In His Own Words: Martin Barras on EnergieWacht Tour Stage 2Fri 5 Apr 2013
It was another frenzied day of racing in Holland. Narrow roads and high winds split the race from the start. ORICA-AIS chased front group selection and bonus seconds during stage two of the EnergieWacht Tour in their effort to keep Loes Gunnewijk well-poised on the overall ahead of tomorrow’s double day. Sport Director Martin Barras took a break from the preparation required for tomorrow’s stages to review the action from today.
Without actually finishing on the stage podium, today was a good day for ORICA-AIS at the EnergieWacht Tour. As discussed yesterday, a few of the key players from our competitor’s teams that were more discreet on day one came to the fore today. We now have a solidly established general classification hierarchy.
It was another cold and windy day featuring two distinct race circuits. First, we raced three laps on a 20 kilometre circuit around Oude Pekela. This circuit featured narrow roads that were extremely exposed to the elements. Within five kilometres of the race start, the bunch had exploded into several groups scattered over a minute across the roads. Shara Gillow crashed during this phase, and her game was over: see ya at the finish, Shara!
Without Shara, we were down to four riders when the bunch reformed just in time for the first bonification sprint. Remember that we only started this race with five riders as Melissa Hoskins was a late withdrawal due to minor back injury. As discussed, our four riders organised themselves to contest the sprint and take the bonus seconds. The surprise was that Loes managed to squeeze herself in there and take two seconds. Nettie Edmondson also took one second. While Nettie isn't a contender for the overall and doesn’t need the time bonus personally, it certainly helps that she took them away from another rider who might be a threat to Loes.
Immediately after the sprint, the echelons began to form in earnest. This time the bunch blew apart for good. Thirteen riders went away and ORICA-AIS put two riders in that group. Loes and Gracie were up the road with Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano), Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products UCK), Anna Van der Breggen (Sengers Ladies) Adrie Visser and Lizzie Armitstead (both Boels-Dolmans), Lisa Brennauer, Ellen Van Dijk, Carmen Small and Trixi Worrack (all Specialized-lululemon), and Jolanda Neff and Iris Slappendel (both Rabobank Women). The group worked together to establish a two minute gap, and their advantage would remain around two minutes all the way until the finish.
The finish took place over four laps of an urban circuit in Veendam. This offered few good break opportunities with the lead group, but we were determined to try to put pressure on Wild. The race leader found herself without a teammate in the lead group, and while she had a very good chance of winning the stage as a solo rider in the group if the stage came down to a sprint, she was a bit vulnerable ahead of the finish.
All attempts to isolate Wild failed, and the group came to the line together. Wild won the stage and added another 10 second bonus to the three bonus seconds she collected from the second intermediate sprint. Loes finished fifth on the stage while Gracie slotted into 13th place.
They are now fifth and tenth overall with Loes 18” down on Wild and Gracie at 33”. We’re looking at Loes and Gracie making up between 18”-25” over a 21 kilometre time trial (TT) to even make it onto the overall podium. Realistically, we’d need even more time up our sleeve than that as Wild has been the pick of the sprinters here and looks certain to gain even more bonus seconds between now and the end of the race.
We can already conceive of several scenarios where we can put pressure on Wild through an assortment of tactical options on the road. Before we entertain these, we’ll need to see how we come out of the TT tomorrow. With the way Loes is riding, she is more than capable of closing in on the race lead tomorrow.
With two stages on the schedule tomorrow, our staff has to double up on work as we are using a full complement of race and spare bikes and wheels for both the road stage and the TT. We also need to organise recovery and meals on the run. All this must happen whilst dealing with the two longest transfer of the Tour (one hour each). This means tomorrow’s post race activities – massage, meals, meetings, equipment servicing, logistical planning – will take place much later than usual as well. So, we are busy preparing and planning to do our normal jobs twice and one the run. I anticipate a late night both today and tomorrow for everyone involved in the race….