Emma Johansson Continues to Extend Thüringen Lead

Wed 17 Jul 2013

Emma Johansson continued to build her overall lead at Thüringen Rundfahrt ahead of what is expected to be a decisive time trial tomorrow. ORICA-AIS controlled the early stage three action, allowing a solo rider to build a large advantage before slowly pulling her back to the bunch.

“The main goal today was similar to yesterday,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “We wanted to allow a small group to go down the road, keep them away for awhile and then slowly take them back. This would allow us to control the whole bunch rather than contend with an aggressive field the entire day.”

Andrea Graus (Bigla) attacked shortly before the first intermediate sprint. Although the Austrian lacked company, she committed to the move. The peloton allowed her to grow her advantage to a maximum 7’30 shortly after the second GPM.

“We started riding when her gap went above seven minutes,” explained McPartland. “We slowly but surely pulled it back. The girls did a bloody good job with a controlled chase.”

Three intermediate bonus sprints offered three opportunities for Johansson to put time into her rivals. With Graus up the road, Johansson could earn a maximum of 2” at each sprint. Annemiek Van Vleuten, second overall, also chased the time bonuses.

Johansson bested Van Vleuten on the first sprint, taking 2” to Van Vleuten’s single second. At the next two sprints, Johansson sprinted to second, snagging 2” each time, while first Nettie Edmondson and then Amanda Spratt slotted into third, preventing Johansson’s rivals from banking any time bonuses. Before the finish, Johansson had extended her lead by 5” over Van Vleuten and 6” over the other overall contenders.

“I’m very happy with what the team accomplished in the intermediate sprints,” said McPartland. “We had to contest them. It was an important objective to get as many seconds as possible over Van Vleuten and [Ellen] van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon) before the time trial.”

By the time the peloton hit the finish line for the start of the final lap of the race, Graus’ advantage had dwindled to less than a minute. Teams began to launch counter-attacks in the face of the imminent catch. Ten kilometres from the finish, an animated bunch overtook Graus.

“We spent our girls in the process of bringing back Graus, but Emma was safe,” explained McPartland. “There were only about 30 girls left in the front group by the last loop. Attacks were going everywhere. The race was really aggressive. Emma had Shara [Gillow] and Spratty for help. They covered the dangerous moves, but Emma had to chip in as well.”

“It was hard,” admitted Johansson. “Everyone was attacking me. Shara and Spratty helped me control, but there were certain moves that I needed to cover. If Linda [Villumsen] (Wiggle Honda) attacked, I needed to go, too. If Annemiek or Ellen went away, I had to follow. Luckily I was feeling very good. The girls had done such a good job looking after me that I was as fresh as the other overall contenders in that last lap. I got tired covering all their attacks, but I never felt like I was losing control.”

The race remained animated to the line with a small group splitting off the front of the field in the final 3km. Johansson kept herself well-positioned over the circuit, launching an attack of her own on the last hill.

“The last 3km included two small hills and one descent,” Johansson explained. “It was a very fast run towards the finish. The pace was steady over the first hill. There were some half-attacks but nothing that got away. On the second hill, I did a little acceleration to stretch the field and hopefully prevent attacks on the descent. Lucinda Brand (Rabobank Women) jumped over the top of the hill, and I went after her.”

“Coming down in the last 700m, there were three of us away – me, Lucinda and [Valentina] Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana),” continued Johansson. “The girls caught on from behind, and Annemiek started the sprint. I opened up after her, but I was quite tired by that point. It was a fast final.”

Van Vleuten edged out Johansson for the top step. Scandolara rounded out the podium. With the stage win, Van Vleuten bagged 10” over Johansson’s 6” for second place, reducing Johansson’s gain to 1” on stage three.

The Swede will start the time trial with 11” over Van Vleuten in second  and 27” over Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) in third. Although van Dijk, the Dutch National Time Trial Champion who recently won the Giro Rosa individual time trial, lost time in a crash yesterday and is 1’26 behind Johansson, her time trialing abilities could keep her in contention for the overall.

“I’m not going to worry about the others,” said Johansson. “I just need to do my best tomorrow and then see where I stand. The time trial course is a good one for me. I’ll concentrate on recovering well tonight, and I hope I wake up tomorrow feeling fast.”