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Emma Johansson completes overall Emakumeen Bira victory in tough final stage

Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Swedish Champion Emma Johansson has won the 2016 Emakumeen Bira stage race, despite coming under pressure form her general classification rivals in the fourth and final stage, in Portugalete, in Spain’s Basque region. The rain-soaked stage was won by US Champion Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), ahead of Anna Solovey (Parkhotel Valkenburg) and Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla). Johansson crossed the line in fifth place, tucked onto the wheel of black and orange teammate Elisa Longo Borghini and, although Guarnier collected ten bonus seconds on the line, it was not enough to prevent the Swedish Champion from taking her second overall victory in the event.

“It was a hard stage, but also a really wet one, so it was really difficult to control,” Johansson said.

“I just had really good legs, and I’m just so thankful for the work that the girls have put out to keep me in yellow, and it just shows that everyone wanted it today.

“I’m still going back to yesterday – that was the most impressive teamwork – and then today to pull off the win after yesterday’s work,” Johansson added. “Today everyone was still a bit smashed from yesterday, but still managed to stay in yellow.”

The early kilometres saw a sizeable group escape, which included Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Dani King, but contained too many potential general classification threats to be allowed to get far ahead.

“The group was maybe too big, so we didn’t have 100 percent control of who was actually in there,” Johansson explained. “[Alé] Cipollini had three riders in there, who were only a minute back on GC, so we still had to keep it under control before we got to the big climb.

“Mayuko [Hagiwara], Gio [Bronzini] and Audrey [Cordon-Ragot] just worked really hard to keep the gap short, so that Elisa and me would have a chance to get across on the long climb. Then after the climb is was up to Elisa and me to control it.”

Eventually, the selection saw a group of 17 riders get away from the rest of the peloton, which stayed largely together all the way to the finish, despite several attacks from riders threatening Johansson’s lead.

“I think we did a really good job,” the Swedish Champion said. “It was quite tough and we were both pretty tired, and we didn’t have a lot left for the stage victory. Obviously the GC was most important, and Evelyn Stevens [Boels-Dolmans] had some big attacks, especially one where I was stuck in the group and I couldn’t get out until she had a pretty big gap.

Fastest in the sprint at the finish, Guarnier’s stage victory netted the American a ten-second bonus, but it was not enough to unseat Johansson from yellow, and the second Txapela beret, that is traditionally awarded to race winners in the Basque country. Moolman’s third place, however, meant that her four-second bonus was enough to nudge Longo Borghini out of third place by the smallest of margins.

“It would have been really nice to have Elisa up there on the podium, but it just came down to a second or something with Ashleigh,” Johansson said. “But I’m just so thankful for this week, and for this wing, here where it all started for me more than ten years ago.

“The fact that it’s my last season, to finish it off in yellow is just amazing.”

Stage 4 Result
1. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Anna Solovey (Parkhotel Valkenburg)
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla)
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
5. Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)

Final Overall Result
1. Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)

2. Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans)
3. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (Cervélo-Bigla)
4. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)

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