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Interview Emily Collins: “Aim high, dream big”

New Zealand’s rising star Emily Collins (Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling) has ended her 2013 campaign on a high with the National Criterium title in her home city of Auckland and some strong results in the Australian summer races.

“ Winning the NZ criterium champsionships was definitely special for me. I haven’t won an elite national title yet, only in my junior days so to win my first one and wearing the Wiggle Honda jersey it was a good feeling. “

“I was second there last year so was pretty fired up to take the win and racing on my home turf in front of family and friends gave me that extra kick to perform well. I was very pleased with the result.”

Bike NZ Criterium National Championships 15.11.2013

The criterium championship was one of the first races for the 23 year old after a well deserved break in Dubai with a few of her teammates and she didn’t know what to expect. “I had raced with Wiggle Honda a few weeks prior at the Noosa GP in Australia. That race was definitely a shock to the system after only being back on the bike a short period and with little to no intensity work! It definitely gave me a good kicking and news flash I’d need a few solid weeks of training before the Nationals. Thankfully I had time to put my head down and work hard for those weeks leading up to it and managed to feel in good form for the race.”

Although Collins can’t wear her tricolore jersey all year she doesn’t see it as a big disadvantage. “I wouldn’t say it’s a pity, it’s just the way it is. I can wear the jersey in all criterium categorised events. So over summer here and in Australia and perhaps some of the Dutch crits in Europe. The crit scene doesn’t seem to be as big in Europe, I guess as there’s already so many other races on the calendar! When I was in America I raced crits all the time. Maybe we’ll have to get Wiggle Honda over there for a few  USA crit series; that would be cool!”

Having won her first national senior title Collins is already looking forward to the national road championships in January. “I am looking forward to this event and to go for the title. The past few years have not been my best on this course. In 2012 I was ill and this year I was just underprepared. I now have time on my hands to focus on Nationals so I will be working hard to get a result there. “


Past season
Now the 2013 season is over Collins is looking back with satisfaction to what was a very special year for her in many ways.  She started the season on a high with her and the teams first ever UCI win in the Omloop van het Hageland and competed in the world’s biggest races as the Giro Donne, the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the World Championships in Florence, Italy.  “I look back on this year with satisfaction. It’s been a pretty special experience joining Wiggle Honda for their first year and also tackling my first full season in Europe with a professional team. It’s been a big step and it was certainly a busy race and fun filled year. The year was mostly full of ups but with ups absolutely comes downs, especially in this sport. It can be a vicious cycle at times with spills and sickness but as I continue to grow in the sport and as an athlete I’ve learnt to understand these wee setbacks we get are just part of the game. As I said, the good times definitely outweighed the downs and I can happily look back now on  what I’d call a pretty good first season with Wiggle Honda, for me personally and for the team as a whole.”

Not only Emily Collins was successful for Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling in 2013, as the British team collected 22 UCI wins (including a stage in the Giro Donne and 7 stages + GC in the Route de France) and a lot of wins in Non UCI races such as the Milk Race, the Prudential RideLondon GP, the NSW Grand Prix series and the NZ National Criterium Championships.  “Most of the team wins came from Giorgia (17 wins). She had an oustanding season and never ceased to amaze with her abilities on the bike and constant deliverance to win! She was a fantastic team leader for Wiggle Honda as we knew as a team comitting our all to her she would succeed.  It was a pretty special team to be a part of in that everyone was comitted to one another. At the end of the day it was all about getting one of us over the line first! 

When Linda (Villumsen) came on board it was cool to also have a GC weapon. She also had a stellar season so being able to support her through these races was really cool.

Another bonus about the team is we all get along. We’re more like a bunch of mates doing the same thing trying to achieve the same goals. I wasn’t sure what to expect when flying over in January to meet the girls but straight away everyone clicked and we were away laughing. It was a pretty fun filled year!”

Collins says that not only the great team atmosphere is part of the success but also the hard work of Rochelle (Gilmore) and the entire staff. ““Rochelle has done a fantastic job of setting the team up and getting it to where it is now. The great thing with her is she really cares about it. It’s her personal project and something she’s been aiming towards for a long time. She’s very attentive to detail and is always looking out for the girls and what we need, what can be improved etc. Looking back a year, it’s understandable that some people may not have believed it would be a success. Sure, it’s a big thing starting up a professional cycling team and a women’s team at that. Rochelle took a big chance and she and the entire staff worked very hard to make it a success and it’s paid off!”


Despite the joys of all the team victories Emily admits she has learned a lot, and is still learning, in her first year on a professional women’s cycling team compared to the racing in the years before in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. European racing is a whole different level. “I definitely learnt pretty quick to deal with continuous back to back race days.  During the European Spring my calendar was full of brutal one day Belgian battles. You’d think they’d be less tiring and easier to recover from than a stage race but that’s not quite the case! The combination of freezing weather and fast, furious battling on the bike made for some tough weeks learning how to properly recover and be ready to race again 1 or 2 days later. 

Once I’d got the swing of things, however, I really started to enjoy the typical Belgian style race…always unpredictable and a lot of fun once I began to get used to the cobbles! Another thing I needed to get used to quick was the field size. In NZ the peloton very seldom reaches 50 riders and in America I’d say maximum 100. For my first few European races there were 200 + riders raring to go on narrow cobbly roads. Chaos to say the least but all part of what makes this racing exciting!

Being my first year on a European pro team I definitely had a lot to learn in terms of racing and team dynamics. It’s all a different ball game in comparision to my experiences in NZ and America. I’m not sure how to explain it but it’s just different. Racing is at its biggest and the best riders in the World are always lingering. Adjusting to having the wisdom and knowledge of my more experienced team mates was pretty cool for me. I learn’t a lot from the likes of  Giorgia (Bronzini), Linda (Villumsen), Lotte (Becker) and Rochelle (Gilmore) and appreciate how open they were with us younger less experienced riders on the team. Every race was an opportunity to learn and grow and I’m at the point where I’m just happy to take everything in and use this info to get better. I’m looking forward to continuing to progress with their help next year!”


Talking about next season, Collins will stay on the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling Team which will not undergo major changes. Lauren Kitchen is leaving for Hitec Products while Emilia Fahlin (Hitec Products), Anna Sanchis (Bizkaia-Durango) and Peta Mullens are joining the Dream Team in which Giorgia Bronzini and Linda Villumsen will be the major riders. “I think it’s a really good thing that most of the team are staying together. Already knowing each other personality wise and how everyone works on the bike is a huge bonus. Having Emilia, Anna and Peta join the team will only make us stronger. However, It’s great to see new talent and from what I know, nice, friendly girls come on board. So yes, it should be another  good year!”

Collins is currently back in New Zealand to spent Christmas with her family and friends. The 23 year old will start her 2014 campaign with the team in the Mitchelton Bay Series (January 2-5) in Australia before heading back home for the National Championships in Christchurch. After that she will head to Qatar before returing to Oudenaarde, Belgium for another full European season in which the National Championships, the  Classics, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships are very important. “Firstly I would like to perform at Nationals in January, then the Spring Classics will also be a focus as after an opener to these events last year  I think I can perform well in these types of races; especially the Tour of Flanders. Later  in the season I think I can do well in tours like Thuringen Rhundfhart too in which I am a bit better suited to than some of the other big women’s tours.

Lastly a big goal of mine is to race for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This has been a goal for some time and I think an opportunity would be very special. Linda Villumsen will be in a great position for gold so I will be ready to support her if selected.

The Commonwealth Games are a big deal for New Zealand as a nation so to perform here and to perform well would be very close to home and  something I would love to achieve.

emily 2

Following the Commonwealth Games the World Championships will also be a target and I will need to be in top shape at that time of year. It is and will always be a massive target and goal so of course I would also like to be there in Spain racing well with the fern on.”

Asking about when Collins will be satisfied with lots of season targets the kiwi is very clear in what she wants to achieve in the (near) future. “If I can continue to love and be happy in this sport I will be very satisfied. Otherwise,  I would focus on something else. I think loving what you do is the main thing so at this point in time I’m satisfied but career and aspiration wise I’d like to get to the top and be one of the best in the sport.  Have to AIM HIGH, DREAM BIG!”


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