Swedish champion overcomes final stage crash
Despite a crash in the final stage of the inaugural BeNe Ladies Tour, Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) bounced back by placing second in the sprint for the stage win behind Belgian champion Jolien D'Hoore (Lotto-Belisol) to claim overall victory by two seconds. D'Hoore finished runner-up while Johansson's teammate Shara Gillow rounded out the podium with third place.
"I am just very pleased with that," Johansson said. "The girls have been working really well today and I'm very happy to bring home the victory for the team, I think we deserve that now.
"And it makes up for the wounds. I went down quite early in the race and it's really sore. I haven't crashed for three years, knock on wood, so it's bit shocking to do it when I haven't been on the ground for a long time."
With time bonus on the line, Johansson knew her overall lead could be lost if she failed to place in the intermediate sprints and the final sprint.
"I just knew coming into the last stage Jolien was really strong and fast at the moment and I wasn't feeling super fresh," Johansson said. "On the first intermediate sprint, she won and I was third so she gained two seconds on me.
"I knew coming into the last sprint if she was going to win I had to be second and I just managed to hold onto her wheel to take second place on the stage."
Johansson had started the final stage in the leader’s jersey having posted the fastest time in the morning's 9.6km time trial. The Swedish national road and time trial champion was four seconds quicker than second placed Vera Koedooder while Gillow finished fifth.
"Normally if a time trial comes after two or three stages of a Tour I am really strong because I can ride just as strong. But if everyone comes in fresh I can't always ride as fast," Johansson said.
"I didn't know if yesterday's stage was going to be enough to make the other girls tired so I wasn't super confident. I was confident that I could do a good race but how good it was going to be against the others, that you never know."
Sport director Gene Bates praised the efforts of the team for finishing strongly having gotten off to a bad start in the Dutch race.
"It was probably one of the most stressful races I have done this year," Bates said. "Nothing went our way to begin with this afternoon, Emma actually punctured, then was hit from behind in a crash and broke her shoe.
"Twice we had to get her back on and the team did a fantastic job in looking after her and making sure she got back on straight away.
"But the other girls did a tremendous job from that point onwards and we walked away with second on the stage and the overall win, so full credit to the whole team today."
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