Swedish Champion Emma Johansson's amazing three-week recovery after collarbone surgery sees her taking on the cobbles of Flanders

There was one top rider at the women’s Tour of Flanders yesterday who was just happy to start, despite eventually finishing way below her potential. Swedish Champion Emma Johansson finished the race in 13th place, 3-30 behind winner Elisa Longo-Borghini (Wiggle-Honda), though only three weeks after breaking her collarbone.

One of the most consistent riders in the women’s peloton, Johansson crashed at the Novilon Eurocup in the Netherlands on March 15, putting her Flanders participation in danger. However, the nature of the break and a successful operation meant she took the start in Oudenaarde yesterday morning. Indeed the former number-one-ranked rider was the first of her Orica-AIS team to finish.

The 31 year old crossed the line in a second, 18-woman chase group and, despite it being her worst result in the event, was not overly disappointed. “I entered Kwaremont quite good,” she told Cycling Weekly afterwards. “I felt fresh but I am missing that little part, which was obvious today. But it is hurting more in my heart than anywhere else, just to see riders riding away where normally I should be there.”

After an operation to plate the break the day after the crash, Johansson returned to training within four days.

“I called my doctor on the Monday morning, he was expecting the call,” she told us. “On Tuesday I was in a lot of pain, I didn’t sleep at all, but on the Wednesday I started to feel a bit better and I went to see my osteopath and started treatment straight away. I knew it was going to be tight, but I could already feel the collarbone was not hurting, it was just everything around it.”

Starting with indoor sessions on the Thursday, she was back riding only eight days after the crash, though away from busy roads to avoid traffic. Last Sunday she took her brother for a ride on the Koppenberg, before building to ride the final 50 kilometres, including all the main climbs, “I was fine, I was ready to race,” she said.

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Johansson has finished in the top ten in all but one edition of Flanders since 2008 and was third for the last two years. She lives on the route and has become a local favourite, receiving the accolade of the unofficial Swedish ambassador to Flanders.

Her team placed her at the front of the peloton through her home village of Zingem, which was decked out in blue and yellow Swedish colours. “I love this race too much. Riding through Zingem and having all the supporters there, riding through my street. For a Swede to be so welcome in Flanders makes me really proud to be a part of this cycling crazy atmosphere here.”

After we spoke with her, Johansson went to sample that atmosphere with her husband to watch the the final of the men’s race in an Oudenaarde bar.