ORICA-AIS Aim for Overall Victory at Emakumeen Euskal Bira

Thu 6 Jun 2013

Judith Arndt won the overall victory at Emakumeen Euskal Bira last year. A combined effort from Arndt’s ORICA-AIS teammates saw her take the top step of the overall podium 7” ahead of Emma Johansson after four days of racing. It was the second time Johansson, then riding for Hitec Products-Mistral Home, had finished second overall in Pais Vasco. The Swede hopes to claim her first overall victory in Bira this year with the support Arndt enjoyed in 2012. 

“We came here last year and won the tour with Judith,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “It’s a race that suits us as a team. We have good memories here, and we’re eager to try to do it all over again this year.”

“The main objective for this weekend is to try to win the tour overall,” McPartland continued. “It’s the number one priority. We’re confident in Emma, and we have a good team around her. We’re fortunate to have a couple of other cards to play as well.”

The four day race includes three road stages and an individual time trial. Both Johansson and McPartland anticipate the general contenders will do battle in the second half of the race.

“I expect the overall to be fought on the day of the time trial and on a short but difficult day of racing on Sunday,” said McPartland. “This means the priority during the first two days will be to keep Emma out of trouble and as fresh as possible heading into the time trial on Saturday.”

“The first two stages don’t look too hard on paper,” Johansson added. “The time trial will have some say in terms of the overall, but it’s the last stage that will be the big day. It’s up or down all day. I think it’s going to be quite hard.”

Johansson turned professional with Bizkaia and spent a great deal of time in Basque Country during her two years of racing with the Basque team. Although she is familiar with the roads in this region, she has yet to race on two of the courses included in this year’s race.

“It’s going to be a surprise,” she said with a smile. “I like to know what’s going to happen but in another way, after racing so long, I’m always searching for new things. Two of the stages this year are similar or identical to stages used in the past, but two will be new to me. They took away one of my favourite routes along the coast. It’s a bit of a pity because it’s such a beautiful area but maybe we’ll see another beautiful area instead.”

After three sunny, warm days, rain is forecasted through Sunday in Basque Country. Typically, the peloton encounters at least one or two days of rainy racing in this region.

“We’ve heard the rain is coming,’” said Johansson. “It’s a possibility every day. I don’t mind racing in the rain, but it would be nice not to have it every day. The racing is hard enough anyway, and if you put rain on top of it, it’s that much harder – for the riders and for the staff.”

No matter the weather, Johansson knows the competition will be stiff. She expects riders like Marianne Vos (Rabobank – Liv/Giant), Evie Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products UCK) to mount a serious challenge for the win.

“We have a good team here, and I’m excited to see what we can do,” Johansson said. “I’ve been second here twice. Last year, I finished behind Judith and the year before that it was to Marianne. I did see some interesting things in Durango on Tuesday. I’m not sure if the things I saw will repeat themselves during the race.”

“A stage race is much different than a one day race,” she added. “You can have a bad day and lose it all or have especially great form on the hardest stage to win the whole thing. It makes the race interesting. We have more cards to play than just me, and I think that makes things interesting, too.”

Whilst the overall win is the obvious goal, McPartland hopes the team can challenge for a stage win or two in the process. He looks to Nettie Edmondson as a potential contender for the opening day of racing.

“Having said that the tour overall is the biggest goal, I think there’s a bit of an opportunity for all of our girls here,” McPartland said. “If it comes to a bunch kick tomorrow and Nettie is good, we’re ready to put it all on the line for her.”

Amanda Spratt will be a non-starter for ORICA-AIS. After crashing out of Durango Emakumeen Saria, Spratt had hoped to rally back on the rest day between the one day race and the start of the tour. Although she has recovered considerably, she requires further treatment to her back prior to returning to racing.

ORICA-AIS for Emakumeen Euskal Bira:

Annette Edmondson [@nettieedmondson]
Emma Johansson [@emmaprocyclist]
Loes Gunnewijk [@loesgunnewijk]
Shara Gillow [@sharagillow]
Tiffany Cromwell [@tiffanycromwell]