How does Emil Johansson plan a winning slopestyle run?
© Saskia Dugon/Red Bull Content Pool
After taking victory in a wind-affected slopestyle final at Crankworx Innsbruck, Emil Johansson explains what it takes to score big in such challenging conditions.
It’s rare that a slopestyle run goes 100 percent to plan, even for the world’s best riders. At a Crankworx event, the riders face not only a huge course with a variety of features, but they also have to deal with outside factors like rain, wind and their own nerves. So with all those different components to keep in mind, how do the riders actually pre-plan a run?
Watch Emil Johansson's winning Crankworx Innsbruck 2020 run:
Emil Johansson's Crankworx Innsbruck 2020 winning run
Emil, congrats on your win! Break it down for us, how do you plan your competition runs?
Thank you, I’m so happy to walk away with the win today.
I have a similar process when it comes to each competition, something that has developed over time. I guess, it comes down to experience. I have a specific run in mind pretty early on in the week, but I also make sure I have a couple of different options for each feature. At the end of the day, it's the run as a whole that counts and if I do one trick higher up on the course, I can’t do it again further down.
I have a specific run in mind pretty early on in the week
Having multiple tricks planned is a good way to keep my options open and factor in things like wind and rain. I can choose tricks that work with whatever conditions we’re facing on the day.
For example, when it comes to wind, it's easier to do certain tricks, like a 360, because it isn’t as affected by the wind as, say, straight tricks. It feels like you’re playing Russian roulette with the wind when you drop in at the top – you never know what kind of wind gusts are going to hit you mid-run. And during difficult weather conditions, I quite often change my plan mid-way down a competition run. Today, at Innsbruck, the wind was really affecting me and I landed a lot of my tricks far from perfect, so I had to change things up pretty quickly. But it all happens subconsciously, I just go onto auto-pilot and continue down the course.
The rain is also a huge factor to keep in mind, as a wet course runs a lot slower than a dry one. You need to plan for tricks that carry more speed out of certain features that roll slower than others.
During difficult weather conditions, I quite often change my plan mid-way down a competition run
Of course, it's very important to have a good variety of tricks in your run. Making sure to have both flips and spins, opposites and normal. On a day like today, when the wind is going crazy, it’s about accepting that you’re not going to try for your dream run, but instead be smart and make little, but important changes. Play your cards right.
For example, in 2019 I did a 360 off the start drop here in Innsbruck, but then this year I decided to do a back flip instead as it both adds more variety to my run – I don’t tend to do many flips in my runs – and helps me carry more speed into the next feature.
Watch his 2019 Crankworx Innsbruck run below:
Emil Johansson's best run – Innsbruck
When do you 'give up' on a run?
Me? Never! No, but honestly it would take a huge error from my part to give up on a run. Here in Innsbruck, I wasn’t even close at landing the run that I wanted, but I never thought of giving it up. I landed a few tricks wonky, had to pedal between features and had a huge case. I actually came down bleeding as I cased the landing so hard that I hit my chin piece on my hand. But giving up? No way. As long as I’m on my bike there are points to be had.
Today I scored 94 and, I mean, that's good, but if I'd stomped my landings and not pedalled between features I could have gotten a better result. But at the end of the day, none of riders can help that the course is running slow or that the wind is howling, so it’s just to hold on and make it down.
How do you decide which tricks you’re going to do where?
It really depends on what the course looks like and also what kind of feeling you get from each feature. Generally, I try to have a rough plan, or map, to guide me and I also keep in mind what kind of tricks would score high. I know my level of riding and what I'm capable of, so I just try and do the best that I can on that day.
Some features, like step-downs and boner logs, are more technical to do big trick combinations off and will probably score higher, so that's worth keeping in mind. Choosing what tricks to bring out and which ones to save for another day is also something to consider. I have some stuff in my trick bag that I haven’t taken out yet.
I don’t believe in forcing tricks on specific features
I don’t believe in forcing tricks on specific features. It might not be a hard feature, but for some reason, a certain trick just doesn’t work on it. It might feel hard or 'off' and it could be a million reasons why: the course is rolling slow there, you need more speed from another feature or you need more height out of the take-off. Don’t dwell on it, just choose another trick and move on because you’re probably not going to get more points doing it anyway.
What was your favourite trick from your winning run in Innsbruck?
A few things actually. I really like the 360 Windshield Wiper I did mid-way down, but I’m also stoked on the front flip combination (front flip bar to no hander) I did. I've never done that in a competition before.
I think I'm just really stoked on my whole run. Well, apart from the wind, as things got a little too sketchy...