ORICA-AIS Maintains Yellow Jersey After Penultimate Thüringen Stage

Sat 20 Jul 2013

Emma Johansson was awarded bunch time after narrowly avoiding a crash in the last corner of the sixth stage of Thüringen Rundfahrt. The race leader maintains her firm grasp on the yellow jersey ahead of the final day of racing. Johansson has a 32” advantage over teammate Shara Gillow and 1’31 on Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-lululemon) in third.

“We knew the intermediate sprints would be hotly contested today,” said Sport Director Dave McPartland. “It was not our intention to go for them. With third, four and fifth all tied on equal time at the start of the sage, there is a battle for a podium finish. We left them to fight for seconds while making sure we were in a good position if any splits happened in the build up to the sprints.”

Johansson avoided danger during the fast, hectic start and stayed safe as Brennauer won the first intermediate sprint. When the peloton made its way toward the first GPM at a steady clip, Johansson remained close to the front, surrounded by teammates.

“There was a steep, cobbled climb at 30km,” explained McPartland. “It caused a split in the field. We had the whole team at the front at this point, so everyone made the split.”

Taylor Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) was the first rider to attack on the stage six finish circuits. The American was unable to gain a big advantage and was overtaken by the bunch on lap two.

“We were happy to have Wiles away,” said McPartland. “We would have been happy with a group of four or five riders as long as none of the riders were within three or four minute of Emma on the overall.”

“When Wiles went down the road, we allowed the gap to go out to 40”, “ McPartland added. “Other teams went to the front and started attacking. No one bridged across but the attempts brought everything back together.”

Roxanne Knetemann (Rabobank Women)  countered the catch. Like Wiles, Knetemann went away alone and steadily built up her advantage.

“We were also happy with this move,” said McPartland. “Roxanne is on 3’31 , so we were careful not to give her too much time. When her gap grew beyond what we wanted, we pulled her back to 1’ and kept her there. Other teams started mixing it up in the chase after that and effectively brought her back.”

Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana) attacked on the last lap. Third time was the charm, and the last move proved winning. The Italian crossed the finish line in Schmölln 10” ahead of a group of riders who managed to avoid the final corner pile-up.

“Scandolara looked like she might have gotten brought back in the second half of that last lap,” said McPartland. “She rode really strongly in the final 10km to stay away. It was a good win for her. She’s an aggressive rider, and she’s always someone we’re happy to work with in the break.”

“With Scandolara away, we focused on looking after Emma in the final,” said McPartland. “We wanted to keep her at the front and out of trouble.”

Johansson stayed on the front, but that was where she found trouble. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Rabobank Women) was leading the bunch through the last corner of a very technical finish when her front wheel slipped out from under her.

“It was a dangerous finish,” McPartland explained. “The peloton was going 60km/hr down this descent coming into the last corner. Van Vleuten was on her limit when her she lost her front wheel. Emma was fourth wheel. Second wheel and third wheel slid out behind Van Vleuten. Emma somehow managed to keep it upright.”

“I went to the commisaires straightaway to ensure that everyone caught up behind the crash would get bunch time because the crash happened inside the final 3km,” McPartland continued. “They confirmed they saw it this way. The only changes to the top ten overall should be to split the tie for third place.”

Happy that Johansson escaped the incident unscathed, McPartland admits that it was a tense day.

“The way the stage played out worked in our favour reasonably well, but we still had a hard day,” said McPartland. “When you have the yellow jersey, there’s always extra pressure and stress. There’s never one second where anyone can relax. It takes its toll. We’ve had the lead since the first stage, so we’ve worked like this for six days now. I think everyone’s happy we have only one more day to go.”