“We did it!” she exclaimed moments after she crossed the finish line. “Today was amazing. We had a good plan, and we stuck to the plan the whole way. The team was awesome. All the credit to them. We were all so focused and committed to our part of the plan, and it paid off in the end.”
“I joked the other day that I didn’t have any good memories here because I hadn’t yet won this race,” Johansson added. “I think we can say we made the best memory now. I’m really happy.”
The second race of the World Cup series begun in idyllic Laveno on the eastern shores of Lago Maggiore. High speeds in the early kilometres left few opportunities for attackers to break away from the bunch. The peloton hit the first climb in Curnardo as one big bunch save for a handful of riders who were unable to maintain the fast pace set at the front of the field.
“The plan today was fairly straightforward,” said Jessie MacLean. “Valentina [Scandolora] and I were to attack from the gun and hopefully get up the road. If a group wasn’t able to get away early, Carlee [Taylor] and Shara [Gillow] were meant to attack on the circuits. Spratty [Amanda Spratt] and Emma would take over at the end.”
“That’s exactly what we did,” MacLean added. “Valentina and I attacked early. It was too quick for anything to get away, but we had a few digs that put other teams under pressure. I think the way we took control of the race also showed our intentions. It said that we had a clear plan and were confident enough to take charge to put the plan into action.”
The early work completed, MacLean and Scandolara suffered up the hills on the first lap until their legs called it quits. Job done, the duo packed it in for the day to offer support from the sidelines. Taylor and Gillow came to fore, keeping a watchful eye on the action on the ascents.
“I covered a few moves on the Cunardo and Brinzio climbs,” said Taylor. “Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon) got away as we climbed up to Brinzio. It was a solo move, so we weren’t too worried about it. The bunch had already significantly reduced in size by that point, and things were strung out on the descent. We caught her without having to do too much work.”
Amanda Spratt was part of a group of six riders that countered Worrack’s catch. As the peloton crossed the finish line for the second time, for the first of four 17.1 kilometre circuit laps, the leaders had 40” on the bunch.
“We were happy with the move, but lululemo was not,” said Taylor. “They were chasing and attacking. We caught Spratty’s group basically coming into the second small lap – with three small laps left to race.”
Taylor and Gillow assumed responsibility for the next breakaway, covering attacks and instigating a few accelerations of their own. The duo remained patient and watchful as the fast pace and tough course continued to shrink the size of the bunch. When a group of three slipped away without representation from ORICA-AIS, Taylor and Gillow immediately took up the chase.
“Shara and I were racing really aggressively on the second small lap,” said Taylor. “We attacked and went with moves. We missed one counter-attack that allowed a group of three to go up the road. They immediately got a gap of 40”, so we knew we had to chase.”
“Initially we tried to bridge across to the leaders,” Taylor noted. “When we realised that wasn’t an option, we basically did a pairs time trial to shut it down. Shara and I got on the front and traded pulls while Spratty and Emma sat behind. They were saving their legs for the big moves we knew would come at the end of the race.”
The chase efforts proved successful. Inside the penultimate lap, the peloton overtook the breakaway on the climb up to Orino. Job well done, Taylor and Gillow slipped away from the splintering bunch before the start of the final lap. Johansson and Spratt were left alone in what would ultimately become a race of attrition.
“Spratty and I placed ourselves in the front,” said Johansson. “I know I’m stronger than her in the hills, so it was up to me to take more responsibility. I tried to create something but nothing was working. Then, Alena Amialiusik (Astana BePink) went over the climb the last time. That’s how the group of eight came together.”
“For me to make a big effort over the climb seemed worthless,” said Johansson. “I’m never going to be able ride away and go at it alone. I reckoned I should save myself and be as fresh as I could for the finish. It’s always a risk waiting like that, but spending the energy earlier wouldn’t have helped me.”
World Cup leader Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans), who won the opening round of the series two weeks ago, enjoyed support from Ellen van Dijk in the group of eight. Rabo Liv also boasted strength in numbers placing both Anna van der Breggen and Pauline Ferrand Prevot in the move. Defending Trofeo Alfredo Binda champion Elisa Long Borghini was the lone Italian representative. Olga Zabelinskaya (Rusvelo) and Amialiusik had also made the cup. Despite the strength of the group, Johansson was confident she could win.
“I knew where I needed to be to have the best chance,” said Johansson. “Coming into the last corner, Ellen was leading Lizzie. I had to go on the inside or I would get closed in on the outside, so I made sure that I took the inside line.”
“I started my sprint quite early,” Johansson continued. “Lizzie is faster than me, but I know I can hold my speed longer than she can. That’s why I started early. I could feel Lizzie coming, but I didn’t dare look up. I kept my head down and went as fast as I could. I didn’t even realize I had crossed the finish line, and I had no idea that I had won until they called my name.”
“We got everything we could out of every rider today,” Johansson added. “Everyone fully did their job and everyone fully spent themselves. I’m very happy with how we raced.”