Wiggle Honda announced a two-year deal with Swedish national champion Emma Johansson on Saturday. The press release issued by the team states that Johansson would make the move to the British-registered squad for the 2016-2017 seasons but includes a quote from Johansson that indicates she plans to retire following the 2016 Rio Olympics. Why a two-year deal for an athlete poised to retire in less than one year?
“Wiggle Honda has offered me opportunities to stay involved with the team and with professional cycling both on and off the bike,” said Johansson. “I’m still considering my options following Rio, and the team understands and supports this. I’m grateful that they are eager to help me transition from my career as a professional cyclist at the highest level of the sport into whatever comes next.”
The 31-year-old, currently in her third season with Orica-AIS, has been a fixture in elite women’s cycling for the last decade. The 12-time Swedish national champion has an envious palmares that includes more than 30 professional victories – amongst them two World Cup wins and three overall titles at Thüringen Rundfahrt. The number one ranked female rider in the world at the end of 2013, Johansson currently sits second behind Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv) in the UCI World rankings.
A silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Johansson has her sights set on the podium in Rio, but first there is the 2015 Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. She has two bronze medals (2014, 2010) and a silver medal (2013) and would love nothing more than to add a gold medal to that collection. She considers the race in September her last chance.
“The course in Qatar doesn’t suit me,” Johansson said, referencing the 2016 Qatar World Championships, which will inevitably feature a flat, wind-swept route. “And I won’t be racing when Norway hosts the World Championships in 2017.”
“Alongside my usual objectives at the World Cup races and in the Spring Classics, my main target next year is Rio,” Johansson added. “I would love to stand on the podium at the Olympics again, and I know Wiggle Honda will provide me with my best chance of doing exactly that.”
While Johansson can confirm she plans to step down from what she calls “elite racing” following the 2016 Olympics, she speaks with less clarity about her post-Olympics plans. Her husband, Martin Vestby, has confirmed that the two are eager to start a family and that her priorities will shift from professional racing to home life but is quick to add that she will stay involved in the sport in some capacity.
“There are several different options that I’m considering,” Johansson said. “I don’t have one specific plan in place. I may still race, but I will not train in the same way that I have for the last ten years, so I won’t be as competitive or have the same goals. I really can’t fully explain it because I don’t know yet exactly myself.”