Olympic Games silver medallist Emma Johansson goes into Saturday's World championships as one of the riders to beat. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins caught up with the young Swede - who turns 25 today - to discuss her meteoric rise and prospects for the upcoming race.
In only her third full year as a professional cyclist Emma Johansson is emerging as one of the riders to beat. Her first two years with Bizkaia-Panda Software-Durango, where she rode as a stagiare the year before, and Vlaanderen-Capri Sonne-T-Interim were followed by a move to the Dutch AA-Drink team for 2008. This move to a much bigger team has seen her results improve considerably, culminating most notably in an Olympic Games silver medal from Beijing, China in August.
"No, it's not bad at all," laughed Johansson on the subject of her Olympic silver medal. Since the Olympic glory Johansson has had no time to rest on her laurels. A 10th place in the Grand Prix Plouay was followed immediately by overall victory in the Trophée d'Or Féminin, including a stage win on the penultimate day. This victory was a first in her career, but also marked her as a rider for the others to watch.
"It was [my first stage race victory]," she said. "So it was really nice to be able to do that after the Olympics and people are really looking to me now. Before, I wasn't totally unknown, but they didn't really expect me to do anything, and then I could always surprise them, but I can't do that any more.
"It feels a little bit like [I'm a marked rider] at least like now I'm still really good and I'm in really good shape, and they know that I'm good and it's possible for me to ride away on the front," she added. "I think everyone has this, not just for me but for other good riders as well. You always know what other riders are good and what riders can ride offensive."
A brief week at her home in Belgium afterwards was followed by the Tour Cycliste Féminin International Ardèche, where she was on the podium on all but the time trial stage and finished fourth overall. "I didn't get a stage win that I was hoping for," she said. "Overall I just felt really good and that's the most important now, that I have a good feeling about being on the bike and that racing's going well and I can just keep on doing what I'm doing and be relaxed for the Worlds and just that I know my shape is good and I can't really do anything more about that. It's nice to be able to do some good results and feel that you're feeling strong."
As Swedish champion against the clock, Johansson will once again be taking the start in the time trial on Wednesday. She doesn't expect however to be competitive, but the extra kilometres should serve as a warm up for the weekend's main event. "I'm doing the time trial so that's..." she hesitated, "I did it last year and the year before. It should be good to get another race, it's not like that important for me but - it's more for the road - but it's good to get one more race.
"I haven't seen [the course], but I heard about it," she added. "They say that it's hard, but it's not as hard as last year so I don't really know what to expect. For me the harder the better, but…"
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