Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling?s Emma Johansson has taken her first victory of 2016 with a stunning breakaway win in the first stage of the Emakumeen Bira stage race, in Eskoriatza, in Spain?s Basque Country. The Swedish Champion broke away late in the 76km stage with Carmen Small (Cerv?lo-Bigla) and was easily able to outsprint the American at the finish. To crown a fantastic day for the black and orange team, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling?s two-time former road World Champion Giorgia Bronzini won the sprint for third place, 14 seconds behind her victorious teammate.
?It was nice, it was really nice,? Johansson smiled. ?We?ve been looking for that big win for a long time now, and so it was nice to actually get it also to have Gio backing up with a win in the sprint from the group behind. Of course we are still out for the GC, and maybe it would have been a better situation to have.
?I?ve been feeling great during the spring, and the way things have been coming together it was just a matter of time before I?d get to put my hands in the air.?
After the peloton stayed together over the opening, flat kilometres, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling?s Japanese Champion Mayuko Hagiwara escaped in a three-rider group over the first climb of the day, the 3rd category Alto de Untzilla. The group was caught again on the approach to the 2nd category Alto de Benta Berri, but Hagiwara attacked again as the climb began, which caused the winning group to form.
Johansson and Small escaped over the top of the climb and, with just 7.5km to the finish, the two strong time triallists were able to open their winning lead.
?After yesterday I was already starting behind,? Johansson explained, referring to the stomach pain she experienced before yesterday?s prologue that almost saw her pull out of the race. ?But I felt really good going on the rollers this morning, so I thought ?I?m just going to pretend like it didn?t happen, and race like we planned to do.? We wanted to be aggressive – maybe we weren?t as aggressive as we wanted to be, but over the top of that climb both me and Elisa had really good attempts, and when Carmen went I just knew I had to be there.
?After we got the gap I knew she was going to take over yellow, so for myself it was more about the stage victory, and then we?d see what the situation would be afterwards.?
In addition to Bronzini, the small group of favourites that arrived at the finish 14 seconds behind Johansson also included Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling?s Elisa Longo Borghini in 11th place, and Olympic Champion Dani King in 17th.
As well as putting two Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling athletes on the podium for the second time in three days, Bronzini?s third place also denied Lepist? the four-second time bonus on offer. Having finished second in yesterday?s prologue, Small took over the race lead from her teammate, but – thanks to her ten-second bonus for winning the stage – Johansson now sits in third place, just 14 seconds behind the American.
?There?s still three days to go, and the different thing this year is that there are bonus seconds at the finish, and also during the stage, so I think that definitely makes it possible. We still have a lot of cards to play – it?s not just me – Dani?s still up there in the GC and so is Elisa, so for sure it?s still possible.
?We?re definitely not giving up on anything like that. It?s only 14 seconds!?
1. Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
2. Carmen Small (Cerv?lo-Bigla)
3. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)