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  Euskal Emakumeen Bira Preview  
  Euskal Emakumeen Bira is the hilliest stage race of the year and gives riders their first real test as the Giro Rosa rapidly approaches in less than a month. Rabo dominated last year with Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Marianne Vos each winning two stages. Ferrand-Pravot won the overall ahead of Vos with teammate Anna Van der Breggan making it an all Rabo overall podium.

Injury issues sees Ferrand-Prevot and Vos miss the race but Van der Breggan is back ready to climb on to the top step of the podium. Former Winner and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria winner Emma Johansson will have something to say about that. While Boels Dolmans duo Evelyn Stevens and Megan Guarnier and Bigla's Ashleigh Moolman are also here.

2014 Results

Stage 1 - Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
Stage 2 - Marianne Vos
Stage 3 - Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
Stage 4 - Marianne Vos

2 Marianne VOS +1:12
3 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN +1:56
4 Ashleigh MOOLMAN +3:26
5 Claudia HÄUSLER +3:31
6 Megan GUARNIER +3:40
7 Fabiana LUPERINI +3:47
8 Emma JOHANSSON +4:07
9 Jessie DAAMS +5:31
10 Shara GILLOW +6:59

Past Winners

2014 - Pauline Ferrand-Prevot
2013 - Emma Johansson
2012 - Judith Arndt
2011 - Marianne Vos
2010 - Claudia Hausler
2009 - Judith Arndt
2008 - Marianne Vos
2007 - Susanne Ljungskog
2006 - Fabiana Luperini
2005 - Svetlana Bubnenkova
2004 - Joane Somarriba
2003 - Mirjam Melchers
2002 - Edita Pucinskaite
2001 - Joane Somarriba
2000 - Leontien van Moorsel

The Route


A short 1.9 kilometre prologue. The time gaps are not likely to be huge and with the lack of specialists here it is likely to be close.

Stage 1

At 96.8km the opening road is relatively short and while the first 52 kilometres are flat the remaining 40 kilometres are not. There is one GPM on the stage the Krutzeta climb. The 7.8km climb has an average gradient of 5.4% but starts off a 1.4-3% before a 9.1% four kilometres in to the climb for around one kilometre. The final three kilometres of the climb are slightly less steep at around 7-8% Over the top riders have a respite before a slight increase before a quick descent and flat final five kilometres. The steep final four kilometres of the time will be the place for the climbers to attack and look to dispatch the faster finishers.

Stage 2

Another short stage at just over 82 kilometres but it includes two ascents of the Libano climbs. The four kilometre climb might not be long or overly steep. The first two kilometres are around four percent with the third kilometre steepest at 5.8% before flattening towards the top at just over three. The peloton will go over the top of the climb the first time after just 27km. Undulating roads for the next 30 kilometres before the second and final time up the Libano. Over the top it is a descent in to the finish.

Stage 3

The longest stage of the race at 122.2km is considerably longer than the other road stages. A mostly flat opening 45 kilometres before the long 11 kilometre Zumelta climb. The average gradient is only 4.29% and starts off at 5.5% before easing off slightly and kicking up to nearly 6% towards the middle. The final three kilometres are the easiest at around 2-3% but by then many riders are likely to be off the back.

The next 50 kilometres are flat and should allow the majority of riders to return to the bunch. The only remaining obstacle for the peloton is the Olazagutia climb with just over 10 kilometres remaining. It will not be easy but it is a chance for some to attack.

Stage 4

At just under 87 kilometres it is back to the shorter stages for the final day of racing but it is by no means easy. A descent followed by a long flat section for the first 3 kilometres before the climbing starts. The 2.6 kilometre Gontzegaraigane has an average gradient of 6.1% but reaches 7.7km inside the final 600 metres of the climb.

After a 15 kilometre descent riders will tackle the three kilometre Milloi climb with an average gradient of 4.26% but the final two kilometres are up over five percent. A quick descent leads what remains of the field in to the final climb of Lekoitz-Gane. The 4.4km ascent with an average gradient of 5.8% with a maximum of 7.6% in the third kilometre is likely to test the legs of many. Six kilometres remain downhill in to the finish.

The Contenders

Start list available here

Emma Johansson and Orica-AIS

The Champion of Sweden has won the race before and comes in off the back of a strong win at Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria yesterday. Johansson will be a contender for the prologue and could take the lead heading in to the first road stage. Johansson also has probably the best finishing speed in the race and will be hard to beat in a sprint. Climbs well especially on the shorter climbs with the steep gradients. If the more pure climbers want to beat her they will need to drop her and take some time. Her record here in the last five years is impressive 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st and 8th last year in a result that was impacted by some bad luck.

The team has other cards to play and has assembled a very strong team for this terrain. Silver medallist at the 2012 World Championships Rachel Neylan is still making her return to the top level of the women's peloton but climbs well. Katrin Garfoot and Amanda Spratt are both very strong puncheurs who will likely be crucial to Johansson's overall chances.


The Dutch Rabo squad is without defending champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and two time winner Marianne Vos due to injury but they have a strong squad including Katarzyna Niewiadoma who was second to Johansson yesterday and Giro Rosa podium finisher Anna van der Breggen.

20 year old Katarzyna Niewiadoma is still very young but is developing in to one of the sports biggest talents. Sixth at Strade Bianche, fifth Fleche Wallonne and on the podium at Boels Rental Hills Classic and Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria this year. Was part of a dominant Rabo squad at the Giro last year finishing 11th overall. An opportunity to shine and after her performance yesterday will likely be contending for the win.

Fourth in 2013 and third last year for Anna Van der Breggan at this race and has bee on or around the podium in almost every race she has started this year. Took out Fleche Wallonne in April and the Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs a week later. Returned from a break to finish seventh yesterday in a sign her form is very good. As the prologue winner at Energiewacht Tour and Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs she heads in as the favourite to take the first leaders jersey.

Boels Dolmans

Evelyn Stevens and Megan Guarnier have made a quick trip over from the United States where they helped Lizzie Armitstead win the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic on the weekend. Both have had success here in the past with Stevens finishing third in 2013 while Guarnier was seventh in 2013 and sixth last year. Guarnier is one of the best pure climbers in the women's peloton but her sprint has improved greatly and helped her claim the US National title last month.

On their own each is a very dangerous rider but the combination will be a big threat to the likes of Johansson, Van der Breggan and Moolman. Boels have successful used the tactic of sending a rider up the road and forcing other teams to chase and they may well again.

Ashleigh Moolman

Last year Ashleigh Moolman was the best of the non Rabo riders finishing fourth. Had a break after finishing fourth at Fleche Wallonne and seventh at Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs. Returned at Auensteiner- Radsporttage over the weekend finishing second in the time trial and winning the Queen stage solo to take the overall win. The win gave Bigla their first success of the season and should bring them confidence. The route is good for Moolman and while she is likely to lose some time in the prologue will be looking to make that up on the climbs.

Jessie Daams

The Lotto Soudal climbers might be a bit under the radar but it should not be overlooked that Daams finished sixth yesterday and that was with teammate Elena Cecchini up the road and on the podium in third. Daams is very underrated and after some injury issues earlier in the season is now back heading towards her best. When the road starts to climb Daams goes well including a ninth place finish here last year.

Other names to watch: Shara Gillow, Rossella Ratto and Carlee Taylor.
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