Megan Guarnier closed out her week in Basque country in the same way she began it – with a win. The American champ, who won the one-day Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria on Tuesday sprinted to victory in Portugalete on Sunday on the final stage of Euskal Emakumeen Bira. It was the first win for Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team in the five-day stage race.
“Our goal this week was stage wins,” said Guarnier. “Evie [Stevens] and Karo [Karol-Ann Canuel] were relentless with the attacks in the finale. It was impressive.”
“Being second on the overall, I knew I wouldn’t be allowed up the road, but we were really hoping that one of Evie or Karo’s attacks would stick,” Guarnier added. “It was another team effort for the win. I stayed fresh in the bunch, which meant I had the legs to take out the sprint.”
With the stage win, Guarnier confirmed her second-place position on the general classification. She ultimately finished 12-seconds behind overall winner Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5).
“Second overall was a bonus,” said Guarnier. “The real objective this week, especially today, was stage wins.”
Euskal Emakumeen Bira stage four was a short stage, measuring only 76-kilometres, but what it lacked in distance, it more than made up for in action. The breaks began from the gun.
“Kasia [Pawlowska] was on the attack straightaway,” said Guarnier. “She was in the first break of the day.”
The first attempt proved unsuccessful. Pawlowska and Sheyla Guttierrez (Cyclance) were caught before the peloton had completed the opening ten kilometres. Ali Tetrick (Cyclance) countered the catch, and when her gap approached 20-seconds, several riders, including Pawlowska, jumped across to the lone leader.
Eventually a group of 14 took shape. With three riders represented in the leading group, Alé Cipollini drove the escape.
The lead motor bike led the breakaway off course, resulting in the temporarily neutralisation of the race. The leaders were guided back onto course, where their 35-second gap was reinstated as racing resumed. The group would go on to gain a maximum advantage of one minute before the peloton reeled them back in on the stage’s first categorised climb.
“Wiggle chased down the break,” said Guarnier. “It came back together on the first climb, but the selection was made pretty quickly after that.”
Before the climb’s summit, 17 riders had established what would become a lasting advantage. Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team had three riders in the move: Canuel, Guarnier and Stevens
In cold, wet and windy conditions, Stevens and Canuel launched a strong offensive. The duo repeatedly jumped up the road, countering each other and playing off their numerical advantage.
“The general classification was pretty set at that point,” said Guarnier. “Evie and Karo were taking their chances for the stage win. We were hoping one of them would get up the road, but Wiggle wasn’t willing to let that happen.”
“Karo attacked with around three kilometres left to race, and she got a bit of a gap,” added Guarnier. “She stayed on the gas to keep the pace high even after she was caught. Then Evie attacked, and her attack opened up the sprint.”
Guarnier’s fresh legs and quick turn of speed netted her the stage win. Hanna Solovey (Parkhotel Valkenburg) snagged second place ahead of Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla) in third.
Canuel, Guarnier, Pawlowska and Stevens now head to Belgium for Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. The quartet will be joined by world champion Lizzie Armitstead and Energiewacht Tour winner Ellen van Dijk for the sixth round of the UCI Women’s WorldTour.