Hard Day of Racing in Holland Hills

Fri 24 May 2013

ORICA-AIS put two riders in the elite front group that formed over the Cauberg at the Boels Rental Hills Classic. Emma Johansson and Tiffany Crowell repeatedly attacked the selection of 14 riders in an effort to bring a smaller group to the finish line in Sittard. Despite their best efforts, the race was decided by a small bunch sprint. Ashleigh Moolman (Lotto Belisol) took the win while Johansson slotted into sixth place.

“If I had the sprint to do over, I would have played off the fast sprinters rather than have Tiff lead me out,” noted Johansson. “It probably would have been better to have her put in one more attack rather than save her last bit of energy for the finish. We were both pretty tired at that point. The two of us raced really aggressively in the second half of the race.”

The single day race featured hilly terrain best known by cycling fans from Amstel Gold. Rather than choose to ride for a protected leader, the team opted to race with an open plan and make the most of the multiple options their riders offer.

“We have several riders who can get a result on this sort of terrain,” said Sport Director Brian Stephens. “I think the girls chose well with their options. The only disappointment today was some mechanical issues for Spratty [Amanda Spratt] at a really unfortunate place in the race. We couldn’t get to her with the car, and she was stuck waiting long enough that it took her completely out of contention.”

ORICA-AIS was represented in nearly every escape of the day. Loes Gunnewijk broke away from the bunch with a large group in the first significant split. Recognising that the composition of the group didn’t suit her team’s objective, Melissa Hoskins sprang to action. She pedalled to the front of the field and set a furious tempo to reel in the move. When the gap came down to a more manageable distance, Johansson bridged up to the dangerous breakaway.

The escape proved short-lived. As the peloton reached the Sibbergrubbe, they had the leaders in sight. Over the top of the hill, the race had come  back together.

“Rabobank hit the bottom of the Cauberg on the front,” explained Johansson. “They were in the perfect position to make a split. The difficulty of the climb broke apart the peloton.”

The race winning move took shape following the decisive climb. Johansson and Cromwell represented the Australian outfit in the split. Gunnewijk found herself in the first chase group.

“We were only two and were outnumbered by Rabobank who had five, but we did more than any other team in the group,” said Johansson. “We attacked. We followed moves. We both raced strong. It was a really hard second half. The whole day was hard, actually.” 

Although Cromwell looked after Johansson in the finish, the Swedish National Champion was bested by the sprinters. Moolman edged out Elizabeth Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) for the win. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Rabobank) rounded out the podium. Three spots further back, Johansson slotted into sixth place.

“The girls communicated well, and they were in all the right moves,” said Stephens. “I’m pleased with the process. The results will come if they continue to get the process right.”