Emma Johansson Opens Drenthe Week with Fifth Place at Drentse 8

Thu 13 Mar 2014

Emma Johansson sprinted to fourth in the Molecantan Drentse 8 bunch kick. With Chantal Blaak (Specialized-lululemon) soloing to victory a handful of seconds ahead of the field, Johansson’s result slotted her into fifth on the stage. Although ORICA-AIS missed out on a top three finish, the Australian outfit enjoyed time on the podium courtesy of cobbled queen Loes Guennwijk who won “de keientrui” – the cobbled jersey.

The race was a stressful affair from start to finish. The usual assortment of road furniture, speed humps and cobbles typically translates to high nerves in the bunch. While today was no exception, the peloton stayed together during the opening laps around Dwingeloo.

“After the opening laps, we crossed a bunch of country roads that included two cobbled section,” said Bates. “We did a lot of work on the front leading into the cobbles. The goal was to keep the girls in a good position. By the time we hit the finish circuit in Borger, Loes was up the road.”

Gunnewijk was part of a six rider move that contained Amy Pieters (Giant Shimano), Floortje Mackaij (Giant Shimano), Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized-lululmeon), Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) and Janneke Ensing (Boels Dolmans). The group took shape after the cobbles had done their damage, and although the six worked well together, they were never allowed to stretch their advantage beyond the minute mark.

“It was a really strong group, so we were a little surprised it didn’t stick,” said Bates. “When we saw it starting to come back together, Loes just sat on to save her legs. We thought she might attack in the final.”

Having missed out on the move, Ale Cipollini took control of the chase. Just inside the final of five laps, the peloton had overtaken the break. Immediately, Gracie Elvin countered the catch. Annemiek van Vleuten jumped on her wheel.

“That was a really good move by Gracie,” said Bates. “She and Annemiek worked well together until that move was reeled back in, too.”

Inside the final five kilometres, Blaak slipped off the front. While she never gained more than ten seconds, her advantage was enough to evade the peloton. Blaak soloed to victory. Lucy Garner (Giant-Shimano) outkicked Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) in the field sprint for second.

“There was really tight right-hand corner with less than 200 metres to go,” noted Bates. “The corner was on cobbles and downhill. Emma was toward the front of the group heading into the corner. We knew the first out of that corner was going to win it. Emma tried her hardest to get in there first, but she was fourth in and fourth out – and that’s how she finished up.”

“It was a really stressful race,” Bates added. “We’re happy to come through unscathed so that we can line up with a full strong team on Saturday.”