ORICA-AIS Animates Ronde van Gelderland

Mon 15 Apr 2013

Emma Johansson was the top finisher for ORICA-AIS at Ronde van Gelderland. The race ended in a field sprint won by Kirsten Wild (Argos-Shimano). Johansson slotted into eighth place, on the same time as Wild, following a fast, aggressive day of Dutch racing. Sport Director Martin Barras is back to tell you, in his own words, about the team’s role in the race action.

Our advantage is our depth, and because this is our strength, our team plan is always formulated around our ability to use our numbers. We might not be present in a move with the individual most likely to win, but because of our depth, we will almost always be there. We’re always keen to see what we can do with our numbers.

We looked at the race in three distinct phases. We wanted to smash the race apart over the hills, further smash it over the dikes and then organize our train should our work not prevent the projected sprint finish.

Gelderland is typically a sprinter’s race. This race starts flat and ends flat. Between, there is a period of good, solid climbs from 20-41 kilometres followed by a transition period before 45 kilometres of dikes. We wanted to isolate the sprinters as much as possible, and we intended to give our best effort to do this over the hills and the dikes. We certainly threw everything we had at our competitors.

The race was very, very fast and very, very hard in the hills. We attacked constantly, and our aggression split the group repeatedly. We came out of the hills with a group of 60 or so riders. We wanted to split this group of further, and we continued to race aggressively. This split the group two or three more times. By the time we hit the dikes, there were only 45 riders left in the front group.

The race seemed to follow how aggressive we chose to be at any given moment. When we raced hard, the race was hard. When we saved our energy, the pace slowed and the action lessoned. Boels Dolmans accompanied us in racing aggressively, and Specialized-lululemon, to a slightly lessor degree, got in on the action. We were really pleased to see other teams invested in a lively race.

Around kilometre 80, Shara Gillow decided to go off the front. At first, she had to fight hard to put in any time on the bunch. Eventually, people realized it was too hard to chase, and they allowed her to open up her advantage. At maximum, she had 1’40”, and it was clear to us that she had really committed to the move.

Argos-Shimano and Wiggle Honda were very active on the front as the peloton picked up steam in the chase. Shara’s gap hovered as low as 20” at various points, but she’d go back out to 45” every time the bunch looked around at each other. This pattern followed for awhile – chase on, gap down, chase down, gap up. Shara really made them work for it.

The first direct threat to Shara’s position came inside the last ten kilometres when Annemiek Van Vleuten (Rabobank-Liv Giant) jumped across from what was left of the field and made contact with Shara. This obviously trigged a strong reaction from Argos-Shimano and Wiggle who rode hard to bring back the two leaders four kilometres from the finish line.

From there, it came to a sprint, and our result would come down to how organized we could get our sprint train. In the end, we were too eager. We hit the front too early, and we ran out of soldiers. When we passed the one kilometre mark, we only had two riders left. We had discussed wanting to have at least three but ideally four riders at this point because there were some very technical elements inside the final kilometre. A team that could control the race through the technical part had a chance of controlling the bunch. By that point, we were already on the back foot, and Wild is too strong at the moment for anyone on the back foot to have a chance of overtaking her.

It was a good race, and we raced hard. We were able to articulate the better part of our plan although we came up short with our sprint at the finish. The girls have already spoken about the sprint once, and when they’re back after showers, we’ll speak about it again. We use every mistake as an opportunity to learn and do better the next time the same situation presents itself.