain bike race. People were really friendly. Everyone was so positive."

What won her the race was her road fitness, and in particular, she excelled on the climbs, where she gained an advantage early in the race that she hung on to until the end.

The technical portions of the course proved quite a challenge, however.

"I won that race, but it doesn't mean I'm a good mountain biker. I'm not very skilled. I'm a good climber, and there was a lot of climbing. On the technical parts, I really struggled," she said. She rode a hardtail to the victory.

"It was a little dangerous. I had too nasty falls, but I didn't break any bones, so that was good."

She said that going into the race, she was worried about getting lost, but her concerns proved not to be a problem as she found the course well marked.

What did surprised was the sheer number of people racing at the Otway Odyssey. "It was great that so many people could take part. I had nothing to compare this race with, but it seemed well organized," she said.

Arndt has competed off-road only twice before, but never in a mountain bike race - only as a member of a team in an adventure race. She is planning to race again this weekend - for the mountain bike part of the Great Ocean Sports Festival adventure race. "The events are only 45 and 35km, so it will seem short."

When asked if we might see her racing more on her mountain bike, she replied, "I have a contract with HTC-Columbia, so I'm a road racer first," but added, "I will do more when I have time - when it's my off-season."

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.