Second in Sweden for Emma Johansson at Vårgårda World Cup

Sun 18 Aug 2013

Emma Johansson sprinted to second in front of family and friends at the Vårgårda World Cup in Sweden. The Swede was part of a four rider group that took shape in the last lap of the circuit race. Marianne Vos (Rabobank) overcame a late race puncture to win the seventh round of the World Cup series. It is the second podium for ORICA-AIS in Sweden after the team’s third place finish in the team time trial on Friday.

The women’s peloton faced 12 laps of an 11km lumpy circuit with each lap featuring an ascent that regularly served as a launching pad for attacks. The bunch set a quick clip from the start, and the action proved animated for the entire duration of the race.

“There were a lot of small attacks during the first couple laps,” recalled Sport Director Dave McPartland. “None of the moves were particularly significant, but they made for a fast start and set up the field for really aggressive racing in laps three, four and five.”

The first significant move formed inside the fourth lap. A group of eight riders that included Loes Gunnewijk, Lisa Brennauer (Specialized-lululemon), Nina Kessler (Boels-Dolmans), Dani King (Wiggle Honda), Roxane Knetemann (Rabobank-Liv/Giant), Rossella Ratto (Hitec Products UCK), Claudia Häusler (Team TIBCO) and Esra Tromp (Argos-Shimano) took shape.

“There was only one rider from each team in that move,” said McPartland. “Although we only had Loes in it, I was happy with the composition of the group. Loes was one of the strongest of the eight.”

The situation changed when a counter-attack turned bridge attempt proved successful. Evie Stevens (Specialized-lululemon), Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Lucy Brand (Rabobank-Liv Giant) and Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) joined the eight leaders, giving Rabobank, Specialized-lululemon and Boels-Dolmans a distinct advantage over the riders without teammates in the breakaway.

“We missed that big time,” explained McPartland. “Basically, the move had gone from one that we were relatively happy with to one that was very dangerous for our ambitions. It was an ordinary piece of riding by us in that section.”

“The girls knew they had to react, and luckily they were fairly quick to shut down the move,” McPartland continued. “Their chase work brought the race back together.”

With the first large escape group neutralised, teams wasted no time in sending their riders up the road again. Fairly quickly, a new escape group began to take shape. Before the group had time to truly establish an advantage, Knetemann jumped away again and Gunnewijk bridged across.

Although a few riders gave chase, they were eventually swept up by the bunch. Inside the seventh lap, the two leaders had a 45” advantage over the reduced bunch.

“When Loes went down the road with Knetemann, we were on the front foot again,” said McPartland. “We were on the back foot a bit during the two previous laps but managed to get some sense of control again with Loes away for the second time.”

“Loes and Roxanne have similar strengths and styles of riding,” McPartland continued. “We were happy with her chances although we knew the race was far from over at that point."

Specialized-lululemon led the chase, and with the two leaders in sight, riders began to bridge across to the break. By lap eight, the composition of the leading group had changed yet again. Johansson and Gunnewijk represented ORICA-AIS in the ten rider move that included Vos, Knetemann, Ratto, Stevens, Ellen Van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon) Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano), Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) and Anna Van Der Breggen (Rabobank-Liv/Giant).

“Tiff [Cromwell] was in a little group behind the leaders but she never made it across,” noted McPartland. “From there, Emma and Loes were in control for us. They did a really good job together. Loes had already spent a lot of energy setting the race up for Emma, but she still had enough to give it a crack or two to try to whittle down the size of the group even further.”

With two laps left to race, the gap to the leaders had pushed out behind the three minute mark. Gunnewijk launched an attack inside the penultimate lap. Vos countered Gunnewijk’s attempt and opened up a small advantage. Johansson closed the slight gap, and the injection in pace was too much for Bronzini who was the first to lose contact with the leading group. The attacks continued until only six riders remained out front – Johansson, Vos, Van der Breggen, Pieters, van Dijk and Stevens.

Shortly before the bell lap, Vos punctured. In a show of sportsmanship, the other five in the lead group did not attack the World Cup leader as she received a wheel change. With a new wheel, Vos rejoined the lead group.

Stevens attacked on climb on the final lap. Johansson matched Stevens’ acceleration before launching an attack of her own. Neither Stevens nor Van Dijk could respond, and six became four. Vos put in one last final dig, gaining a brief advantage. The attack distanced Van der Breggen, leaving only three in the lead.

As the trio powered toward the finish line, they maintained only a slim advantage over their three chasers. Before the finish Van Dijk and Van der Breggen managed to bridge the gap although Van der Breggen would come unglued again before the line. Vos opened the sprint, and no one was able to come around her. Johansson settled for second ahead of Pieters. While Vos confirmed her World Cup series win with the win in Sweden, Johansson further extender her hold on second in the series over Van Dijk.

“It was a really exciting race today,” said McPartland. “We started with five after we lost Shara [Gillow] to a stomach virus overnight, and we had a few girls struggling today. We managed the situation the best we could with what we had, and Loes really stepped it up today. Emma was really keen to win, so I know she’s a bit disappointed, but I consider it a good day for us.”