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||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil 1T4I||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Eleonora Van Dijk (Ned) Team Specialized-Lululemon||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Evelyn Arys (Bel) Kleo Ladies Team||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Christine Majerus (Lux) Team GSD Gestion||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Anna Van Der Breggen (Ned) Sengers Ladies Cycling Team||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|10||Alena Amialiusik (Blr) Be Pink||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team||Row 11 - Cell 2|
|13||Carmen Mcnellis Small (USA) USA National Team||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Maaike Polspoel (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Greenedge-Ais||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Rusvelo||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||Audrey Cordon (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Rasa Leleivyte (Ltu) Vaiano Tepso||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Amélie Rivat (Fra) Vienne Futuroscope||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Megan Guarnier (USA) Tibco-To The Top||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Trixi Worrack (Ger) Team Specialized-Lululemon||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Lieselot Decroix (Bel) Dolmans-Boels Cyclingteam||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Denise Ramsden (Can) Canada National Team||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Chantal Blaak (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Andrea Dvorak (USA) USA National Team||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Olga Zabelinskaya (Rus) Rusvelo||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Tayler Wiles (USA) USA National Team||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Noemi Cantele (Ita) Be Pink||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Evelyn Stevens (USA) Team Specialized-Lululemon||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Greenedge-Ais||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|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||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Samantha Schneider (USA) Tibco-To The Top||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus) Rusvelo||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Monia Baccaille (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Leah Kirchmann (Can) Canada National Team||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Ina Teutenberg (Ger) Team Specialized-Lululemon||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Kristin Mcgrath (USA) USA National Team||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Irina Molicheva (Rus) Rusvelo||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Clara Hughes (Can) Team Specialized-Lululemon||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Alexis Rhodes (Aus) Greenedge-Ais||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Sarah Düster (Ger) Stichting Rabo Women Cycling Team||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Lauren Hall (USA) Tibco-To The Top||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|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||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Ine Beyen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Inga Cilvinaite (Ltu) Diadora-Pasta Zara||Row 52 - Cell 2|
|54||Valentina Carretta (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Josien Van Wingerden (Ned) Netherlands National Team||Row 54 - Cell 2|
|56||Lucinda Brand (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team||Row 55 - Cell 2|
|57||Amanda Miller (USA) Tibco-To The Top||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Kaat Hannes (Bel) Lotto Belisol Ladies||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Lise Nöstvold (Nor) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team||0:07:44|
|60||Romy Kasper (Ger) Rusvelo||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Fra) Hitec Products-Mistral Home Cycling Team||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Mascha Pijnenborg (Ned) Dolmans-Boels Cyclingteam||0:08:56|
|63||Lucy Martin (GBr) AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Oxana Kozonchuk (Rus) Be Pink||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Marta Tagliaferro (Ita) Mcipollini Giambenini||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Anne Arnouts (Bel) Kleo Ladies Team||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Polona Batagelj (Slo) Diadora-Pasta Zara||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Valentina Scandolara (Ita) S.C. Michela Fanini Rox||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Regina Bruins (Ned) Skil 1T4I||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Alona Andruk (Ukr) Diadora-Pasta Zara||Row 69 - Cell 2|
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