Kaisa Pawlowska was the top finisher for Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team in sixth place on the first stage of Emakumeen Euskal Bira on Thursday. The Pole was part of a 16-rider chase group sprinting in for third place in Eskoriatza.
“It was a technical finish with a tricky run-in to the line,” said Pawlowska. “The girls did a really good job for me, but I still need to practice my sprint.”
The first half of the 76-kilometre stage was flat and lumpy. A fast pace limited opportunities for riders to slip away ahead of the two categorised climbs that featured in the second half of the stage.
“Bigla took the opportunity and set a really fast pace,” noted Pawlowska. “Nobody tried to get away until the bottom of the first climb.”
The Untzilla, a 2.4-kilometre long third category climb, started at the 40-kilometre mark. While parts of the climb reached nine percent gradient, it flattened out to around five percent in the final 400-500 metres. The day’s first breakaway escaped at the foot of the climb.
“Evie and a few others worked to close the gap on the decent,” noted Pawlowska. “It was only a small gap at the start of the second climb.”
Considerably longer than the Untzilla, the second category Arlaban proved decisive. The peloton split up the eight-kilometre mountain. There were 35 riders left in the front group. Then there were 21. Eventually 2013 Emakumeen Euskal Bira winner Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5) attacked her way up the road with Carmen Small (Bigla). The duo led over the summit and had eight seconds over the chase group with two kilometres left to race.
“We tried to close the gap, but we didn’t fully commit to the chase because other teams were not working,” said Pawlowska. “Our goals here are a bit different than usual. My job today was to suffer uphill and do the best finish I could, and I was happy to do that.”
Racing continues tomorrow with the longest stage of the five day race. The 109.5-kilometre day ends atop the Alto de Urkiola.
“The uphill finish tomorrow offers a good chance for the team,” said Pawlowska. “We have really good climbers, and they’re looking forward to the final climb.”