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How does Emil Johansson plan a winning Slopestyle run?

Slopestyle extraordinaire Emil Johansson explains what it takes to score a winning run in really difficult conditions.
Written by Hanna Jonsson
Published on
It’s rare that a Slopestyle run goes 100% 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
Bike · 4 min
Emil Johansson's Crankworx Innsbruck 2020 winning run
To find out we caught up with the newly crowned winner of the Crankworx Slopestyle competition in Innsbruck Emil Johansson, who continues his winning streak and shows once again, why he is the one to beat. Johansson is a rider who keeps impressing both judges and fans with technical tricks and crazy combinations, even in the toughest of weather conditions.

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 is 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.
Emil Johnasson tricks onto the whaletail feature at Crankworx Innsbruck.
Making his way to the whaletail feature
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.
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.
Emil Johansson with a superman seatgrab at Crankworx Innsbruck 2020.
Super-Emil
For example, when it comes to wind, it is easier to do certain tricks, like a 360, because it isn’t as affected by the wind like 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 I 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.
And during difficult weather conditions, I quite often I change my plan mid-way down a competition run.
And of course, it is 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 do little, but important changes. Play your cards right.
Watch Emil's 2019 Crankworx Innsbruck run below:
MTB · 3 min
Emil Johansson's best run – Innsbruck
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 it helps me carry more speed into the next feature.

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 in-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.
Emil Johansson and Tomas Lemoine wait to drop in at Crankwrox Innsbruck 2020.
Johansson and Tomas Lemoine prepare for their victory lap train
Today I scored 94, and I mean that is good, but if I had stomped my landings and not pedalled in-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.
Slopestyle podium with Emil Johansson, Tomas Lemoine and Erik Fedko at Crankworx in Innsbruck, Austria on October 2, 2020.
Emil Johansson on top of yet another Crankworx podium

How do you decide what 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 am 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 is 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.
Emil Johansson as seen at the Slopestyle contest at Crankworx Innsbruck in Austria on October 2, 2020.
"To be back and seeing people, it feels like home again – it feels great"
I don’t believe in forcing tricks on specific features.
Emil Johansson
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 have never done that in a competition before.
Emil Johansson and Tomas Lemoine ride a victory lap at Crankworx Innsbruck 2020.
Emil Johannson and Tomas Lemoine celebrated with a victory lap
I think I am just really stoked on my whole run. Well, apart from the wind, as things got a little too sketchy.