Breakaway Stays Away on Women's Tour Stage TwoThu 8 May 2014
Emma Johansson started the first stage of the Friends Life Women’s Tour in the yellow race leader’s jersey. By the end of stage two, she had slipped to fourth overall. A two rider breakaway stayed away to contest the stage with Rossella Ratto (Estado de Mexico Faren Kuota) edging out Susanna Zorzi (Astana Be Pink) in the sprint in Bedford.
With the stage win, Ratto earned ten bonus seconds to assume the race lead ahead of Zorzi. Marianne Vos (Rabobank Liv) led the bunch home to round out the stage podium. Bonus seconds from the first intermediate sprint and on the finish line allowed Vos to leapfrog Johansson on the overall classification by 1”.
“I’m quite pleased with our race, which is probably an odd thing to say considered we handed over the jersey today,” said Sport Director Martin Barras. “We’ve been keen to manage the team, manage the race situation and manage the week as a whole. I do believe we achieved that extremely well.”
“I believe we came out of the race in good nick although we lost the jersey,” Barras added. “The time gaps conceded today are minor, and the team comes out in very reasonable shape. Even though it’s a minor disappointment not to hang onto the jersey, from a perspective of the full five days, we’re satisfied with where we find things at this time.”
“I don’t think losing the jersey is necessarily a bad thing,” Johansson confirmed. “We now have a bit more freedom to race again. It’s a totally different thing to defend a jersey than to ride for one, so I think we’re looking at some interesting racing in the next three days.”
Conditions were dreary in the start town of Hinckley. Despite the rain and cold, the locals again turned out en masse to show their support of the Friends Life Women’s Tour. The peloton rolled out through a tunnel of cheers and applause for their longest stage of the five day British tour.
“We were very, very clear about the way to defend the jersey,” said Barras. “We were not going to park the team at the front, set the pace and give attention to anything sent up the road. We wanted to avoid that scenario at any cost.”
“We wanted to wait for moves and put people in anything that we saw as a threat,” added Barras. “We’d sit on the dangerous move, and basically that was the way we would manage. Everyone would get a free ride that day – both at the back and at the front.”
“As we expected, the start of the race was a little subdued,” Barras continued. “We were well-positioned in the opening kilometres, so I think the other teams thought we intended to be on the front all day to defend the jersey.”
Silvia Valsecchi (Astana BePink) instigated the early action, slipping clear of the bunch before the first YodelDirect intermediate sprint. The lone leader gained nearly a minute by kilometre 25 and stayed away to scoop up the first three bonus seconds on offer at the sprint line. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) took the hard-fought sprint for second while Vos settled for third. With thirty six kilometres completed, Valsecchi was back in the bunch.
Ratto jumped up the road at the mid-point of the stage, following the first Strava QOM. She quickly gained a slim advantage over the peloton, who seemed happy to give her a green light to stay up the road. Ten kilometres later, with the second Strava QOM looming, the real aggression began in the bunch.
“When the real attacks started flowing from kilometre 70 to kilometre 90, we did very well across the board,” said Barras. “Nettie Edmondson marked several moves, including a particularly important one by Rabobank.”
The move by Annemiek van Vleuten, covered by Edmondson, proved short-lived. Following the neutralisation of the bridge attempt, repeated crashes caused several splits on the road. Boels-Dolmans and Rabobank-Liv were involved in the pile-up and forced to chase back to the main peloton.
Wiggle Honda took up the chase, bringing Ratto back within striking distance. Susanna Zorzi (Astana BePink) took advantage of the shrinking gap, accelerating out of the bunch and across to Ratto. The two leaders cooperated well and the advantage ballooned out to 2’20 by the second intermediate sprint. Ratto and Zorzi ate up bonus seconds for first and second across the line. Armitstead took 1” from the bunch for third in the sprint.
“We thought we had things under control and had taken the decision not to ride until closer to the end,” Johansson added. “The lead group only had one minute, and without radio communication, we rely on the motorbikes for information. Suddenly we saw that the gap was two minutes, which happened really quickly.”
Twenty kilometres from the finish, with the breakaway at two minutes, ORICA-AIS sent Edmondson and Shara Gillow to the front. Boels-Dolmans and Rabobank-Liv responded in kind, each committing two riders to the chase. Whilst the gap tumbled in response to the injection in pace, it was a big ask to shut down the move before the line. Ratto and Zorzi crossed the line 6” ahead of the reduced peloton. Johansson finished ninth in the bunch for 11th place on the stage.
“Tomorrow is going to be a hard stage,” said Johansson. “I think it’s going to be a big battle between me and Marianne.”
“We’ve proven that we’re a really strong team, and we’ve already achieved some of our goals,” Johansson added. “We won the first stage and we spent a day in yellow. There are other teams that haven’t accomplished their objectives, and they have much more pressure than we do.”