Emma Johansson Claims Third Consecutive Podium at Omloop van het Hageland

Sun 9 Mar 2014

ORICA-AIS enjoyed a successful outing at Omloop van het Hageland where Emma Johansson delivered the Australian outfit’s third podium in Belgium over eight days of racing. The Swede was part of the race winning move that was reduced from a 17 rider front group to a two rider late race break. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) outkicked Johansson to the line. Johansson settled for second, 4” ahead of the chase group.

Sport Director Gene Bates expressed his pride in both the result and the performance of his team in Tielt Winge today. In his own words, he describes the action from a team perspective at the one day classic.

The race is broken up into two separate sections. There’s a big loop of 59 kilometres to start. From there, we do five laps of a 13 kilometre circuit. There really wasn’t much action at all until about the 50 kilometre mark. When the bunch hit the section just before the cobbled climb on the big loop, the pace picked up, and there was an enormous pile-up. I’d venture to guess 20-25 riders went down, which completely blocked up the road.

Carlee [Taylor] crashed and did some damage to her elbow. Gracie [Elvin] got caught behind it all. We were able to get Carlee going back into the bunch relatively quickly, but both she and Gracie missed out on the move that formed.

A group of 16 riders emerged after that crash. We were fortunate to have three in there: Emma, Spratty [Amanda Spratt] and Shara [Gillow]. Loes [Gunnewijk] didn’t start today because of stomach issues, so we had only two riders back in the bunch.

Kirsten Wild (Giant Shimano) had missed out, too. When the front group first hit the circuit, they had about one minute on the field. Giant Shimano rode really hard to bring it back. I think they got it down to 26” at one stage – and that’s when things at the front blew up completely.

It was quite difficult to follow over race radio. There were six out front and then three and then 12 and then six again. It wasn’t until the final lap that we got confirmation that the six included Emma and Shara.

Up until that point, we had given clear instructions to Shara to drive the break as much as she could. It was a great situation for us to have three riders represented, especially because one of those riders was Emma. She’s fast and strong and on good form, and we were confident she could deliver another good result for ORICA-AIS. We didn’t want Wild to come back into the picture, and Shara’s work was meant to ensure Giant Shimano couldn’t close the gap.

With Shara looking after the pace, Spratty was looking after the moves, especially on the last lap. We wanted to save Emma for the final – to put in one last attack or set herself up for a good sprint. Spratty put herself in a couple good moves, and Emma followed a few things herself – mainly anything with Lizzie Armitstead. All three did exactly what they needed to do.

Lizzie and Emma got away on the last time up the climb, and they quickly got a good lead over the remnants of the breakaway. When it came down to the finish, Emma unfortunately was beaten by a better rider today. Lizzie ran first. Emma was second. A small group of chasers sprinted for the third. Spratty managed to hang on and run top ten as well. We had really good results. Coupled with Shara’s strong ride in the breakaway after only have gotten to Europe a week ago, we can call this a good day.

I’m not only pleased with the result, I’m also really happy with the way the team rode. While we may say that our objective is to win every race, we know that’s impossible. We strive to win every time we line up, but we can be happy with other results when we ride well as a team – and for the last two races, we’ve demonstrated a really good ability to gel together. With what I’ve seen this week in Belgium, I’m confident we’ve got a lot to look forward to this season.