Rabobank-Liv put on an impressive display of dominance on the opening stage of the Emakueen Euskal Bira. The Dutch outfit put four riders in the top five, including occupying all three spots on the podium. Pauline Ferrand Prevot took the stage win and the yellow leader’s jersey ahead of teammates Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos. The trio came the line exactly one minute ahead of a chase group led home by Lizzie Armitstead (Boels – Dolmans).
Emma Johansson was the top finisher for ORICA-AIS, slotting into 16th place at 2’09. The Swede uncharacteristically missed out on the decisive selection only to later realise that she suffered from a slow puncture. After a quick bike change, she joined forces with Shara Gillow to give chase, but the winning move was long gone. With Johansson’s hopes of repeating the overall win diminished, the Australian outfit will chase stage wins for the remainder of the Basque tour
COMMENTS FROM SPORT DIRECTOR GENE BATES
The race opened with a relatively flat lap. It’s was mildly undulating until we hit the first category two climb at the 55 kilometre mark. It was seriously hot out there today, and that certainly had an impact early. Yesterday, it was fairly cool. It was overcast and much cooler for the Durango race on Tuesday. I would say today was the first really hot day of the season with temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius all afternoon.
The attacks began from the gun. Everyone wanted to get up the road before the category two climb. Nothing succeeded, and the peloton hit the climb all together. I’m not sure who started the action, but once it began, it was unrelenting. The bunch blew to bits from the bottom of the climb.
Over the top of the climb, we got reports that van der Breggen was away solo. Shortly after, we heard that a number of other riders including Vos and Ferrand Prevot had joined the leader. Emma and Shara were in a group about 20” behind the split, which was a bit of a surprise to me. After how those two rode at Durango, I certainly would have expected them to be in the front group.
When we got over the top of the climb, Emma raised her hand looking for a bike change. It turned out that she had a slow leak. She can’t place a finger on exactly where it happened, but because she felt completely sluggish and unable to follow wheels on the climb, we suspect it happened sometime just before the start of the hill.
After the bike change, Shara helped Emma chase. They both did everything they could, but they never saw the front group again. It’s a bit of a shame. Hats off to Rabobank. They were clearly the strongest today.
We’re a little disappointed and a little frustrated. It’s hard not to think of all the various “what if” scenarios? What if Emma had picked up on the slow leak sooner? What if she hadn’t punctured? What if she had punctured before the climb?
With that said, the race isn’t over. We’re not a team that lies down and licks our wounds. We’re going to come out swinging. The overall might be difficult with Rabobank having such a strong hold on the top three, but I know the girls will be keen to come out and have a really good ride tomorrow.