Mission Accomplished at Thüringen Rundfahrt

Sun 21 Jul 2013

Emma Johansson won the opening stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt and pulled on the race leader’s yellow jersey. On Sunday, she finished off a hard week of work well done as she clinched the overall title of the seven day German tour. ORICA-AIS dominated the race from start to finish, keeping the yellow jersey throughout the entire tour and winning three stages, the points classification and the team classification.

“It’s been a whirlwind week,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “Emma won. Shara [Gillow] was second. Spratty [Amanda Spratt] was sixth. Emma won the points jersey. We won the team class. Just rewards for the way they rode all week. The girls deserve this success. Sometimes we go through a quiet patch where we don’t many results and then bam! – we have a week like this.”

“It’s hard work,” added Johansson. “We took yellow on the first day, and we had to work hard to keep it. I had to go for bonus sprints, and the time trial was hard because it wasn’t my type of course. The team was so good. Without a strong team, I could never do seven days in the jersey. All the credit goes to the girls and the staff who worked so hard to keep me in it all week.

The seventh stage of the race was neutral as the peloton rolled past the Amy Gillett roadside memorial. The Australian riders took a position in the front row of the field. Gillett was killed in a training accident in Germany eight years ago when a teenage driver crashed into the Australian squad. Alexis Rhodes, one of five riders seriously injured in the accident, rode with ORICA-AIS last year.

When racing began in earnest, the team began their quest to defend the overall lead. The first of four laps was fairly quiet. Johansson’s yellow jersey never came under any threat.

“I was really relaxed today,” Johansson said. “It was the easiest ride I have ever had while wearing the jersey on the last stage of the race. I always had the feeling we had everything under control. The girls did such an awesome job.”

“Sometimes I feel like I’m starting to lose some hair back in the car, but today there was no stress,” McPartland added. “The girls controlled the race completely. We were never under pressure.”

A two rider breakaway dominated the early action. Roxane Knetemann (Rabobank Women) and Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana) escaped from the bunch over the first GPM. Doris Schweizer (BePink) managed to bridge across to the leading duo on the second lap. The three leaders gained a maximum advantage of 1’30 before rejoining the peloton over the climb on lap three.

“We were quite happy with this move as long as it didn’t inch out beyond the two minute mark,” explained McPartland. “The girls never let it get too close. Rabobank rode a good race today. When Knetemann’s move was brought back, they sent more riders up the rode. Although they were aggressive, we were never fully under the pump.”

“We lost Jessie [MacLean] and Nettie [Edmondson] mid-race,” McPartland continued. “It was really good early work by those two. Shaz and Spratty hadn’t had to touch their pedals up until they point. Loes [Gunnewijk] took over on lap three and into lap four. She was really impressive today. She came unglued over the climb on every lap, and on every lap she fought back to rejoin the field.”

Spratt and Gillow took over for Gunnewijk on the final ascent with Spratt putting Johansson into prime position ahead of the climb. Johansson rode at a fast clip up the climb, splitting the remnants of the peloton in the process.

“Some people thought I did an attack on the last climb, but I just went up at full speed,” Johansson explained. “I wanted to ride at my own pace. [Tatiana] Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana) got away and opened up a small gap. I had enough time on her that her attack was no stress.”

Guderzo managed to maintain a slim advantage over the field to hold on for the stage win. Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-lululemon) was best of the rest ahead of Anna Van der Breggen (Sengers Ladies). Gillow slotted into eighth on the stage; Johansson was two spots further back in tenth. It was easily enough to keep first and second overall. The win is the Swede's second overall victory of the season and her second Thüringen title. 

“We never let go of the ultimate goal,” said Johansson. “The team stayed focused all week. A win like this isn’t only because of the riders. It happens with everyone around us – the director, the mechanic, the soigneurs, my Belgian Ma and Pa. This jersey is for everyone.”