PEZ Interviews: Swedish Star Emma Johansson
Just one of a new, young generation leading women’s cycling forward is Swedish flyer Emma Johansson. With the 2008 season and a host of racing targets around the corner, PEZ grabbed some small talk with Emma about her new team and her ambitions for the year ahead.
Sweden doesn’t have the biggest population, but it punches above its weight for cycling talent. In the women’s peloton Susanne Ljungskog was world champion in 2002 and 2003, PEZ diarist Veronica Andrйasson will be back in full health for Team Bigla and practically every team of note has a Swede on the roster.
No exception is AA Cycling Team from Holland, the new home for Emma Johansson. Her 2007 campaign was hugely consistent – several wins in Belgium, a string of top-five placings at Le Grande Boucle Fйminine Internationale, topped off by sixth at the Worlds in Stuttgart.
Just 24 years old, with a great sprint finish and a reigning two-time national TT champion, Emma is looking for a big season after settling into a new home with her pro racing boyfriend Martin Vestby in the Belgian town of Zingem.
We had a very quick chat with Emma between training stints – after returning from a rain-drenched trip to Wales with her ex-team mate Emma Davies Jones, and prior to leaving for Calpe, Spain with her new colleagues.
PEZ: Tell us about your new team – AA Cycling Team.
Emma:I’m really excited about joining them. It’s like a big step up for my career, to a new level in my cycling. I’m really happy to be with the new girls – I already got a chance to meet them all, and we’ll be going to a training camp in Spain soon – hopefully it’ll be a good year.
PEZ: You’re going to be one of the top riders in the team … tell us about your new colleagues.
Emma: There’s Kirsten Wild, she’s a really good sprinter, so it’s gonna be nice to be with her. We have Theresa Senff from Germany, of course – she is very strong and a very good rider, and there’s Paulina Brzezna, the Polish girl. She’s a really good climber.
I know Kirsten from before and I really like her. All the girls in the team are good riders with different skills and together our team will stand strong.
(Ed – It’s not just on the road that the team is strong. They can count on the experience of living legend Leontien Zijlaard Van Moorsel behind the scenes.)
PEZ: What about ambitions for the season ahead?
Emma: One of them is the Tour of Flanders. I really like that race, and I can go training on the circuit practically every day if I want to. That’s a really important target.
And I’m going to the Olympics – it is going to be all new for me to be at a championship like that. Those are two big races. Of course, there are the world championships as well. The whole season is important, but they are some of the races that are ‘a bit more’.
I’m going to the Olympics with Susanne Ljungskog, so I think about other riders, too. Of course, for myself, I want to get good results, but that is also important for the team I’m in.
PEZ: I spoke to your good buddy Emma Davies Jones and she told me to ask you who’s your favorite training partner, and what did you buy in Ikea?!
Emma: Well…! I have to say Emma then! I daren’t say anything else! We go training together very often, and it’s great for me to have another foreign girl living so close by here in Belgium.
As for Ikea … what can’t you buy in Ikea?! It’s a good shop … it’s Swedish!
PEZ: How do you find living in the heart of cycling, Belgium?
Emma: I find it quite easy actually. I’ve learnt Flemish now, a little bit, and with the language it gets easier to live here.
It’s close to all the races. It’s close to France, Holland and Germany. It’s a big difference to being in Sweden where I always had at least 12 hours travelling to every race.
Another advantage is that, even now in the winter time despite the weather, I’ve been able to be training all the time because I’m in Belgium.
PEZ: OK, Emma, have a successful season.
Emma: Thank you very much! Bye!
For more info on Emma, her diary and her progress through 2008, you can find out what you need to know at her website: www.emmajohansson.com.
And to find out more about her team, go check out: www.aacyclingteam.nl