Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Emilia Fahlin was just centimetres from victory in the first stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway, between Rakkestad and Mysen, as it finished in a sprint from a 30-strong elite group of riders. The Swedish Champion was just unable to pass former World and Olympic Champion Marianne Vos (Waowdeals Pro Cycling) on the uphill finishing straight, but finished well clear of third place, US Champion Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb).
“It was really close in the end," Fahlin said. "It’s a bit disappointing, but at the same time I’m super happy to be up there, and to be able to challenge her. I think I was the only person who could today, which is pretty cool!
“I didn’t expect to have such a good sprint, but coming as close as it was on the line, and seeing on the pictures how close it was, it hurts a little bit…”
Although Fahlin was just unable to overcome multiple World Champion Vos on the line, the Swedish Champion left a number of fast-finishing riders in her wake.
“It’s a good group of sprinters there, so it’s quite nice to beat them, and put a gap into them,” she smiled. “It’s really nice, so I’ll take confidence out of that for sure. Marianne is super-fast, so that’s not an easy one to get, but it was nice to at least be there and make her sweat a bit!”
The 127.7km stage followed a rolling course that wound its way around the Østfold county in the very south-eastern corner of Norway. Road conditions, as well as the weather, made for an aggressive race, with the peloton splitting into several part. The leading group was just 30-strong as it approached the finish, with an attack from Karol-Ann Canuel (Boels-Dolmans) almost doing enough to stay away to take the victory.
“It was really windy today, and quite rolling,” Fahlin explained. "There were not big climbs, but you look down and you have quite a few altitude metres. Today, when we hit the only QOM, it was actually crosswind coming into it beforehand, so it made it a really important part. I think it kept being hard after the QOM, with the sprint coming up as well, and some narrow sections, plus climbs after. That’s where the race blew up.
“I was with Elisa [Longo Borghini], left in the front group,” she added. “Then towards the end there were attacks going and it was a little bit of a ‘play-the-game’. Other teams had more numbers, but we were a little bit lucky that there were a few other teams.
“There were a couple of riders up the front, but not together, which was good for us as well with other teams interested to chase it.”
With Canuel up the road, as well as Rivera’s teammate Floortje Mackaij, the chase in the front group lacked cohesion for some time. Mackaij was pulled back with some kilometres to race, but the Canadian rider almost made it to the finish and was only caught in the finishing straight.
“It was really tight in the end because she had a big gap coming into the circuit,” said Fahlin. “She held off really strongly, and it wasn’t far to the finish once we hit the circuit, it was only 12km, so it was touch and go. But you have to be ready anyway because, even if she holds off, it’s still for good placings.”
Fahlin’s second place in the opening stage of the Ladies Tour of Norway follows her excellent performance in the Postnord Vårgårda UCI Women’s WorldTour race in her native Sweden. As recently re-crowned Swedish Champion Fahlin has been relishing the opportunity to show off her blue and yellow cross jersey, but also finds the style of racing suits her very well.
“I like these races a lot, so I enjoy August and the races in Scandinavia,” Fahlin smiled. “It suits me a bit with this up and down. I like this type of racing, so I’ve had an eye on this period of the season!
“It’s tough racing here every day here,” she added. “You never know what’s going to happen, which direction the road’s going to take, so you always have to be on the front. Hopefully we’ll be up there again [tomorrow] trying something out. It’s two more tough days, so we want to be up there and see if we can get some more good results!”
1. Marianne Vos (Waowdeals Pro Cycling)
2. Emilia Fahlin (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
3. Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb)
Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
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