2015.09.01 - News reporter
Emma Johansson sprinted to second place in Plouay in the final round of the UCI Women Road World Cup series. It was her last race with ORICA-AIS and the last womenâ€™s World Cup â€“ as the UCI rolls out the Womenâ€™s World Tour next year. GP Plouay proved action-packed with relentless attacks and exciting tactics.
In the finale, Johansson was in an elite group of five riders caught 300 metres from the finish by a chase group of four. From the nine, Johansson was second-quickest. Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) won the race and repeated as the World Cup overall winner.
â€œI had nothing left at the end,â€ said Johansson. â€œI was so tired that I could barely see.â€
â€œItâ€™s always nice to stand on the top step, but I honestly couldnâ€™t have done anything more,â€ Johansson added. â€œI did absolutely everything I could. It was all I had, and it wasnâ€™t even close. I was second best today. Lizzie was so strong.â€
GP Plouay typically lends itself to aggressive racing. The course is hard â€“ and coming only three weeks before the Road World Championships those, like Johansson, eyeing gold in Richmond are keen to show their rising form. The womenâ€™s peloton tackled four laps of a 27-kilometre circuit before closing out the race with a 14-kilometre loop that cuts out half of the original circuit. Lap-by-lap, Johansson describes the race.
LAPS ONE AND TWO â€“ 0 – 54 KILOMETRES
The first two laps were easy. The peloton would get strung out on the finish hill but then it would all come back together on the top. Weâ€™d all pass the finish line together. There was the whole washing machine effect happening â€“ with riders going up and down and left and right constantly.
My legs felt good, and the whole team was well-positioned. I felt like we had control of the situation. Although we wanted a harder race, we were committed to our plan â€“ no aggressive racing until the final and make sure we had numbers in the final group.
Basically these two laps just felt like we were waiting for something to happenâ€¦.
â€¦and then suddenly something happened and the race exploded.
LAP THREE â€“ 54 – 81 KILOMETRES
The first significant breakaway of the race went away on lap three. Two riders escaped, and then another one bridged across. Rabo-Liv were attacking quite a bit at this point, and they eventually got a group away. Shara Gillow and Evelyn Stevens were there, and I covered the move.
The group sort of rolled but we didnâ€™t get any time â€“ 10 seconds, 12 seconds. I think the maximum was 20 seconds. We came into the steep hill before the finish with a small gap, but Lizzie must have attacked from the group because she came across with Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) and several of the other strong climbers. There must have been more attacking behind here because the peloton had split completely by the time we went over the top.
LAP FOUR â€“ 81 KILOMETRES â€“ 109 KILOMETRES
The peloton was in three distinct groups as we passed the finish line for the final big loop. Not too long after the line, Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) went away with one other rider. A group of seven jumped across. We had Lizzie Williams in that move. All the teams were represented, and the gap started to grow.
We all saw Lucinda came back to us, but we didnâ€™t know exactly what happened. I learned later that she had a mechanical when another rider ran into her bike. With Lucinda out of the breakaway, it wasnâ€™t a good situation for Rabo, so that changed everything. They went to the front and they chased it down. Right before the climb, we caught the group.
I was really suffering the fourth time up the climb. There were attacks and more splits, and I thought about how I should do something but the only thing I could do was follow wheels. I was really on my limit. We went over the top with a group of 16 or something like that. Rabo and Boels both had numbers. I was alone.
LAP FIVE â€“ 109 â€“ 122 KILOMETRES
The attacks were constant, and I couldnâ€™t follow everything. Evie Stevens (Boels-Dolmans), Claudia Litchenberg (Liv Plantur) and Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal Ladies) went away, and they got a decent gap. I knew Rabo and Boels would be happy with the situation, so it wasnâ€™t a good situation for me. If I jumped myself, I would burn matches I would need later on that last hill. If I didnâ€™t jump, it could stop the peloton from moving â€“ and the three would get away.
And just when I started to get really scared, Rachel Neylan came to my rescue. She had gotten dropped but fought so hard to get back â€“ and then when got back, she made her way up to me at the front of the group. â€œEmma! Emma! Iâ€™m here!â€ she shouted. â€œWhat can I do?â€ she asked.
â€œAttack!â€ I told her. And she did.
I am so proud of her to pull off that kind of move. She had to work really hard to make it back to me in the first place, so I know she was suffering. And even with how much she was suffering, she found it in her to attack. I was so grateful to her â€“ grateful that she made it back to the group, grateful that she found me and asked what she could do and so incredibly grateful that she could do what she did in a critical moment.
Rachelâ€™s attack worked. It got the peloton moving again and started to close the gap. From there, it was totally up to me. I told myself I would need to suffer through, dig deep and find whatever strength I could to stay there. I thought about attacking myself. I even dropped back at one point as I contemplated when I would make my move, but I noticed that Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) was straight onto it before I even attacked. If she was going to the work for Lizzie to close it, there was no sense in me attacking. It was better to save my efforts for the sprint.
That last time up the climb, I was dizzy trying to stay on the wheel. I was completely at my limit. It was everything I had not to lose contact. Usually when I feel like that, everyone else does, too, but I could tell Lizzie didnâ€™t. She was on another level.
I canâ€™t even remember the sprint. Itâ€™s all just a blur. I know that we slowed down a bit before the finish. Everyone was looking at each other. I opened my sprint first. Lizzie came around me, and she passed me well before the line.
I always want to win, but I couldnâ€™t be more proud of the way I raced. I wanted a result personally, but I always wanted to show my appreciation to the team, and I think the way I raced and what I achieved did that. I have to admit, it was a good-looking podium – me and Lizzie in our national champ jerseys. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot in the world champ kit. It was a nice ending â€“ an appropriate ending â€“ and Iâ€™m grateful for that.
Name: Emma Karolina Johansson.
Born: 23 Sep 1983, Sollefteå, Sweden.
Team: Wiggle High5
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