Emma Johansson Sprints to Second in Durango

Tue 4 Jun 2013

Emma Johansson sprinted to second in Durango. It is the fourth time the Swede has finished on the podium at Durango Emakumeen Saria. Johansson came to the line with a four rider breakaway that solidified on the downhill run towards the city centre finish and was the first to open the sprint. Only Marianne Vos (Rabobank / Liv Giant) was able to overtake her ahead of the line.

“I had a little extra motivation today,” said Johansson. “I was riding in honour of my friend Iñaki Lejarreta who died in a training accident in this area last December. His wife Naiara and her sister Maitane were friends that became like family when I rode for Bizkaia at the start of my cycling career.”

The single day race in Durango serves as prelude to the four day Emakumeen Euskal Bira stage race that starts on Thursday. It marks the start of the hillier races that pepper the second half of the season.

“This is what I’d consider the start of the second chapter of our season,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “The one day classics are behind us. Beginning with Bira on Thursday, we’ll have one tour after another – Trentino, the Giro, Thüringen, Route de France. Most of these races include sizeable climbs, and today was a good chance to preview the types of hills we’ll see throughout the rest of the season.”

The peloton tackled four laps of a 17.9 kilometre circuit before taking on a longer loop of 32 kilometres. Each circuit lap included a gradual rise while the longer loop featured two notable climbs.

“Nothing significant happened on the circuit laps,” said Johansson. “There was one move with eight riders that got away, and we had Tiff [Tiffany Cromwell] in that. It was only gone for about half of a lap and never gained a big advantage.”

Fireworks flew during the final hour of racing. The first climb caused natural separations. An attack by Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) shattered the reduced bunch halfway up the second climb. 

“The peloton completely came apart when Evie attacked,” said Johansson. “Elisa [Longo Borghini] (Hitec Products UCK) countered Evie’s move, and then Evie went again. We went over the top one at a time after that. Evie was the first. Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products UCK) was next. Then came Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol), me and Marianne Vos. Elisa and Marianne are very strong on the descents, and it was downhill until the finish from that point, so those were the two I was most worried about.”

A slow puncture eliminated Moolman from the elite group that formed on the descent. Four kilometres from the finish, Johansson, Stevens, Vos and Longo Borghini had formed a four rider move ahead of a chase group of around 15 riders.

Lacking the top end speed of her breakmates, Longo Borghini attacked in the closing kilometres. Stevens launched her own missive. Neither move dislodged Vos or Johansson.

“I knew I could beat Elisa and Evie in a sprint, so I was focused on how I could beat Marianne,” explained Johansson. “If I let her jump first, I wouldn’t be able to match her acceleration, so I had to open the sprint. I went at the 250 metre mark.”

Vos came around Johansson ahead of the line. Johansson held on for second as Stevens rounded out the podium.

“Maybe I went too early,” said Johansson. “It’s hard to say. Looking back, it’s the only thing I might have done differently.”

Although she aimed for the top step, Johansson is satisfied with her result and effort.

“The climbing legs are there,” she said. “This is the first time we’ve had to race these sorts of climbs this season. I prefer something a bit steeper than what we had today, so it’s encouraging to feel good on climbs that don’t suit me as well.”

Sport Director Dave McPartland shared Johansson’s assessment. He believes his squad is well-poised to make their mark in the stage race that starts on Thursday.

“We have three riders capable of putting up a result in this type of racing,” he said. “That’s our biggest strength. Most teams here have one clear leader and they’re lucky if they have a second option. We have three. It allows us to race offensively, and we’re looking forward to doing exactly that.”

Note: Amanda Spratt crashed out of Durango today. McPartland shares details on her crash and injuries:

“Spratty was just bringing Tiff back from a puncture. Two or three kilometres later, she was involved in a crash with one other rider. She landed on the ground, and we think she was ridden over by someone at full speed. They must have gone straight over her back and then straight over her bike. From the skid marks on her top tube and head seat, it’s pretty obvious that’s what happened. Her race was over immediately. She’s pretty sore at the moment on her back and the right side of her body. We’ll need to see how she feels in the morning and assess from there.”