Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Emilia Fahlin and Eri Yonamine both won their National Championship road races this weekend, in Sweden and Japan respectively. It is a third Swedish road title for Fahlin, who previously won it in 2008 and 2013, while it was a fourth Japanese title for Yonamine.
“It’s a relief to be honest!” Fahlin laughed, following her race on Saturday. “I’ve been wanting it for a long time, but for the last few years I’ve not done nationals a couple of times. It was a big goal to try and get the jersey, but it’s never easy to win a bike race. I was probably the favourite for it, but with that you have pressure and people watching you. It can be a really tactical race, and that’s the tricky part with nationals.
“You have to make the race yourself, but today worked out in the best possible scenario, and when I crossed the line I was a bit emotional!
“I can’t wait to get the jersey on for next year, it’s super-cool!”
The tough course around Båstad, on the south west coast of Sweden, was both hilly and windy, and an attack on the first of eight laps from Fahlin was enough to pull herself and newly crowned time trial champion and Olympic triathlon medalist Lisa Nordén away from the rest of the field, and the two of them rode the rest of the race together.
“It was really hard,” Fahlin said. “Now I look at my SRM afterwards and I did something like 2000 altitude metres, in 124km, so it’s one of the most hilly races I do all year! There was one main climb, which was straight after the finish, and that one was really hard because it was steep - it average 11% for the first km - and we needed to do it eight times!
“I was happy we had some sort of hard part, so that you make the race, and make a selection of the race,” she added. “I wanted to put a bit of pressure on early, to make a smaller selection, so I could control it a bit better, but it turned out that I only got company from one girl the first time up the climb!
“She was keen to collaborate with me, and she won the time trial, so I knew she was super strong and was the perfect one to take time together.”
Despite the strength of Nordén, however, Fahlin was confident that her race strategy would pay off. Sure enough, as they hit the cobbled, uphill finishing straight for the final time, the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling rider’s superior sprint saw her take the title with ease.
“I know she’s a crazy athletic person, who has such a good physique and is a super-strong engine,” Fahlin said. "But then I know she doesn’t have that much experience in road racing, and I know I have a good sprint, and I thought I would get the sprint quite easily. So I put my cards on that towards the end and it worked out well!”
Fahlin’s third Road Race Championship, added to her three Time Trial titles, comes at the end of a strong period of racing for the 29-year-old, which included two stages and the overall victory in the Gracia-Orlova stage race in the Czech Republic at the end of April.
“I’ve definitely taken another step this season, and it’s good to get that bit of confidence and knowing that you can be up in the mix at races,” said Fahlin, who spends most races working hard for her teammates.
In Masuda, on the north coast of Japan’s main, Honshu Island, Eri Yonamine rode away from the rest of the field to finish alone and retain her Road Race title for a fourth straight year. The 27-year-old crossed the line three minutes clear of her nearest rival, Hiromi Kaneko, and will continue to wear her White and Red Jersey for another year.
“I’m so proud for me to win the National Championship and to wear my National jersey,” Yonamine said. “It’s always not easy to win but I believed in myself, my supporters and sponsors. This is not only mine but also every single person supporting me.”
Yonamine’s Road Race title is added to the Time Trial Championship that she also retained on the 17th of June. This, her fifth in the discipline means that she will also continue to wear the White and Red Jersey in time trials.
“I’m really happy to be back to Europe as Japanese Champion and I’m looking forward to racing with teammies in second half of the season!” Yonamine said.
A Gutsy performance from both sides