Orica – Greenedge rider Judith Arndt added the overall victory at Emakumeen Euskal Bira to her already extensive palmares.
With Arndt trailing race leader Emma Pooley (AA Drink-leontien.nl) by one second after the stage three time trial, GreenEDGE-AIS planned to use a late race descent to distance Pooley and gain the minimum two seconds needed to secure general classification victory.
“We had a few options we discussed in our team meeting,” said Sports Director Dave McPartland. “We eventually settled on one main strategy. We planned to gap Pooley at the finish. Judith is one of the best descenders in the world. Pooley is a renowned climber, but it’s well-known that descending isn’t her strength. We decided our best bet was to gap her on the descent, and then, if she was still there, gap her in one of the corners during the last 800 meters.”
Amanda Spratt set the stage for Arndt’s eventual win when she went up the road with Carlee Taylor (Australia). The duo would gain nearly three minutes and stay away for slightly more than half the race. “AA Drink had the chase under control,” McPartland noted. “While they managed to successfully contain the move, they spent a lot of energy in the process. They kept the race really calm, but they lost a few riders in the chase.”
Steady rain began to fall by the time Spratt and Taylor were brought back to the bunch. The peloton hit a nasty descent on wet roads. Arndt crashed halfway down the descent, and managed to claw her way back to the bunch before the road flattened again. “Linda and Spratty drove the pace on the flat road between the first major descent and the final climb,” explained McPartland. “They fell off pace when their work was done and left Judith to carry on from there. Pooley had lost contact with the front group on the descent, so despite the crash, the race was unfolding according to plan.”
Arndt crashed for a second time in the closing kilometers. “Judith’s second crash at the 1.5 kilometer mark was a big scare for us,” noted McPartland. “Luckily, because it happened inside the final three kilometers, she was awarded the same time as the group she was with when she crashed. With no time bonuses up for grabs at the finish line, it meant she finished on the same time as the stage winner. That was enough for her to take the win.”
Annemiek van Vleueten (Rabo Women) won the stage solo, one second ahead of Johansson in second and Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon) in third. After four days of racing, Arndt won the Basque tour by seven seconds over Johansson.
“We raced brilliantly this week,” concluded McPartland. “We had a few mishaps throughout the four days, and it was so impressive to see that the girls never lost focus. We had a goal at the start of the week to win the general classification. Despite repeated small mistakes that added up during the race, the team kept on getting on with the job at hand. They chipped away at the work needed to accomplish our goal, and when it counted most, on the final day, we came through with the result.”