In Her Own Words: Emma Johansson on Route de France Stage Seven

Sat 10 Aug 2013

Emma Johansson was forced to settle for second overall at the Route de France after leading the eight day French tour all week. The Swede won the prologue last Saturday and notched three stage podiums throughout the week. She supported Melissa Hoskins to an additional podium placing, giving ORICA-AIS one victory, four podiums and seven days in the orange leader’s jersey. Tiffany Cromwell overcame a major mechanical on the final stage to finish in tenth overall, giving the Australian outfit two in the general classification top ten. 

The hilly parcours on the final day of racing proved as decisive as predicted. Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) started the stage in second overall, 1” behind Johansson. The Danish-born Kiwi time trialed away from the field to take both the stage win and the overall classification. Her victory capped off a successful week for the British-registered squad, which saw Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) win six straight sprints, giving the team seven victories over eight stages.

Although disappointed to lose out on the lead, Johansson was pragmatic about way her day had unfolded. In her own words, she describes the race action below.

The first hour of the race was quite quiet. Everyone was waiting. I think people were a bit scared because the profile looked very hard, and we didn’t really know what was coming next. There was one major climb at 30km and then just before the climb that began at 53km, we had some very bad luck.

Gracie [Elvin] had a flat tire at the exact time that Tiff’s [Cromwell] battery went flat. They both had to drop back for help. Tiff had to change her battery, and I don’t know exactly what happened there, but it wasn’t a quick process. Mel [Hoskins] had gone back to the car to help bring Tiff back, and they had to work really hard to make contact with the field.

Because the racing was really aggressive at the point, the peloton was splitting into smaller and smaller groups. Every time Tiff would get on the back of the group, it would split again and she’d have another gap to bridge. She made it to the very end of the front group maybe 6km before the steep hill where everything came apart. She did her best to recovery quickly so that she could stick with us, but it was too much for her after the effort she made to rejoin the bunch.

This left only me, Nettie [Edmondson] and Gu to cover moves, and there were a lot of them. Evie [Stevens] (USA) knew she needed to ride hard today. She did a few attacks, and I tried to follow, follow, follow. Eventually, I had to let her go. I thought if I could keep her somewhere around 30”, I would still be able to bring her back on the descent.

Linda [Villumsen] (Wiggle Honda) was the next to attack. When she jumped across, I couldn’t do anything. I stood up to go and had to immediately sit back down. I was completely blocked. Maybe I tried too hard to stay with Evie or I rode too hard all week. Maybe I was having a very bad day or Linda was having a very good day. I don’t know. I just know it was a very bad moment for me. I think if I could have followed Linda, I would have been able to stay with her, but I didn’t give myself that chance.

Linda and Evie got together over the top of the hill. They had 30” or 40” on me and a group that was forming around me. Linda was able to ride away from Evie, and I caught Evie back. When we hit the bottom of the hill where we went across the finish for the first time, Linda had a minute or so on Evie and me.

I had distanced the chase group at some point, but they came back to me on the final circuit. We were a group of nine riders, and I was the only one working. Evie didn’t want to work. No one else wanted to work. That’s when I knew I was riding for second place. Linda had 1’30 by then. Maybe it was possible for me to get across to her, but if I did all the work, I wouldn’t be racing for the win anymore anyway because everyone else would have fresher legs for the final.

In the end, it was a boring last lap. I did 15km on the front with eight people sitting like a train behind me on my wheel. Linda won by 5’53 ahead of Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), won our group sprint for second on the stage. Tatiana Guderzo (MCipollini-Giordana) rounded out the podium, and I was fourth on the stage.

I knew it was going to be a hard day, but I thought Evie would be the toughest competition. That turned out to be wrong. Linda is always a mystery. We never really know how she’s going to go. Today she was really strong.

Obviously it would have been nice to bring home the win after the team worked hard to defend the race all week. I’m disappointed, but I think about the last seven days and the last couple months and I know it’s been a good streak. I was in yellow (orange) all week. We won the prologue and came away with lots of podiums. It’s been a successful week overall although maybe not quite as good of week as what Wiggle had. There are a lot of other teams that didn’t come out of this race with anything, so I think we can proud of what we’ve done.