Eri Yonamine marked the end of a challenging twelve months by emphatically climbing to second place on GC at the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées stage race.
After an impressive opening day TTT where Mieke Kröger and Evy Kuijpers made some impressive pulls on the front to steer the squad to second place, Yonamine then raced to fifth on the road stage that afternoon from the breakaway.
The Japanese then climbed to another top five on the mountainous queen stage atop the Col du Soulor before consolidating her GC position yesterday in Lourdes.
“It was a team effort,” Yonamine said after the finish. “I couldn’t make it without the help and belief from the girls and the team. The first TTT stage was an advantage and a true team effort and in the last stage I almost couldn’t make it to keep GC position, but Nina saved me a lot.”
Joining the 31-year-old in France were Kröger, Kuijpers, Nina Buijsman, Kaia Schmid and Katie Clouse, who all rode in support of Yonamine after it became clear that she was the closest challenger to eventual winner Krista Doebel-Hickok (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB).
“I’m very proud of the team and their commitment to the GC goal that we had,” team director Joanne Kiesanowski said afterwards. “I hope Eri gained a lot of confidence from this Tour.”
Buijsman also tasted success. The Dutch all-rounder carried her form from the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift through to the Pyrenean race, finishing sixth and fifth over the weekend to secure seventh place overall, even after a final day bike change.
From the surgeon’s table to a stage race podium
The past 10 months have been anything but easy for Yonamine. Rehabilitation from iliac artery surgery last September was followed by a bout of form-denting COVID in the spring before her personal goal – the national championships – was postponed.
This podium represents more than just one race, but rather the long process and hours of preparation that go into any athlete’s recovery.
View this post on Instagram
“Personally, this result means a lot in so many ways,” Yonamine explains. “The setbacks made me lose something in my spirit but tried to keep working hard through the fog of the last two months. This result might just be one result but this is more than that for me. This paid off everything I overcame.”
A huge part of Yonamine’s regime has been altitude training in Austria, which has been both a boost to her mental and physical health.
“Life is very simple in nature far away from any town. I’m not a social person in general so it suits me really well,” Yonamine explains. “I’m falling in love with the area for lots of reasons [she then adds the reasons in emoji form] ⛰🐮🐑⛲️ 💆🏻♀️🧖♀️.”
The women’s squad are in Belgium for much of August racing many one-day events before the Women’s WorldTour events, Classic Lorient Agglomération – Trophée Ceratizit & Simac Ladies Tour at the end of the month.
CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées overall standings
1 DOEBEL-HICKOK Krista – EF Education-TIBCO-SVB 9:05:39
2 YONAMINE Eri – Human Powered Health 1:08
3 BAUERNFEIND Ricarda – Canyon//SRAM Generation 1:38
4 MARTURANO Greta – Top Girls Fassa Bortolo 1:40
5 DEMAY Coralie – St Michel – Auber93 WE 3:29
6 BIRIUKOVA Yuliia – Arkéa Pro Cycling Team 4:54
7 BUIJSMAN Nina – Human Powered Health 5:27
8 COSTON Morgane – Arkéa Pro Cycling Team 6:38
9 LANGLEY Emma – EF Education-TIBCO-SVB 7:30
10 CLAES Lotte – Bingoal Casino – Chevalmeire – Van Eyck Sport 8:17