In His Own Words: Dave McPartland on Route de France Stage One

Sun 4 Aug 2013

Emma Johansson sprinted to third in a reduced bunch kick to retain the race leader’s jersey after the second day of racing. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) was first across the line, edging out Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini-Giordana) for stage honours. The trio were part of a front group that formed just ahead of the first of four circuit laps at the conclusion of stage one. In his own words, Sport Director Dave McPartland describes the day.

It was almost completely quiet during the first hour of racing. We had a few attacks after that but never anything that was dangerous. Nothing came of any of the moves. There were crosswinds at time, and although the wind direction provoked a bit of anxiety in the bunch, the peloton remained together as we came to the pointy end of the race.

An uncategorised hill set the scene for the decisive action. We hit the climb at the 98km mark. It lasted for approximately 3km and preceded a 3-4km descent that led to the circuit laps.

Defending Route de France champion Evelyn Stevens (USA) attacked on the hill. Emma followed Evie, and the pairing created a massive fight behind. Riders scrambled to respond, and in the chaos that followed, the peloton shattered. Two distinct groups came together on the descent. As soon as we hit the circuit, we heard over race radio that a group of 20 had hit the circuit together - although looking at the results the group may have been larger than we were originally told. We had Emma and Tiffany Cromwell in the lead group. Our other four were in the main bunch.

It’s rare that we find ourselves in a situation where we’re isolated. Today, we were isolated and outnumbered. Tiff and Emma had a tough time in the front. They did a bloody good job to keep things together and put Emma up for third. Tiff ended up just outside the top ten (11th) on the stage, and they both finished on bunch time.

While we kept yellow, which was one objective today, I can’t say the day went according to plan. We had wanted to set the sprint up for Nettie, and we lost everyone but Tiff and Emma on the hill. I don’t expect all of the girls to make the splits every time that happen, but I had been hoping for better representation, and if I could have chosen who else would have made the move, I’d put Mel or Nettie in it. With that said, I won’t lose any sleep over the mistakes.

The way the race played out today is very typical of this tour. We expected a bunch kick because the profile was relatively flat in the book. We can only go with what’s in the race book most of the time. It’s not possible to preview every stage of every race. The flat profile was nothing close to flat in reality. There were no major mountains, but it was undulating all day. It was a constant up or down. And that last hill where the field split – it wasn’t on the profile at all.

We’ll head into stage two in a nearly identical position to the way we started stage one with 1” over Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) and 2” on Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano). Some of the lower spots on the overall classification have shifted, and Tiff has leap-frogged up to tenth place. She’s 9” behind Emma, tied on time with Rabobank teammates Pauline Ferrand-Prevot in eighth overall and Thalita de Jong in ninth.

After today’s surprise, it’s hard to predict what tomorrow will look like. We’re fully committed to our overall objectives regardless of the accuracy of the profile, and we hope to tap into our stage win ambitions, too.