Emma Johansson Rounds out the Aalburg Podium

Sat 25 May 2013

Emma Johansson rounded out the podium at Rabobank 7-Dorpenomloop Aalburg. The Swedish National Champion was bested by Rabobank pair Marianne Vos and Liesbet de Vocht in a seven-up sprint in Aalburg. Vos enjoyed a hometown advantage racing on a course that passed by her childhood home.

“Marianne was always going to be hard to beat,” said Johansson. “We did everything we could. We raced to win, and we tried different things. That’s all we can do. We’re not content to sit back and race for second.”

The flat, fast course featured three laps of a 21 kilometre circuit followed by three laps of a 12 kilometre circuit. The smaller laps were part of the larger loop, and the peloton passed the finish line six times before contesting the finish.

“It was windy today, and we wanted to put the race into the gutter from the start,” noted Johansson. “It was a large field with a lot of club riders, which meant there was a wide variety of levels. We knew if we split the peloton early, the race would be safer.”

ORICA-AIS made their way to the front immediately after the gun fired. Combining forces with Rabobank and Sengers, they split the field into four distinct groups. The first two merged on lap two. The other two never caught back on and would eventually be pulled form the race. Their early work effectively eliminated nearly half the field. 

Roxane Knetemann (Rabobank) broke away from the bunch on the last large circuit lap. Shortly after crossing the finish line to start the first small lap, Loes Gunnewijk attacked, in an effort to bridge across to Knetemann, with de Vocht (Rabobank) on her wheel. The three leaders established a slim advantage over the field when Johansson noticed Vos creeping up the side of the first chase group.

“I noticed Marianne was moving up, and I could sense that she about to bridge,” noted Johansson. “Straightaway I had Tiff [Tiffany Cromwell] bring me to Marianne’s wheel. I had just gotten up there when Marianne attacked, and I was able to follow her. We towed Lauren Kitchen [Wiggle Honda] and Amy Pieters [Argos-Shimano] across as well.”

With 22 kilometres remaining, the seven leaders enjoyed a healthy 40” advantage over the bunch of around 40 riders. They had stretched the gap to over two minutes with one lap remaining.

“We were really aggressive in the last lap,” said Johansson. “Vos attacked first, and I covered the move. Loes countered us, and Vos bridged across. I brought that back, and Vos went again. I dragged the six of us up to her.”

Johansson threw the next missive, and de Vocht jumped on her wheel. Although de Vocht refused to pull, the duo quickly gained 10” over their former breakmates.  The slim gap looked like it was enough to hold off the field until Vos decided she wanted in on the action. She accelerated out of the bunch in pursuit of the two race leaders.

“De Vocht was sitting on, so I was between a rock and a hard place,” explained Johansson. “I could have ridden 100 percent but if we stayed away, I would probably be racing for second at the point. If I let up a little, it would allow Vos and the field to catch up. Second wouldn’t be a guarantee in that scenario, but I’d rather go for the win.”

As the gap began to shrink and the four chasers closed in on Vos, Johansson let up ever so slightly. Five hundred metres from the finish, the seven rider breakaway had come back together and was charging towards the finish.

“It’s a little disappointing to finish third,” said Johansson. “I feel like I did everything I could. Thinking about it now, maybe the only thing I would do differently is ride to the finish with de Vocht. If I had kept going at 100 percent, we could have held off the other five and maybe I could have beaten Liesbet in the sprint.”

Although the three single day races in Holland and Belgium this weekend are stand-alone events, an overall jersey, a mountain jersey and a sprint jersey are awarded. After finishing fifth in Sittard and third in Aalburg, Johansson leads the overall omnium competition.

“It’s nice to have the jersey, but I’d rather have a race win,” said Johansson. “We have another opportunity to take the top step tomorrow.”