2015.07.20 - News reporter
Gracie Elvin soloed to victory in Meerane on the afternoon road race of the ThÃ¼ringen Rundfahrt double day. Storming up the cobbled â€™Steile Wand von Meeraneâ€™ to the finish line, Elvin held off a chasing peloton to ride to her second European win in as many months. It was a fantastic result â€“ a result made even sweeter when Emma Johansson won the uphill sprint for second.
â€œWhen we came to the cobbled hill, I could see her up near the top, and I knew she was going to make it,â€ Johansson explained. â€œShe had enough of a gap that I could race hard behind and make a good result, too.â€
â€œI was so happy for Gracie and so happy for the whole team to get that nice result,â€ added Johansson.
Thanks to bonus seconds she scooped up on the intermediate sprint and at the finish, Johansson jumps up to fourth overall, narrowing the gap to race leader Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM).
FAST AND FURIOUS START
With the morningâ€™s time trial effort in their legs, the ThÃ¼ringen Rundfahrt peloton set off for four 19.5km circuit laps around Meerane. Each lap included an ascent of the cobbled finish climb.
â€œIt was a really hard lap,â€ noted Johansson. â€œIt was super technical with cobbles and stones and narrow roads. The cobbled hill was hard â€“ a steep 300 or 400 metres up in the sky.â€
The first lap was fast – fast enough that it sent riders out the back from kilometre zero. ORICA-AIS intended to race aggressively in the hopes of putting a rider up the road. Other teams clearly had the same plan. There were lots of early attacks but none with staying power.
â€œWe knew Gracie was feeling good,â€ said Johansson. â€œWe knew she would be a good option for the break. The first lap was super fast, so no one could get away. Gracie attacked after the first passage of the finish. She immediately got away. I think Velocio was fine to let Gracie go because she was alone.â€
GRACIEâ€™S SOLO ESCAPE
Sixty kilometres from the finish, Elvin put her head down and gave the effort all she had. It was a long way to the finish and a big ask for a lone leader to hold off the peloton.
â€œGracie rode hard,â€ said Johansson. â€œIt wasnâ€™t like were standing still or anything, but it wasnâ€™t raced too hard behind, which definitely worked to Gracieâ€™s advantage. It also helped that nobody tried to jump across.â€
â€œGracieâ€™s gap grew and grew and grew,â€ Johansson added. â€œShe had nearly two minutes at one point and was the virtual race leader. Thatâ€™s when Velocio started to chase.â€
At the start of the fourth and final circuit lap, Velocio picked up the pace. Elvinâ€™s gap began to tumble. Ten kilometres from the finish, less than one minute separated the bunch from the break.
â€œIt kept coming down,â€ Johansson noted. â€œI started to get nervous that she might get caught. Then with four kilometres left, this super heavy rain and hail began to come down. I think that saved her.â€
THE CLIMB TO THE FINISH
Elvin hit the final climb with enough of a gap to hold off the peloton. Heading up the hill, Johansson knew that Elvin had the win in the bag â€“ which allowed her the freedom to ride for second from the bunch.
â€œIt was wet and messy up to the finish,â€ said Johansson. â€œItâ€™s the sort of conditions that Gracie loves â€“ and ones where I can get good results, too.â€
â€œThe whole team rode a really strong race today,â€ Johansson added. â€œWe raced up the front and were part of the race from start to finish. We really deserved that win, and to put two on the podium was a cherry on top today.â€
ThÃ¼ringen Rundfahrt continues tomorrow with the fourth of eighth stages. The technical circuit could suit a breakaway.
â€œWith the stages here, you never know what youâ€™re going to get,â€ explained Johansson. â€œItâ€™s always a bit of a surprise, which makes thing exciting. People will get tired as the week continues, and that makes it more exciting, too.â€
â€œThere are definitely several good stages left for me and for the team,â€ Johansson added. â€œIâ€™m feeling much better today than I was yesterday. Iâ€™m still muscle sore from my crash, but getting some extra love from our super swannys to help the muscles loosen. I can feel my body waking up, and Iâ€™m more awake in my head as well. My whole system is firing fully â€“ and I think itâ€™s going to be some good days ahead.â€
AND A QUICK LOOK BACKWARDS
While Elvinâ€™s win is clearly the highlight of Orica-AISâ€™ ThÃ¼ringen-Rundfahrt to date, the German Tour has already proven quite successful for the Australian team. Sarah Roy sprinted to fifth place on Fridayâ€™s opening stage, and Amanda Spratt snagged second place from the stage two breakaway on Saturday.
â€œThe whole team has been super for the past three days,â€ said Johansson. â€œEveryone is riding strong and working together well. I was really happy to join Gracie on the podium today. I only wish the whole team had been allowed up there with us because the results weâ€™ve gotten are not possible without the team.â€
Name: Emma Karolina Johansson.
Born: 23 Sep 1983, Sollefteå, Sweden.
Team: Wiggle High5
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