Emma Johansson wins final stage of Euskal Emakumeen Bira; Kasia Niewiadoma secures overall victory

by Jessi Braverman

Emma Johansson won the fourth and final stage of Euskal Emakumeen Bira on Sunday. The Swedish national road and time trial champion proved quickest from a five-rider move that escaped from a reduced peloton over the final climb of the Basque tour. The stage win in Markina on Sunday is the third victory for Johansson in Basque Country in the last six days. She won the one day Emakumeen Saria in Durango on Tuesday and the second stage of the tour. Having had a winless spring, the results come as a come as a welcome relief and confirm that Johansson is back to her best.

“It’s really nice after a hard spring to come here for six days of racing and come home with three victories,” said Johansson in a team statement. “I gave it a crack today, I knew I needed to make a gap to be able to take the general classification but Niewiadoma has been glued to my wheel all week. To have the team riding so strong is really nice too and it’s always special for me to race here as well.”

Race leader Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo Liv) finished in second place on the stage and celebrated her overall win on the line.

Euskal Emakumeen Bira 2015 (2.1) stage - 4

“The entire team rode for me,” said Niewiadoma in a team statement. “Lucinda [Brand] and Jeanne [Korevaar] gave everything. Anna [van der Breggen] was great today. It’s wonderful for such a strong rider to give her full commitment to me. Shara Gillow was in the breakaway on Saturday. It doesn’t often happen, but [sport director] Koos [Moerenhout] asked her to wait for me because the difference was too big, and Shara dropped back diligently. I found it admirable. I hope I can do something quickly to repay them.”

The women’s peloton set off from Markina for the 86.8km stage at a quick clip. Although Niewiadoma started the day in yellow, she was tied on time with Bigla’s Ashleigh Moolman-Paiso. Johansson, third overall, sat only two seconds behind the pair. The small gaps at the top of the general classification would prove for an exciting battle on the Basque roads.

Lucinda Brand (Rabo Liv) launched an early attack and gained an advantage over the peloton along the coast. Brand maintained her lead through the first sprint point and returned to the peloton before the first of three categorized climbs.

The peloton climbed steadily. The pace was high enough to shed riders off the back and discourage attacks from the front. A reduced bunch crested the climb and slithered down the descent in a single-file line.

Thirty six kilometres from the finish, the attacks began in earnest. Brand was once again up the road. This time she had Demi de Jong (Boels-Dolmans), Carlee Tayler (Lotto Soudal Ladies), Amanda Spratt (Orica-AIS), Doris Schweizer (Bigla), Davia Tuslaite (Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi) and Irene Bitto (Top Girls Fasso Bortolo) for company. The six-rider breakaway gained a maximum advantage of only 30 seconds. The peloton reeled in the group on the run-in to the final climb.

Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) countered the catch, and although she was unable to stay away, her attempt inspired a swift reaction. The peloton attacked its away up the final climb. Eventually Niewiadoma, Johansson, Guarnier, Moolman Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) and Evie Stevens (Boels-Dolmans) broke clear.

Niewiadoma twice attacked the six-rider group on the ascent. Her efforts dislodged van der Breggen and Stevens. Van der Breggen managed to rejoin the front group before the finish, and the group of five contested the stage win.

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