Route de France 2013
Stage 6 - Bronzini makes it 6
Pougues Les Eaux - Vichy, 127.4 km
Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) notched her six straight stage in Vichy. Lizzie [Armitstead] (Boels-Dolmans) was second ahead of Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano). Johansson sprinted in for fourth place. Johansson heads into the queen stage of the race with 1" in hand over Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) and 2" on Amy Pieters (Argos-Shimano).
Stage 6 of the Route de France was relatively quiet for the first half of the race. It wasn't until Iris Slappendel (Rabo Women) slipped away from the peloton in a solo break in the second hour of racing when things started to warm up. Several riders, alone or in groups, attempted to unsuccessfully bridge across to the leader. The field was back together 40km from the finish. Kristin McGrath (USA), Grace Sulzberger (Australia) and Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) went off the front in the run-in towards the finish. Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) jumped from the peloton as the leading trio continued to extend their advantage.
The four leaders were caught but the attacks continued all the way to the line with defending champion Evie Stevens (USA) putting in one last dig inside the final kilometre. Johansson managed to close the gap that Stevens had opened, setting the reduced bunch up for a field sprint.
Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) was over joyed with her 6th win, "It's absolutely unbelievable!" Bronzini said of her record-breaking sixth victory. "I could never imagine this happening, but I'm happy and I must have good shape!" "The first part of the stage was quiet, then at halfway some teams started to attack, like Rabobank, America, and us," Bronzini explained.
"There were so many attacks from us, from Mayuko Hagiwara, Lauren Kitchen and I. "Then in the final ten-K there was a break of three, and Linda did a big attack to try to catch them, and to try to get a gap. So she was out front alone, and nobody from Orica-AIS could catch her, so Johansson tried to attack herself to try to catch Linda." "Tomorrow will be hard," Bronzini confirmed. "There is a big climb near to the finish, so we will start again with the mentality to help Linda. She was also in good shape today, and we will try to be in front with her when she needs us. "Tomorrow we will give our all for Linda, to do everything we can to take the jersey."
Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) was looking forward to the final stage after a relatively easy stage 6, "We thought today would be a bit harder," noted Johansson. "The girls had to work hard to bring that back." "I don't know why I didn't jump on Linda's wheel right away," said Johansson. "I made a mistake to miss that. Tiff tried to bring her back but couldn't do it alone. I had to use a lot of energy to get the race back together again." "I thought I was in a good position for the sprint, but it got all messy in the end," explained Johansson.
"An attack went on one side, and I was on the other. I was behind Lizzie [Armitstead] (Boels-Dolmans), and Lizzie was behind Bronzini." "I stood up to sprint, but I had to sit down right away," Johansson continued. "I was done. I had nothing left for the finish." "It's hard when you to go in all the moves to defend the jersey," Johansson said. "It makes you suffer. I have to tell myself that everyone else is suffering, too. They must be. There would more attacks if not."
Looking ahead to Saturday, Johansson expects a battle royale to decide the general classification winner. Because the profiles of past stages have been a bit misleading, Johansson is not entirely sure what to expect from the hilly parcours. "It's difficult to tell how hard it's going to be," said Johansson. "There doesn't seem to be any chance that it will be a big group surviving to the finish. There are a lot of climbs and some of them are quite long. It's rolling and bumpy all the way up to the circuit, where we ride over the finish line at 30km for the start of the circuit." "It's going to be a surprise," she added, playfully. "I think it's going to be hard no matter what. At least I hope it's going to be hard. I like hard racing."
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