Aggressive Racing Lands ORICA-AIS on the Podium on Bira Stage Two

Fri 13 Jun 2014

Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv) won the second stage of Emakumeen Euskal Bira to assume the race lead from her teammate Pauline Ferrand Prevot. The new race leader soloed to victory after attacking a group of eight riders that had taken shape on the final descent of the day. Emma Johansson finished second in the chase group sprint behind Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) to round the stage two podium.

Following a disappointing opening day of racing which saw Johansson flat out of contention for the overall victory, ORICA-AIS came out with all cylinders firing on Friday. Attacks began from the gun, and the Australian outfit proved the most unrelenting. Loes Gunnewijk spent a lengthy spell alone up the road, and Valentina Scandolora won most aggressive for her constant attempts to break away from the bunch.

“It was a much better day today,” said Sport Director Gene Bates. “There was a really good feeling in the group this morning before the start of the race. The girls wanted to come out and race really aggressively. They were certainly keen to get up the road and make the most of every opportunity that presented itself, so I wasn’t surprised that they were right in the thick of the action today.

“Shara [Gillow] attacked first,” Bates added. “Spratty [Amanda Spratt] had a few goes. Valentina was most prominent. Loes was the one who managed to get away and stay away until the climbs.

Gunnewijk’s solo breakaway was the first substantial move with staying power. The peloton kept Gunnewijk on a short leash, never allowing her advantage to grow beyond one minute. When the peloton overtook Gunnewijk just before the first of two categoryised climbs. Although Elise Delzenne (Specialized-lululemon) countered the catch, the move was short-lived.

“There wasn’t a lot of action on the climbs,” noted Bates. “That sort of surprised me. I think the heat took its toll yesterday, and everyone was cooked. The aggression early on didn’t continue the way we had expected in the second half of the race.

Johansson forced a split near the top of the second categorised climb. She accelerated away from the peloton with a group of eight, including Vos. Just over the top of the climb, Vos attacked. In the split-second it took Johansson to decide how to respond, Vos had opened up she would maintain all the way to the line.

“Emma’s attack dragged a group clear,” explained Bates. “Vos is extremely good downhill, and she attacked just as the group crested the climb. She established a gap immediately. There was a bit of looking around at each in the rest of the group, and although they chased, it wasn’t enough to get Vos before the finish.”

“It’s good to see the team bounce back from yesterday,” Bates added. “They enjoy any opportunity to race aggressively, and they’re quite good at it. We’re not attacking just for the sake of attacking. We think hard about the moves we make and how to put our best options forward. We have a few cards up our sleeves for the weekend when we’ll be chasing a stage win or two.”