Swedish National Champion and Wiggle High5 rider, Emma Johansson has already got off to a strong start this season, finishing 3rd in the Strade Bianchi and securing a couple of QOM’s in recent Belgian races. Yesterday, she took fourth place in the Trofeo Binda after joining an eight rider breakaway that became a chase for the line in the final kilometers.
We spoke to Emma about her plans for this year, how professional women’s cycling has changed since she won her Olympic silver medal in 2008 and her thoughts on this year’s Aviva Women’s Tour of Britain.
How have you seen women’s professional cycling change over the course of your career?
This is my tenth year as a professional rider and I have seen a big difference between the peloton then and the peloton today. Back then there was maybe five or six riders that could win the race and today you can’t really call it because there are so many good riders out there. The women’s professional teams are also much stronger and races have become a lot more tactical.
Do you feel like women’s professional cyclists receive more support that they used to?
Ten years ago, if you went to a race, there wouldn’t even be a camper van to drive the team around in, it would more likely be a big car. Nowadays teams have big buses and in general there are bigger budgets. Most of the bigger teams have full time staff and support like that can offer much more stability to the riders.
You started cycling as a mountain biker, do you still hold a place in your heart for this sport?
When I was mountain biking as a kid I never wanted to go on the road. I had to buy a road bike when I started at a special cycling school as it was a big part of training. To start with I didn’t like it at all and just wanted to be the forest. I still spend a lot of time on the mountain bike – not that much in the summer but the winter is all about mountain biking. Where we live in Norway is perfect for skiing, mountain biking and road racing.
We hear you are racing in the Aviva Women’s Tour of Britain again this year, did you find the route challenging enough last year?
Some of the stages where challenging enough but when you have tactical game playing within a race, with the riders racing for seconds, if it’s a harder course, it just gives another edge to it. I’ve heard that this year’s edition is going to be harder so I will look forward to that.
How did you find the crowds and the atmosphere last year? Did it spur you on?
It was amazing, both years have been amazing. Last year I saw this family standing outside in their dressing gowns in the early morning cheering us on and that image is something I will always remember. At the start and finish you expect to see lots of support but going through villages and just having people standing outside their house, those are the things that mean a lot.
How do you find the road conditions in the UK?
I think they’re good. Every country has their own different type of road. UK roads can be quite rough but we’re used to riding on anything. It’s more about the scenery. I love the riding through small villages and past the houses and seeing families cheer you on.
Is it easy to maintain some sort of work/life balance as a professional cyclist?
I am not twenty years of age any more so I really love being at home and sitting on my own sofa and cooking in my own kitchen. In the winter time it’s all about my house in Norway and my preference is to train there. Even though it’s snowy, you can put spikes on your tyres and I would rather train in minus temperatures than slightly warmer but wet weather in Belgium. During the winter I avoid spending too much time living in a hotel room.You need a base and you need to be able to do other, grounding things. I actually really love cleaning and vacuum cleaning because when you are away so much its good to come home and do something normal!
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