Emma Johansson Finishes Second Overall at Inaugural Women's TourSun 11 May 2014
Emma Johansson sprinted to fifth place in Bury on the final stage of the Friends Life Women’s Tour. Finishing on bunch time was enough to keep Johansson in second overall, ultimately 30” behind race winner Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv). The World Champion took her third stage win in as many days, edging out Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) and Amy Pieters (Netherlands) to the stage five finish line.
Loes Gunnewijk spent the day in the breakaway, set up for her tenure down the road by her ORICA-AIS teammates. Valentina Scandolara was the first from the Australian outfit to throw down an attack. Gracie Elvin, all day on the attack on stage four, resumed her efforts on stage five following Scandolara’s catch. Gunnewijk countered Elvin’s attempt, bridging up to Emma Pooley (Lotto Belisol) and Lauren Hall (Optum). Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-lululemon) had made the juncture with Gunnewijk, and a four rider move that would dominate the day took shape.
The cooperation amongst the leaders put Rabobank-Liv on the defensive. It took four from their troops to keep the break in check. Wiggle Honda contributed to the chase efforts with the breakaway in sight. Ten kilometres from the finish, the race was back together again.
Whilst most teams were resigned to a field sprint, ORICA-AIS had yet to concede hope was lost. Elvin, Gunnewijk and Johansson each threw multiple missives. An attack by Johansson proved particularly promising, inciting an animated reaction from the field. Briefly eight riders broke away from the bunch. When Johansson realised Vos had made the split, she sat up, showing her refusal to take the race leader to the line.
Despite the team’s best efforts, the stage came down to a sprint. Vos easily outkicked Bronzini for the win. Johansson, slightly spent from her late race attacks, managed fifth place in the finale.
ORICA-AIS leaves the Friends Life Women’s Tour with one stage win, one stage podium, second on the overall classification and the honour of wearing the first race leader’s jersey in the inaugural British tour. By all accounts, the week was a successful one. Below read three perspectives on the final day of racing.
SPORT DIRECTOR MARTIN BARRAS
As I have said repeatedly throughout the race week, we wanted to come out and play all our cards. Considering what we saw on the course when we did a recon yesterday, we thought the sector between 63 kilometres and 79 kilometres offered our best chance. This was not only the distance between the two QOM points. It also featured narrow roads and country lanes that were sheltered and twisty. It had all the makings for the requirements of the establishment of a break, providing the wind was blowing in a helpful direction.
We planned to play our cards in this particular section. We would play them in a cluster, where everybody would pitch in all at the same time, to see if we could get a break up the road. If we did, and if we liked the make up of the group, we were prepared to back that break to the finish.
In order for that to happen, we needed to make sure Rabobank would have to work early. The idea behind them was that we needed to weaken them in the hopes we could isolate Vos. Given our late race plan, we also wanted an early break. This would force Rabobank to chase, leaving them vulnerable to our attacks later in the day.
Loes made the early break, and Rabobank took up the chase. According to execution, all was going to plan. By the time we hit the sector where we planed to launch our offense, Loes remained up the road and the wind had died down significantly. There was little damage if any done on the climbs, and it was difficult for attacks or breaks to get up the road. This really negated our main intent of the day. As the rest of the course didn’t lend itself to attacks, our original plan was thwarted.
The sprinters’ teams took over in the end for what proved to be a fairly straightforward, flat run to the finish. I’ve learned that our riders continued attacks all the way to the end, but it became clear that we were playing the sprint game in the final few kilometres.
All in all, it was a reasonably good stage for us. We didn’t get the grand finale we had wanted, but if you look at the big picture, it’s been a great race for us – both in terms of results and execution.
To have Loes in the breakaway today really put Rabobank on the back foot. They had to work the whole day on the front, which was good for us. It’s exactly what we wanted.
We had a plan to go for attacks between the two queen of the mountain climbs, but coming over the first, we saw that it was just too easy. Everyone was sitting comfortably in the peloton. Nothing we would have done at that point would have made an impact. The group with Loes still had a nice gap, and I think we hoped that maybe if she could get to the last kilometres with around 20”, she would have a chance to attack or create something.
Rabobank got help from Wiggle Honda at the end. When we hit the last ten kilometres, everything came back together. We did some really good attacks – me, Gracie and Loes. We played the game all the way to the end. Maybe I spent too much with attacks for being fresh in the final, but I prefer to give it a crack for the general classification. I know that maybe I lose a podium place or a chance for a win on the stage with those attacks, but that was my choice.
From a team perspective, we’re very happy with the race. It’s been really nice to play lots of cards again every day. For us, it’s been a good week. It’s given us a lot of confidence, and I think we’ve shown other teams that we’re back to our strength again. They didn’t know what to expect from us or how we were going to race, and I think that’s a good thing as well.
Every single day of this race was amazing. We are all so impressed with the race organisation. The stages have been much harder than I thought they would be. The weather has been a bit of everything, and I think that makes the racing even more interesting. And the crowds – the crowds were awesome. Everyone here is so friendly and excited about the race, and I think that’s been one of the best parts of the week.
Personally, I was really tired from all the work I had to do yesterday. I also woke up with a bit of a sore throat. I knew I needed to keep my morale up this morning. We had an important job to do – we really wanted to make this stage an aggressive one and close out the week knowing we had done everything we could to challenge for the win.
We forced a break up the road early, which was a big part of our plan. I think Rabobank was a little bit caught out at that point. It was perfect for us. The composition of riders in the move was a good one, and everybody in the break worked. Back in the bunch, none of the other teams did anything. They let Rabobank do all the chasing.
I looked after Emma at the front, making sure she saved energy for the end. We were planning on being aggressive once the break was caught, and that’s what we did. As soon as Loes’ group was back in the bunch, we put in heaps of attacks. Loes was still attacking at that point, which was awesome. She was having a great day. We even forced Marianne to chase down a few moves.
Overall we achieved our goals for the days even if we didn’t get the win. We made Marianne and her team really work for it. It was messy in the last few kilometres, and I lost contact with Emma, which left her alone at the front. She probably could have used one more rider up there to help in the sprint, but we were all spent at the point.
At the end of the week, I think we’re all really happy that we rode as well as we did as a team. We communicated well, and we executed our plans nearly perfectly every day. I think we can all feel really proud ourselves.
The week as a whole exceeded our expectations. I think a lot of us had heard all the hype, but we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Let me go on record and say this race lived up to all the pre-promotion. The Friends Life Women’s Tour wants to be the premiere event for women’s cycling, and they’re well on their way – if not already there! I think the momentum they’ve created will continue and carry out throughout the season. We’re all already looking forward to coming back next year – and I bet they have an even bigger and better tour in store for us.