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Johansson and Pieters second and third in tough Le Samyn race

Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Emma Johansson and Amy Pieters finished second and third respectively in Le Samyn, in Dour, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium. Swedish Champion Johansson was just unable to overcome 2015 winner Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) in a two-up sprint for the line, while Pieters was able to take the sprint for third place at the head of a group, 14 seconds later.

“It was pretty good,” Johansson said. “We were all there in the front in the crosswind, with the whole team, but then it went into a tail-cross, and that’s where it split up. In the end it was only Amy and me in the front group, and we were a bit outnumbered – with Boels having five – in that first group of 23. But Amy and me made the best out of the situation, and tried to stay calm, and try to stay easy for the first bit. Then we raced more aggressively in the final lap, first with me going over the cobbled hill and the technical section afterwards, where I rode away with Floortje Mackaij [Liv-Plantur].

“But then Nikki Harris [Boels-Dolmans] came across, and she was just sitting on, which was a bit demotivating. But it was good for Amy, because she got a free ride behind.”

The 112km race was made up of a 62km opening loop from the start town of Quaregnon, just west of Mons, followed by two laps of a 25km circuit. The finishing lap featured four cobblestone sectors, more reminiscent of Paris-Roubaix – whose course passes just the other side of the nearby French border – than the Tour of Flanders further north.

“Then there were lots of different attacks,” Johansson explained, “with lots of groups going and coming back, and then I went with Demi de Jong [Boels-Dolmans] but that wasn’t what they wanted, so Chantal bridged across with Amy.

“So then there were four of us; I don’t really know what happened, but we just sort of rode away. There wasn’t really an attack or anything; we came into the last cobbled section and I just thought I’d ride a bit hard and see. I could see that she be there on the hill, because of the cobbles, but then on the flat she was just very strong.”

Unable to shake Blaak, Johansson resolved herself to prepare for the two-rider sprint as best she could, but the Dutch rider – who won Le Samyn from a larger group last year – was just too quick for the Swedish Champion.

“Then on the flat I tried to just sit on and be in a good position for the final,” Johansson said. “It was a bit windy coming into the final straight, and I tried to just wait, but when she kicked it was like I was standing still. It was a bit of a pity, but she was just really strong.

“I was feeling really strong in the hills and everything, so that was a good indication, and it was fun to be able to play the game with Amy so I really enjoyed it out there. We’re getting there, getting closer. One step closer.”

1. Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans)
2. Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
3. Amy Pieters (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)

Photo Credit: Sean Robinson/Velofocus

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