Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Emma Johansson successfully defended her Swedish National Road Race Championship, taking her sixth career title in Västeras, on the western side of Sweden. The 32-year-old soloed clear of the peloton with just over a quarter of the 120km race remaining, to finish an incredible four minutes, 28 seconds clear of the sprint for second place; won by Sara Mustonen (Liv-Plantur), ahead of former black and orange rider Emilia Fahlin (Alé-Cipollini).
“I’m super happy!” Johansson exclaimed afterwards. “It wasn’t easy. It’s never easy. Some people might think that it’s simple just go go home - because I’m on a high level - but it’s hard when you have the whole peloton racing against you.”
This victory is a sixth road race title for Johansson, to go with her eight in the time trial, but - despite her margin of victory - was as hard a fight as any of the others.
“It’s always a hard fight, and this year’s course wasn’t very hard,” Johansson explained. “It was a really technical one, which probably saved me, because I just realised that - because there were no real hills in it - I just had to make it hard with all the corners and, okay it’s going to be hard for me, but at least it’s going to be hard for everyone else too.
“So I just rode it hard from the start. Not fully attacking, but half-attacking out of the corners and splitting it up all the time. It was a course where you can’t hide, you can’t just sit in the peloton like it has been in other years.
“When I went and go the gap it just went really fast and it took away the [peloton’s] motivation a bit,” she added. “But it was about finding the right moment to attack, and where. Sara Mustonen was probably the most dangerous one today, and the one that had the best legs. When I managed to get that gap from her, I think the others could see how strong she was and just expected her to close it.
“Suddenly I had 15 seconds, then 20 seconds. When I came into a little headwind section with about 36km to go, I thought it was now or never. Sara had been really dangerous all day, so I didn’t want to go back to the group, so I thought I would see what happened.
“During my first lap on my own the gap just grew bigger and bigger. You're never secure until you’ve crossed the finish line, but after that I could relax and concentrate on my technique.”
As well as being Johansson’s sixth road race victory, it will be her last, as she plans to retire at the end of the season.
“It was just amazing to finish it off like this,” she smiled. “It’s my last road race and my whole family - my parents and my brothers - were here, and [my husband] Martin was in the car behind. It’s just nice to be back in blue and yellow again tomorrow!
“I’m very happy, and it’s nice to finish on top.”
Elsewhere in Europe, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s riders were taking medals in their own National Championships. In Italy Elisa Longo Borghini repeated her Silver Medal of 2015, finishing just behind Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM), who also successfully defended her title. Giorgia Bronzini was narrowly beaten to the bronze medal by Anna Stricker (INPA-Bianchi).
Unfortunately, in Spain and Japan, Anna Sanchis and Mayuko Hagiwara were just unable to defend their road race titles, with both taking the Silver Medal. The Spanish title was taken by Margarita Garcia (Bizkaia-Durango), with Sanchis beating Sheyla Gutierrez (Cylance) into second place. In Japan, Eri Yonamine (Hagens Berman-Supermint) took the victory, with Hagiwara finishing ahead of Yumi Kajihara.
Audrey Cordon-Ragot took the Bronze Medal in the French Championships, as she outsprinted a small group, that included former World Champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo-Liv), 34 seconds behind solo riders Edwige Pitel (Michela Fanini) and Marjolaine Bazin (DN17 Poitou-Charentes). Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling’s Amy Pieters narrowly missed the podium in fourth place.
Result Swedish Road Race Championships
1. Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
2. Sara Mustonen (Liv-Plantur)
3. Emilia Fahlin (Alé-Cipollini)
Result Italian Road Race Championships
1. Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM)
2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
3. Anna Stricker (INPA-Bianchi)
4. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
Result Spanish Road Race Championships
1. Margarita Garcia (Bizkaia-Durango)
2. Anna Sanchis (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
3. Sheyla Gutierrez (Cylance)
Result Japanese Road Race Championships
1. Eri Yonamine (Hagens Berman-Supermint)
2. Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
3. Yumi Kajihara
Result French Road Race Championship
1. Edwige Pitel (Michela Fanini)
2. Marjolaine Bazin (DN17 Poitou-Charentes)
3. Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling)
photos Janos Schmidt