U.S. road champion Megan Guarnier climbed to second place in Alto de Urkiola on Friday on the second stage of Emakumeen Euskal Bira. The U.S. road champion summited the mountaintop, finished one second behind new race leader Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5) and jumps up to second overall.
“The team raced well today,” said Guarnier. “It would have been really nice to take a stage win today, but I think podiums are nice too.”
The 109.5 kilometre stage between Etxarri and Urkiola was the longest of the five stages in the Basque Tour. The day was relatively lumpy, and was free of challenging grades until the summit finish.
Louisa Lobigs (Australia) broke away from the bunch in the opening kilometres and had a long, lonely ride out front. She never gained more than 40 seconds but was rewarded with the most combative prize for her efforts.
When Lobigs was caught, a group of ten countered. Their escape was short-lived. Alison Tetrick (Cylance) was the next to break free. She too lacked company and staying power.
“The race was neutral for the first 100 kilometres or so,” said Guarnier. “There were lone riders getting away but that was really all that was happening.”
“The race was neutralised because big groups weren't allowed up the road,” said Guarnier. “Karo [Karol-Ann Canuel], Kasia [Pawlowska] and Demi [de Jong] made sure were represented in any attempt. Ultimately, only lone riders were allowed to get away.” “Over the last climb before the summit finish, at around 98 kilometres, Evie [Stevens] and I started to attack,” Guarnier added. “It was a huge field at that point, and we wanted to make it hard to whittle down the size of the group.”
Objective achieved. The peloton split before the summit finish.
“We knew the finish was uphill, but we weren’t entirely sure what it looked like,” said Guarnier. “We found out during the race that it was a relatively moderate climb, so you could catch a rhythm, other than a steep kicker right before one kilometre to go. Then it kicked up again at around 200 metres to go.”
“Evie attacked on the steep part before one kilometre to go,” Guarnier added. “Longo Borghini countered that.”
The attacks proved the final turn of the screw as the remnants of the front group shattered. Johansson soloed across the line. Guarnier finished three seconds before Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5). Ashleigh Moolman (Cervélo-Bigla) followed a second later. Stevens hung on for seventh place, 13 seconds behind Johansson.
Guarnier jumps up to second from seventh overall, 20 seconds down on Johansson. Stevens moves up to sixth on the general classification, 40 seconds off the race lead.
The Basque tour continues on Saturday with three laps of the Berriatua-Milloi circuit. The stage includes three category three climbs and not a single kilometre of flat and should see further impact on the overall classification.