Emma Johansson Sits Second Overall Heading Into Women's Tour Final StageSat 10 May 2014
ORICA-AIS’ Emma Johansson sprinted to fourth place on the penultimate stage of the Friends Life Women’s Tour. Although she finished outside the stage four podium, missing out on all the all important bonus seconds on offer for the top-three, Johansson retains her hold on second overall on the general classification. Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv) took her second consecutive stage win to stretch out her lead to 19”.
“I’m feeling really good,” said Johansson. “I feel like we’re on top of things as a team. We were in some really good moves today. I think the most important thing we showed today is that we’re not only riding for me. We have other cards to play, and we’re willing to play them. I’m not the only one that can go for a result.”
Although it rained nearly the entire drive en route to the stage, it was sunny in the start city of Cheshunt. The peloton staged in front of vocal fans, who again turned out in large numbers. A crash in the neutral zone delayed the official race start as race organisers called a halt to the procession to allow for bike changes.
Ciara Horne (Great Britain) was the first to go on the offensive, holding off the peloton until just after the first Strava QOM at 12 kilometres. Elise Delzenne (Specialized-lululemon) countered Horne’s catch. The peloton refused to give Delzenne a long leash. Emma Pooley (Lotto Belisol), the next to try her hand at the break, had a bit more luck, quickly putting 20” into the bunch.
Gracie Elvin attempted to bridge across to Pooley. Whilst her solo effort proved successful, Elvin later managed to make it up the road with Pooley, Annemiek van Vleuten (Rabo-Liv), Chantal Blaak (Specialized-lululemon), Janel Holcomb (Optum) and Kaisa Pawlowska (Boels-Dolmans). The breakaway worked well together with only van Vleuten sitting onto the back of the group.
“A lot of what we do is about testing our opponents,” said Sport Director Martin Barras. “Of course, we also want to make sure we set ourselves up for our best chance. We were keen to get someone up the road today. It was important to use to play the cards we have left between now and the end of the tour.”
“It was a very big day for Gracie,” Barras continued. “I think she was up the road three times in the first 40 kilometres. This allowed Gracie to separate herself from the bunch and have the possibility of moving up on the overall. It also gave us a better measure of our opponents intentions and capabilities.”
“We had one or two riders in every move today,” added Johansson. “We were in all the breaks. Rabobank was a bit on the back foot because it wasn’t the same for them.”
Elvin’s escape group contested the first intermediate sprint with van Vleuten besting Elvin in the dash for the line. Pawlowska scooped up seconds for third. By this point, the escape group had nearly a minute on the peloton, and Astana and Wiggle Honda began to chase.
The bunch had the six leaders in sight when a traffic accident unrelated to the race caused officials to neutralise the peloton. With a lead of less than 30” at the time the race was neutralised, the breakway started back in the bunch upon restart. With 15 kilometres still to race, Rabobank-Liv and ORICA-AIS remained attentive at the front.
The second intermediate sprint was contested by the overall contenders with Vos snagging three bonus seconds as first across the line. Johansson limited her losses, taking two bonus seconds for second place. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) earned one second for third.
Although Johansson was well-positioned on the run in to the line, she was forced to break through the final corner when Lucina Brand (Rabobank) lost control of her back wheel.. The break cost Johansson the opportunity to contest the finish from prime position. Vos took the stage ahead of Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda). Lucy Garner (Great Britain) rounded out the podium. Johansson slotted into fourth on the day.
“Loes [Gunnewijk] put in a massive effort with two kilometres to go,” said Johansson. “Lucinda took over fro Marianne when Loes was done. I got on Lucinda’s wheel in front of Marianne going around that long, round corner.”
“Lucinda had a slip of the back wheel,” Johansson explained. “I opened a little gap, and Marianne came past me. We were about to turn left at that point, and I hit my pedal through the corner trying to close the gap to Marianne. I had to break or I would have gone down. Lucy and Cecchini came around me, and a few others did, too. Obviously, I made back a few places to finish fourth.”
ORICA-AIS will head into the final day of racing intent on moving up on the overall classification. In the process, the team hopes to challenge for the stage win. With the team performance today, Barras knows it’s a big ask but believes his riders are up for the challenge.
“In continuation of everything that’s happened in this tour, we’re still hitting all our marks,” said Barras. “We’re achieving all the things we say we’re going to do although they may not always have the intended results. In terms of a change to the general outcome, we didn’t see one today, but we feel we’re getting closer each day to solving this puzzle. If we’re going to pull it off in the end is as much in the hand of our opponents as it is in our hand, but trust me – it won’t be for lack of trying.”