DOHA (VN) — Swedish star Emma Johansson is perhaps the only cyclist in professional cycling who is able to openly use a different groupset than the rest of her team. She began her 2016 season Tuesday in the Ladies Tour of Qatar with Shimano Dura-Ace, while her Wiggle High5 teammates raced with Campagnolo Super Record.
But after racing on Shimano for 10 years, Johansson said did not want to switch things up. “I’m so used to certain things,” she said. “It’s difficult for an old lady to change.”
A silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Johansson is looking toward another Olympics in what could be her last season, so equipment familiarity would seem to be especially important. Still, Johansson refused to discuss the challenges of convincing her team to let her race with a different groupset than her teammates, saying she did not want to bring attention to the odd situation.
Professional cyclists may sometimes choose personal sunglass or shoe sponsors, but that is about it. They don’t generally get a say about things like groupsets, which come attached to major sponsorship deals.
“I’ve been on Shimano since I was small. It’s nothing that needs to be discussed, it is how it is,” said Johansson, who has ridden for several teams during her professional career that began in 2005. “If I have a puncture in the race? I’m not worried at all, I’ll be fine. The team car is behind me.”
Johansson was just as uncompromising when she negotiated with team manager Rochelle Gilmore last year about joining Wiggle for 2016.
“It was early last year when we spoke with Emma and it was not negotiable on her side,” Gilmore said. “Emma’s an athlete who’s been very consistent throughout her career and at the top of her game. She’s really particular about everything. She really believes in consistency across the board with her equipment and everything. So it’s a hard thing mentally for some athletes to change. She feels very comfortable on Shimano.”
Johansson has three podium finishes in the world championships but has never won gold — a silver in 2013 is as close as she’s come.
Gilmore would not speak about the team’s contractual agreement with Italian manufacturer Campagnolo or about how many strings she had to pull to allow the Swedish star to use the Japanese groupset. She did say that the risk of an in-race problem is small.
“She has plenty of spare bikes, Emma has a spare bike with Shimano ready,” Gilmore added. “It will work, Campag wheels work with Shimano. It would work until we get to her with her bike.”
Said team mechanic Gerrit Claessens: “I’ve never seen this before, only in small club teams, but in a professional team it’s the first time I’ve seen it. It’s special.
“It’s not so difficult if you have enough equipment from Shimano and Campagnolo, it’s just one more set of wheels in the back of the car. In a race like the Tour of Qatar, we have radio contract with the riders. They call first by the radio when they have a puncture, if it’s Emma, then I know I need wheel with Shimano gears.”