Two national championship titles in one year
In late November, Emilly Johnston was back at home in Comox, B.C., and back at school after spending three weeks away. She had been racing in Ontario, where she notched a win at the national cyclocross championships. That victory marked the first Canadian title in the junior women’s category, which is new to cyclocross. That maple-leaf jersey was her second of 2019; in July, she became the national j unior cross country champion.
In mid-fall, Johnston had to catch up on her studies. Her plan was to finish high school in January and then head off to Europe to race World Cup and world championship ’cross. Later in 2020, she plans to have a full cross country race schedule with events in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
In 2019, you became the national junior cross country champion as well as the junior cyclocross champion. Which of those two titles is more significant?
That’s really hard to say. I’ve always had bad luck at cross country nationals. At my first one, I had a big crash. As a first-year under-17, I was in the lead but then had a flat and had to run a lap. Then I upgraded. Instead of racing U17, I was with the junior women. I came second in a really tight battle. This year, when won my first cross country championship, I thought, finally. I’d wanted it for a long time. But with ’cross, it’s super significant because it was the first time there was a junior women’s category. It’s awesome to be part of that progression in the sport.
You joined Pendrel Racing this past year. What is some advice you’ve received from Catharine Pendrel?
She has so much experience. To watch her learn courses is pretty cool. She definitely learns them a lot faster than the average person. Also, she focuses on enjoying herself and working hard. It keeps it fun. But, I feel like I use that word way too much.
The word “fun?”
Yeah. I’m trying to stop myself. I get teased for it a lot. After every race, if I’m with Catharine or Sandra Walter, they’ll ask, “Emilly, how was your race?” Then they’ll say, “Oh wait. It was so much fun.”
What are some technical skills that you are working on for either mountain biking or cyclocross?
I’m working on bunny hops and cornering for both. If I get better on my ’cross bike at bunny hops and corners, I also get better on my mountain bike, and vice versa.
I always think of mountain bike skills helping a cyclocross rider with technique, but is there anything you find in cyclocross that helps with your mountain biking?
I think the corners in ’cross are harder than in mountain biking, or at least different. In ’cross, there usually aren’t berms, so you don’t have those to work with. With all the mud in ’cross, you have to be confident when you are not in control of the bike. You can be sliding all over the place. That definitely helps me feel more confident when I’m on the mountain bike.
You’re heading to Europe to race the cyclocross World
Cup in Hoogerheide and the world championships in Dübendorf, Switzerland. How do you feel about that?
It will be a bit crazy, I think. I’m really excited for it. I’ve been joking because I race masters men at the local Cross on the Rock series. So, I’ll go from the masters men category to racing elite women at the World Cup. That’s a bit of a change. I don’t know which is more aggressive, to be honest. Masters men gets pretty wild. But, I’m really looking forward to it.— MP
left Emilly Johnson at the 2019 national cyclocross championships in Peterborough, Ont.