Emma Johansson will lead Orica-AIS at the fourth world cup race of 2015, La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, three weeks after breaking her collarbone. The Swedish national champion has twice finished runner up at the race in her seven appearances and never finished worse than 12th. Due to sickness, Johansson missed the Ronde van Gelderland on Sunday but the team's sport director Gene Bates is confident the 31-year-old has made a full recovery.
"Emma will be our draw card rider," Bates said. "She had an disrupted build up to Flanders, but got through to her credit. She has since had a little bit of a break and has put in a really good preparation leading into this race, except for the sickness on the weekend.
"We are confident she is going well and we are looking forward to seeing how she can go up the Mur de Huy on Wednesday afternoon."
With La Flèche Wallonne Féminine to continue the tradition of finishing with an ascent of the Mur du Huy, Bates anticipates the 9.6%, 1.3 kilometre long climb will decide the victor despite the introduction of the 1.3km Côte de Cherave climb late in the race.
"In previous years it really has all come down to that final climb but with the additional new climb with five kilometres to go, we will see how that affects the outcome. I think it'll just dwindle the race down further than what it normally would with a reduced group getting to the Mur de Huy in the final," Bates said. "I still think it’ll come down to that climb regardless. You can do everything right, all your nutrition, good position and looking after yourself all day but the true test is in that final 200m of the Mur. If you have the legs you can make a big difference, if you don’t, you are not going to be there at the finish."
With a balanced and rested team selected for the race, Bates added that he believes Johansson will be well supported in her bid for victory.
"We have a really good team for this race," Bates explained. "All the riders, except for Katrin Garfoot, have had a little break and time to prepare quite specifically for this race. Valentina Scandolara and Amanda Spratt have been training well at home and they are really excited to come back in and play a pivotal support role for Emma. It might be getting up the road in a good breakaway to force other teams to chase, or it might just be direct support in the bunch and making sure she is in a good position leading into those last couple of climbs."
Also selected for the race is recent signing Rachel Neylan who makes her second appearance for the team although Bates explained that "she is probably not at her peak fitness yet" with the Australian focusing on "Tour's later in the year."
Orica-AIS at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine: Katrin Garfoot, Emma Johansson, Rachel Neylan, Valentina Scandolara, Amanda Spratt and Lizzie Williams.