Déjà Vu at Route de France

Fri 9 Aug 2013

Emma Johansson sprinted to second on stage five of the Route de France behind the on-form Giorgia Bronzini. The Italian scored her fifth consecutive stage win in Pouges Le Eaux while Johansson retained her slim advantage in the overall classification. Johansson has been in the orange leader’s jersey since winning the prologue on Saturday.

“Because there are no bonus seconds, I haven’t had to spend that much energy on a lot of the stages,” said Johansson. “Normally, I really do like the kind of racing where you have to focus on something other than only the finish. I like a hard, aggressive race. This has been a bit more laid-back, and I’m surprised that I’ve enjoyed that as well.”

It was a fairly quiet day in the bunch ahead of the finish circuits. The peloton largely stayed together during the first hour of racing. Forty kilometres from the finish, Bronzini managed to jump away from the bunch alone. She built up a maximum advantage of 40”, putting up a valiant fight before the peloton overtook her with 13km left to race.

The pan-flat run-in to the finish gave way to a hilly circuit. The pace slowly crept up on the first lap until the bunch was setting a blistering tempo during the second of two laps.

“The 13km circuit at the finish was quite hilly for a flat stage,” said Sport Director Brian Stephens. “The girls went around moderately hard on the first lap and then very, very hard on the second lap. The group split in half, and we had Tiff [Cromwell] and Emma in the front group.”

“It was a pretty hard finish, and I thought Bronzini’s solo break might have taken the edge off her, but she made the split,” Stephens added. “Emma was under a lot of pressure with attacks on the circuit and only two out of the six left to cover the moves. She spent a lot of energy before the sprint, too.”

Cromwell provided Johansson with critical support on the circuit, covering repeated attacks from Wiggle Honda and the US National Team.

“Wiggle had some good attacks – especially Linda [Villumsen],” said Johansson. “I knew I couldn’t let her go. It’s hard with everyone still so close on general classification. I know how many seconds some of the key riders are on, but I don’t know where everyone is. My instinct is not to let anything go. Tiff chased down Linda a few times and covered some other moves as well.”

The reduced bunch powered toward the line as a single unit. Johansson opened up the sprint in an attempt to outkick Bronzini for the stage win.

“I sprinted on the right side,” noted Johansson. “I guess I didn’t really think about it because I was near the barrier but left just enough space for Bronzini to come around on the inside. She sprinted past me, and I couldn’t do anything about it. It’s a bit annoying to come in second again. She’s really fast right now, and I had to cover a lot of attacks on the circuit today. It makes it hard to have that extra kick in the end when you have to jump on everything.”

With the flat and moderately undulating stages behind them, the peloton looks forward to two hillier days of racing. Bronzini’s winning streak is expected to come to an end on Friday.

“For sure Saturday will be a hard day with big gaps,” Johansson predicted. “Friday is more of an in-between day. It’s not too hard on paper, but it can be made harder with a lot of attacks. It’s the kind of day that can split the peloton but maybe not into many small groups. I expect very aggressive racing for the next two days.”