ORICA-AIS Defends Yellow in Germany

Tue 16 Jul 2013

ORICA-AIS handily defended the yellow jersey they earned on the opening stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt as Emma Johansson sprinted to third on stage two. With the bonus seconds she secured, Johansson was able to further extend her overall lead in the German Tour. The Swede started the stage with a 6” lead over Annemiek Van Vleuten (Rabobank Women). By stage end, she had bagged another 4”on Van Vleuten and extended her advantage to 16” over Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans). In his own words, Sport Director Dave McPartland describes the successful day of racing.

The race started out quite slow and easy, actually. That was surprise. The calm only lasted for 5km. The first intermediate sprint was early, after 11km, and with it came the highly sought after bonus seconds. Emma was going after those seconds and so were the other GC girls – especially Van Vleuten. The build up to the sprint really lit up the race. All of a sudden we were barrelling into town at 60 km/hr.

The entrance to town was full of traffic islands. There were left-hand bends and right-hand bends everywhere. We had no idea it was such a complicated stretch of road. The girls once again did an awesome job making sure they were in a good position through this section.

The train got a bit mucked up as we began to set things up for Emma. Van Vleuten was in the middle of our train and, because of that, Emma wasn’t in the position we had wanted her to be. Van Vleuten won that sprint. Emma was second. Loes [Gunnewijk] was third. That was good of Loes to take seconds away from someone else. Emma started the day with a 6” advantage over Van Vleuten. After the first intermediate sprint, Van Vleuten had gained back 1”.

Straight after the sprint, the attacks started. Riders were going down the road left, right and centre. The team stayed relatively clam. We were attentive to the moves but let other teams fill the gaps. We covered anything that looked especially threatening. This was the situation until the first GPM. After the climb, the break of the day finally got clear.

Chloe McConville (Australia) and Anna Schnitzmeier (Wiggle Honda) put time into the bunch immediately. We weren’t concerned even though Schnitzmeier started the day on 29”. We were happy that it was only two riders instead of six or eight. It was the perfect situation for us, and no other team reacted. We let the gap grow out to 3’30 before we got on the front to start pulling.

It was a really good, well-organised chase from our team to pull back McConville and Schnitzneier. There was no drama there. If anything, that might have been a bit too quick to close the gap. I’d rather it be that way than too slow, of course. We kept McConville and Schnitzmeier out front for the second intermediate sprint. Those two obviously took first and second. We sprinted for third, and we got it. Emma took back the second Van Vleuten had taken in the first sprint.

The second intermediate sprint came at the start of the finish circuit. The two leaders had 26” when we started the loop. Our work was done at that point. We knew it come back together as other teams would counter the catch.

As anticipated, 12km from the finish, other teams began to launch their attacks. This bit of racing was quite technical. There was a sharp left-hand turn ahead of a downhill cobble section that lasted for nearly a kilometre After the cobbles, it was rough road through a town and into a valley. The valley road was downhill for another 2km with another sharp left-hand at the bottom. At the last left hand corner there was a crash that took out a few riders including Ellen Van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon). It was a really unfortunate moment.

The peloton split over the slight uphill rise after the sharp left-hander. A group of 14 formed off the front. We had Emma in the move. Spratty [Amanda Spratt] and Shara [Gillow] were with her. We drove the move, but we weren’t ever able to establish a big gap. Specialized-lululemon must not have realised right away that Ellen had crashed because they put their team straight to the front of the main bunch to swap off pulls. Their effort brought the field back together.

The final sprint didn’t go exactly as discussed, but in the end, we managed to meet our goals just the same. Spratty did the lead-out for Emma. Ideally we would have had Loes there as well, but she had done a lot of earlier work, so all the work fell to Spratty.

Carmen Small (Specialized-lululemon) won the stage ahead of Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini Giordana). Emma rounded out the podium, taking 4” bonus for third place. All in all, it was a bloody good day. The team was well organised and super disciplined, and Emma extended her lead.

The goal yesterday was to win the stage. We did that. The goal today was to defend the jersey. We did that, too. We also wanted to put Emma into a position where she could continue to gain as many seconds as possible over her competition. That also happened. Tomorrow will be more of the same. Emma will be responsible for defending her lead in the time trial on Thursday, and before that, we’ll do everything we can to give her the biggest advantage as possible over the other overall contenders.