Two times third at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Emma Johansson had her sights set on the top step of the podium – for herself or for her teammates. Her preparation in the week leading up to the big day had all gone according to plan. She had confidence in her ORICA-AIS teammates to carry out the tactics they had developed. Johansson staged in Oudenaarde with eagle-eyed focus and firm resolve, aware of but not ruled by the undercurrent of nervous energy mixed with excitement that pulsed with every heart beat. She was ready.
Her teammates? They were ready, too. Amanda Spratt was on the best form she had ever enjoyed in the spring. Gracie Elvin was hungry to stay with the bunch over the Oude Kwarement and provide vital support to Johansson at the pointy end of the race. Jessie MacLean would do her job early and test herself to make it to the finish. Shara Gillow had shown vast improvements in racing over the technical cobbled terrain and was ready to use her ever-expanding skill set and growing confidence in support of the team’s goal. Loes Gunnewijk would guide them all, calling on the experience she has cultivated over her lengthy career.
Nearly four hours after they stood on the start line, ready for whatever the race would throw at them, Johansson was the third rider to cross the line. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) soloed to victory 1’01 ahead of the chase group of three that Johansson had inspired. Van Dijk’s teammate Lizzie Armitstead enjoyed a free ride in the chase group. Fresher than Johansson, who had dug deep in an effort to bridge across the van Dijk, Armitstead edged out Johansson for second.
Three times third.
Johansson rounded out the podium.
"It’s nice to ride a podium, but I’ve done that before. We wanted more. I wanted more. I’m happy with the way we rode, but we did miss one rider. It would have been perfect having Spratty there. She is on such good form at the moment, and she has the quick kick we needed.
The most amazing part today was riding through Zingem. I just love that part. It was so beautiful. I got so much cheering, and the decorations were everywhere. I have the best family, friends and fans. That was the best thing today.
I can’t complain. We did what we could. If I could turn back time, I would have gone straight after Ellen when she went – just to know I did that. Of course another situation might have appeared if that’s what I would have done.
I decided to wait. It was the decision I took at that moment, and it felt like the right one. It turned out to be the wrong one, so…." - Emma Johansson