After years of near misses, Judith Arndt finally tasted victory in the women's individual time trial at the UCI World Championships thanks to a scintillating performance over the second lap of the rain-soaked Copenhagen circuit. The experienced German ultimately had 22 seconds to spare over Linda Villumsen (New Zealand), with defending champion Emma Pooley (Great Britain) a further two seconds back in third.
Showing impeccable poise over a technical course that included a number of treacherous corners and cobbled sections, Arndt was impervious to the slippery conditions and gradually pulled away from a tightly-packed field in the final 12km to take the third rainbow jersey of her career, following her world titles in the individual pursuit (1997) and the road race (2004).
"I have chased this medal for many years," a delighted Arndt said afterwards. "I won my first medal in the time trial in 1997 and since then I have tried to win the gold medal. I can't tell you how much it means to me. It's really a long time coming and finally it worked out. When I came into the finish I felt really dizzy and I could not believe fully that it finally happened."
The final standings saw a repeat of the podium from Geelong 12 months ago, albeit in a different order, as Villumsen moved up to second place and Emma Pooley slipped to third. As defending champion, Pooley had the honour of being the last rider down the start ramp, and she reached the midway point well in contention as one of seven riders grouped within eight seconds of one another.
Arndt in full flight
Over the second half of the course, however, Pooley - like everyone else - had to give best to the rampant Arndt, who simply took flight after a tentative opening lap. Nonetheless, the Englishwoman fought gamely to the end and declared herself pleased with her showing on a flat circuit ill-suited to her punchy characteristics.
"I think this time last year I would have been lucky to have been in the top 10 on this kind of course," Pooley said. "Maybe it looks like a worse result, but last year the course was actually quite hilly and that broke it up, and so I think I've improved my time trialling to do better this year on a course that really doesn't suit me."
Video: Judith Arndt
Video: Emma Pooley
Canadians lead the charge
Clara Hughes en route to 5th
The early pace-setter was Canada's Rhae-Christie Shaw, who rocketed around the course in 37:46, but shortly afterwards, she was replaced in the hot seat by her fellow countrywoman Clara Hughes. By that point, a steady drizzle had begun to fall over Copenhagen, and by the time the final wave of starters got underway, it was clear that mastering the increasingly treacherous road conditions would be the key to victory.
Ellen Van Dijk (Netherlands) had the misfortune of setting off down the start ramp just as the rain was at its heaviest, but she produced a confident performance to finish the day in sixth place. By contrast, her fellow countrywoman Marianne Vos struggled to find a rhythm throughout and had to settle for 10th.
Just before Vos crossed the line, Tara Whitten had become the third Canadian of the day to post the quickest time at the finish, and as she settled into the hotseat and watched Arndt, Pooley et al. thrash around the course, it became apparent that a large spread of riders were in contention for podium places.
Hughes held the best time at the second intermediate time check, but Pooley, Arndt, Villumsen, Whitten, Van Dijk and Amber Neben (USA) were all within eight seconds of one another at that point, and the stage seemed set for a thrillingly tight finale.
It was at this point that Arndt sparked into life, however. The German opted to race without a radio, but after spotting that she was just one second down on the scoreboard at the start finish line, she knew that the rainbow jersey was still within her grasp.
"I had no radio so I had no idea about my time," Arndt said. "I just was a little bit careful on the first lap because I wasn't sure how the corners were in the rain, so I tried to find that out."
Over the opening half of the second lap, the final standings began to take shape, as Arndt went into overdrive and stretched out an eight-second lead over Villumsen, with Pooley a further four seconds behind. From that point on, it was increasingly clear that only a mishap could deny Arndt the title she had coveted for so long.
"On the second lap, on every corner you could go full on except for two, so I did better on the second lap," Arndt said at the finish. A mistress of understatement and a champion of the world to boot.
This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.