Emma Johansson Remains in Route de France Race Lead Ahead of Final Stage

Fri 9 Aug 2013

With one day of racing remaining at the Route de France, Emma Johansson remains in the orange leader’s jersey. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) notched her six straight stage win while Johansson sprinted in for fourth place in Vichy.

Johansson heads into the queen stage of the race with 1” in hand over Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) and 2” on Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano). Tiffany Cromwell remains in ninth place overall at 9”, tied on time with Rabobank-Liv Giant teammates Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Thalita De Jong, ahead of what is expected to be an exciting, decisive day of racing.

“We thought today would be a bit harder,” noted Johansson. “It turned out not be as hard as we thought. The last 15-20km were raced very aggressively, but that was only part where I really suffered. The girls were really good today. They covered all the early moves.”

Iris Slappendel (Rabobank-Liv Giant) slipped away from the peloton in a solo break in the second hour of racing. Several riders – alone or in groups – attempted to unsuccessfully bridge across to the leader. The field was back together 40km from the finish.

“It was pretty slow in the first half of the race,” noted Sport Director Brian Stephens. “The course was lumpy but not as hard as we thought it would be and certainly not as hard as tomorrow looks. The pace was pretty easy in the first half.”

“Things heated up in the second half of the race, and that’s when the peloton split,” Stephens added. “We had three girls in a group of about 40 riders for a fair while, and then Gu dropped 10km out. That left Emma and Tiff alone.”

Kristin McGrath (USA), Grace Sulzberger (Australia) and Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) went off the front in the run-in towards the finish. Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) jumped from the peloton as the leading trio continued to extend their advantage.

“That was a dangerous move,” said Stephens. “The girls had to work hard to bring that back.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t jump on Linda’s wheel right away,” said Johansson. “I made a mistake to miss that. Tiff tried to bring her back but couldn’t do it alone. I had to use a lot of energy to get the race back together again.”

The attacks continued all the way to the line with defending champion Evie Stevens (USA) putting in one last dig inside the final kilometre. Johansson closed the gap that Stevens opened, setting the reduced bunch up for a field sprint.

“I thought I was in a good position for the sprint, but it got all messy in the end,” explained Johansson. “An attack went on one side, and I was on the other. I was behind Lizzie [Armitstead] (Boels-Dolmans), and Lizzie was behind Bronzini.”

“I stood up to sprint, but I had to sit down right away,” Johansson continued. “I was done. I had nothing left for the finish.”

Bronzini handily bested Armitstead for the top honours. Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano) rounded out the podium.

“It’s hard when you to go in all the moves to defend the jersey,” Johansson said. “It makes you suffer. I have to tell myself that everyone else is suffering, too. They must be. There would more attacks if not.”

Looking ahead to Saturday, Johansson expects a battle royale to decide the general classification winner. Because the profiles of past stages have been a bit misleading, Johansson is not entirely sure what to expect from the hilly parcours.

“It’s difficult to tell how hard it’s going to be,” said Johansson. “There doesn’t seem to be any chance that it will be a big group surviving to the finish. There are a lot of climbs and some of them are quite long. It’s rolling and bumpy all the way up to the circuit, where we ride over the finish line at 30km for the start of the circuit.”

“It’s going to be a surprise,” she added, playfully. “I think it’s going to be hard no matter what. At least I hope it’s going to be hard. I like hard racing.”