Hilly Racing on Tap in Beautiful Basque CountrySun 2 Jun 2013
The women’s peloton heads to hilly Basque Country for the first UCI women’s Spanish races of the season. The one day Durango Emakumeen Saria on Tuesday serves as a prelude to the four day Basque Tour that begins on Thursday. Emma Johansson has thrice finished on the podium in Durango. The Swede is one of several options for ORICA-AIS in the Basque region.
The race features four counter-clockwise laps that ease the peloton into the real action. Although each circuit lap includes a four kilometre climb, the gentle slopes are an appetizer for the longer, steeper roads that lie ahead.
“The climb on the circuit isn’t too hard,” said Amanda Spratt. “Normally nothing really gets away on this section of the race. It’s hard enough that we’ll have to be at the front and have riders representing the team if anything dangerous goes up the road, but history has shown that this isn’t the place where major moves go.”
From city circuit to large loop, the peloton heads northwest to take in two longer, steeper climbs ahead of a downhill run in towards the finish. Both climbs and the technical descent can do damage to the field.
“The big loop includes two major climbs, and that’s where the race is made,” said Spratt. “We’ll need to have numbers in any split that happens over the climb.”
The weather in Basque Country can prove decisive. Although rain is not currently forecasted for Tuesday, the team will prepare for the possibility of wet roads.
“Most years when we race in Spain, it rains at least one or two days during the week,” Spratt noted. “This can make the descent even more technical. When it rains, there are usually crashes around the hairpin turns. People who are technically better can make the race on the descent.”
The rain in this region is only one of its defining characteristics.
“The late starts are distinctly Spanish,” Spratt explained. “Everything starts later in the day. We normally don’t start a race until 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. That shifts everything else later. We do rubs when we normally eat dinner. We eat dinner when we normally go to sleep.”
“This is also the first time in the year that we’re getting into the longer climbs,” continued Spratt. “In Belgium and Holland, it’s the short, sharp stuff. Durango and Bira are the first tests for the true climbers.”
Spratt believes her team has several riders who can past this test with flying colours. While Johansson is the obvious option, she isn’t the team’s lone leader.
“The type of racing really suits Emma,” said Spratt. “She’s been on the podium in Durango and Bira several times. Tiff [Tiffany Cromwell] has strong form at the moment, so she should also be up there. We have a whole team of riders that can make their mark in this race. We’ll have to see who feels the best on the day.”
ORICA-AIS for Durango Emakumeen Saria: