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Judith Arndt wins the 2012 Tour of Qatar! And other women's cycling news

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There are so many reasons to watch out for the women's Tour of Qatar! It's the first international women's race of the season - it's a chance to see the conditions that the men will be racing in - it's the first chance to see some of the new, or radically changed teams for 2012 - it might give you an idea of the form of riders you could be picking for your Vitual Directeur Sportif team - and it's RACING!!

Below the jump I'll take you through the major happenings of the race, with riders' views from videos and blogs - and some other news from the women's cycling world. If you find anything you'd like to share - especially if you see any race footage - please add it to the comments!

So, to start, here's a preview of the race with profiles etc from JohnCyclopunk, and a video preview from GreenEdge's Amanda Spratt:

Actually, you don't really need to know much about the route, as every day's the same! Flat, through the desert, with insane winds blowing sand everywhere. There are a whole load of great photos of the race by CJ Farquharson on womenscycling.net and Cyclingnews where you can see the murky views, the palmtrees whipping around and riders battling into headwinds... just like the Dutch races! As Iris Slappendel said about the 2010 Tour, "If you imagine the sand to be grass, and the camels to be cows, it's just like racing at home"

Stage 1 - Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche, 97km

It started in that typical way, every rider covered in dust and sand before they even started racing - Judith Arndt later said that as soon as they left the cars they had sand in their teeth! Here's Chloe Hosking's take from her blog:

Our predictions were soon confirmed when within the first 20km the race had splintered in the crosswinds leaving a grand total of seven girls at the front to battle the winds; three Specialized lululemon girls in Trixi Worrack, Ellen van Dijk and myself, three GreenEdge girls and Kirstin Wild from the Netherlands.

Trust me when I tell you that 70-plus-kilometres in cross-winds, which occasionally turn into block head-winds, with only six other girls to share the workload does not equal an easy day on the bike. With an average heart-rate of 170 I was what in cycling talk we call "in the box", at times struggling to match the blistering pace set in the echelon by Ellen, Trixi, Alex Rhodes, Judith Arndt and Loes Gunnewijk.

That group - Worrack, Van Dijk & Hosking of Specialized-lululemon, Judith Arndt, Loes Gunnewijk and Alexis Rhodes, and Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) stayed away all race, and with the intermediate sprint bonifications essential for General Classification glory (and the wind so high) there seem to have been no major attacks until the end, when Ellen van Dijk shot off the front - but when Wild and Gunnewijk joined her, she sat up, and it went to a bunch sprint, won by the queen of the Dutch sprinters, Kirsten Wild! Behind her, Monia Baccaille brought the chase group of 12 riders home - the main body of the peloton finishing 13 minutes after the first group.

Stage 1 results

1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Netherlands, 2:16:50
2. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Specialized lululemon, s.t.
3. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized lululemon, s.t.
4. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized lululemon, s.t.
6. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
7. Alexis Rhodes (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
8. Monia Baccaille (Ita) MCipollini Giambenini, + 02:16
9. Charlotte Becker (Ger) Specialized Lululemon, s.t.
10. Jessie Maclean (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.

Here's the GreenEdge riders' take on stage 1 - I love Judith Arndt: "Well the day started good with a nice breakfast and then only got worse!" - and check out Jackie Crowell's story of the stage, with the comedy photos of Team USA's anti-sand measures and pics of sandstorms!

Stage 2 - Al Zubara FortMadinat Al Shamal, 114km

More sand, and more crosswinds, with 11 riders escaping at km15 - including Wild (Netherlands), Sarah Düster (Rabobank), Regina Bruins (Skil-1t4i), Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giambenini), Van Dijk, Hosking & Worrack (Specialized-lululemon) and Loes Gunnewijk & Judith Arndt (GreenEdge) - it was all about small groups on the road, escaping, catching, getting dropped.... and attacking in the wind. At km 80 it was sidewinds, and the front group had big problems, the gap to the chasers at just 20 seconds at the second sprint point.

By km 80 there were 40 riders together at the front, and the attacks started for real. None of them were successful, until with under 20km to go, Arndt, Wild, Worrack and Skil's Adrie Visser took off. Wild and Visser are sprint-types - Andt and Worrack are riders for the TTs, classics and General Classification - and the two Germans soon dropped the two Dutch sprinters, and made it to the end, with Worrack taking the sprint and Arndt moving into the GC lead. Visser and Wild came in two minutes behind them - and behind them, the bunch sprint for fifth, and the big drama of the day, when Road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini's crank fell off at the start of the sprint, and she narrowly missed being run over by the medic car! Check out the video, and photos of the crash

Stage 2 results

1. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized lululemon, 3:05:37
2. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
3. Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil-1t4i, + 02:20
4. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Netherlands, s.t.
5. Shelley Olds (USA) United States, + 02:49
6. Martine Bras (Ned) Netherlands, + 02:51
7. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) MCipollini Giambenini, s.t.
8. Latoya Brulee (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen, s.t.
9. Jessie Maclean (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
10. Valentina Scandolara (Ita) Italy, s.t.

And here's the GreenEdge video from Stage 2 - including footage from the team car with DS Dave McPartland:

Stage 3 - Katara Cultural VillageKatara Cultural Village, 92.5km

Going into the final stage, there were just 2 seconds between Judith Arndt and Trixi Worrack for the GC, and 2 minutes to Kirsten Wild, so those intermediate sprints would be hard-fought - and once again, it was all about the wind.

Team USA's Kendall Ryan decided to see how a suicide break would work, attacking at km 14 and taking the first intermediate sprint points, but although her lead got up to over three minutes at one point, she was caught at km 40, just before the second sprint. Groups got away and were caught, until tailwinds in the final parts of the race upped the speed, and no one could get away. For the first time in the race, it came to a whole-peloton bunch sprint, which Kirsten Wild took in superb style!

Stage 3 results

1. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Netherlands, 2:38:36
2. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
3. Adrie Visser (Ned) Skil - 1t4i, s.t.
4. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
5. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Specialized- lululemon, s.t.
6. Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Diadora-Pasta Zara, s.t.
7. Monia Baccaille (Ita) MCipollini - Giambenini, , s.t.
8. Jessie Maclean (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, s.t.
9. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
10. Elena Cecchini (Ita) MCipollini - Giambenini, s.t.

Arndt had secured her GC win by taking the second intermediate sprint - winning the first big race of the year for her brand-new team!

Final General Classification

1. Judith Arndt (Ger) GreenEdge-AIS, 8:00:44
2. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized- lululemon, + 00:06
3. Kirsten Wild (Ned) Netherlands, + 02:06
4. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) Specialized- lululemon, + 02:57
5. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Specialized-lululemon, + 03:04
6. Loes Gunnewijk (Ned) GreenEdge-AIS, + 03:12
7. Alexis Rhodes (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, + 03:33
8. Jessie Maclean (Aus) GreenEdge-AIS, + 05:26
9. Monia Baccaille (Ita) MCipollini - Giambenini, s.t.
10. Elena Cecchini (Ita) MCipollini - Giambenini, s.t.

Chloe Hosking took the Young Rider jersey, and her team, Specialized-lululemon, took the team prize. For some reason (exhausting riding, and taking 4 hours to get rid of all the sand after each stage?) the riders stop blogging after stage 1, but I'm sure once they get home, we'll see more rider blogs - check out the comments to add anything you see, or to look out for what other people have found. In the mean-time, check out the GreenEdge video for Arndt's post-race reactions (she puts her win down to Gunnewijk shouting at her on Stage 2!) and skin-care advice - and for GreenEdge's mascot, Skippy:

In other women's cycling news