ORICA-AIS Looking to Repeat at Thuringen RundfahrtSun 14 Jul 2013
Summer time stage racing is now in full swing across Europe. The women’s peloton recently wrapped up eight days of difficult racing at the Giro Rosa in bella Italia. They now face seven days of racing in Germany at the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt. Last year, ORICA-AIS won the German Tour with the now retired Judith Arndt. In 2011, Emma Johansson took the overall title. The Australian outfit returns to Germany intent on a repeat victory with their Swedish all-rounder.
Although Germany has produced many of cycling’s top riders, both male and female, the country does not play host to as many races as Italy, France or Belgium. However, the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt is one of the most well organized and logistically easy races on the calendar. Each day’s stage starts and finishes in the same town, which not only makes the logistics rather simple but it also makes it exceptionally easy for spectators to cheer on their favourites.
“This is the only race I do in Germany,” said Johansson. “There used to be a World Cup in Nüremberg but that stopped long ago. Thüringen is special – it’s a great area to race. It feels different because the races are through the towns, the city centres. There are big crowds because it’s vacation time.”
The 640km race will once again showcase the traditional stages in Schleiz, Altenburg, Schmölln and Zeulenroda-Triebes. This year’s edition will see dramatic racing in Schleusingen, Hermsdorf and Gera added to the tour. The terrain in and around these towns rarely gives the riders a break as the roads undulate from start to finish. Unlike the long, mountain top finishes of the Giro Rosa, the terrain in Thüringen has a more similar feel to that of the spring season Belgium classics.
“Racing Thüringen is a bit like Flèche Wallonne but in Germany,” said Johansson. “Similar to Belgium, it’s always up and down on narrow roads, but the climbs are harder and longer. We race through a lot of small towns that are lined with bricks – not Belgium style cobbles but cobbled squares with bricks. This is a totally different type of racing. This is Germany.”
ORICA-AIS will go to Germany with one goal in mind – to win the overall. Johansson chose to sit out of the Giro Rosa so that she could focus on this objective.
“For a lot of people, it’s quite hard to do both Thüringen and the Giro,” added Johansson. “That’s why I chose not to do the Giro. I wanted to do this and Route de France. You can’t do all three. You have to choose one to miss if you want to be on top form.”
When Johansson won in 2011, she won by 1” over American Amber Neben by taking the intermediate sprints on the last stage. Once again Johansson expects a well-fought battle all the way to the finish, but hard is what the teams wants.
“When I won it two years ago, it was bloody hard,” says Johansson. “For us to race well, we need hard races. The area suits us because it’s hard terrain, hard racing. We’ll need to sit in front all day because we never know when a break may go. Coming out of a town, going up a hill or hitting a windy section could see the winning move form. That’s what makes it hard – hard and exciting. We want it to be hard. Hard suits us well.”
ORICA-AIS for Thüringen Rundfahrt: