On the 3rd of March, New Zealand’s rising star Emily Collins claimed the most prestigious victory of her short career at the Omloop van het Hageland. From a chaotic bunch finish, the 22 year-old Wiggle Honda rider outsprinted Shelley Olds (Team TIBCO) and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) to take the win.
Having claimed the Points competition in the GP Samyn merely a few days earlier, Collins was admitted shocked about her victory however creditedthe tremendous work from her team mates to the team’s first UCI win of the season.
“I really didn’t have a clue what was happening out there. I was following Specialized-Lululemon’s train. I was lucky to come out of the wheel when it came out apart. I am really shocked to win my first UCI race. I didn’t feel too good the whole race so I didn’t expected this. Its the first win of our team and my teammates did a tremendous job .”
A few days on, the tenacious Kiwi still can’t believe what she achieved last Sunday. A win for the opportunistic Collins was most certainly on the cards for the young rider this season, however she never thought she would climbing onto the top step of a UCI podium just yet.
“I knew I’d won but it didn’t sink in straight away. I smiled a lot for sure though! When the Wiggle Honda girls rolled in and started hugging me It was pretty cool. I was very happy to get the win for the team ad finish off a good day by all. I am still a bit surprised really but thrilled all the same! It’s a nice feeling knowing that hard work and perseverance over the summer back home has paid off. I’m really excited to have been up there with some top level sprinters in that finish. I always like to go into a race with a positive, optimistic attitude and the ideal situation for me coming into the race would have been to be in a late break away. If not me, I was confident one of the Wiggle girls could do this. I would have more confidence winning a small bunch kick as opposed to winning against the top gun sprinters. So, no I didn’t think I could win this way at this point in my career!”
Humble in victory, Collins states that the victory couldn’t have come without the tremedous support and dedication displayed by her Wiggle Honda teammates.
“It was absolutely a team effort. We went out there with the aim of being aggressive. We have missed the breakaway in the first few classics so we were very focused on making that move at Hageland. I didn’t feel too good the first part of the race so I was very grateful to have my Wiggle Honda team mates being highly active and responsive in the first big lap of the race. Coming into the finishing circuits for the remaining half of the race I started to come good and was able to be positioned better and represented further up the peloton. I am still learning with the Euro style racing so my team mates have been fantastic in teaching me the ropes and being patient with my inexperience with this type of racing. They were really great out there.”
For Collins the first win of the season, the first for Wiggle Honda and her first ever UCI win means a lot to the very talented Kiwi.
“I’m very pleased. It means a lot. I’ve settled in really well to this team and being a newly established squad it’s been surprisingly very easy to fit into. The girls all get a long great and I’m very happy with how things have gone since arriving here in Europe. A lot of people have put so much time and effort into making this team happen; Rochelle, staff, sponsors and support so it’s fantastic to be able to get out there and give them a result just to show and prove to them that it’s all worth it and yes, that it’s only the beginning of what we hope will be a very successful season!”
Shortly after rolling over the finish, an emotional team owner Rochelle Gilmore was on the scene congratulating Collins on a victory which she knew all too well was in the pipeline.
“I told her [Gilmore] I was shocked and surprised and she said she wasn’t . She’s been very supportive and encouraging of me since my signing with the team which has been really nice. Coming into the squad I clearly don’t have the palmares that many of my team mates have. We have Olympians, World Champions, a Commonwealth Champion and National Champions. A very impressive roster and some serious talent! So for me, it’s really cool that Rochelle has been encouraging of my ability knowing that I am one of the ‘underdogs’ of the team!”
Commenting on the Collins’ win, Gilmore explains that she knew she had signed something special when she noticed Collins’ aggressive racing style in Europe in the lead up to the World Championships in Valkenburg last year.
“I noticed Emily’s talent in Europe late last year and I put a lot of effort into providing Emily with the environment she would need in order to reach her potential. Emily needed a team that believed in her and I certainly did. Simon Cope and the other members of the team have played a huge part in setting Emily up for her first international win! Simon is a very smart operator and is very involved with his athletes and knows how to get the best out of them. The team quietly expected Emily to land on the podium today but to see her on top this early in the season is sensational! I must admit, I was fighting the tears after speaking with Emily after the finish. She is a very quiet achiever and an absolute pleasure to have on the team.”
Having notched up her first win for the season, Collins has received a welcome confidence boost and is looking forward to the rest of the season, with what will not doubt include more wins for the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling outfit.
“ I am just taking each step as it comes. There’s a lot of racing to get through this season and I’m just really excited to be over here racing my bike, doing what I love to do and with a great crew of people. Yes, of course I’d love to perform highly at upcoming races throughout the season and now maybe I will be more confident in myself to do this. I am also, however, very much looking forward to playing a supporting role to my team mates as well. I think that If you give the support, you will get the support and giving that sacrifice can ultimately only make us better bike riders! I’m just looking forward to continuing this big learning process and hope to keep pushing on with results along the way. I also definitely hope to have the opportunity to race for NZ wearing the kiwi colours at the World championships later this season. New Zealand road cycling is growing by the day and there’s a lot of young talent coming through so hopefully if we continue to do well internationally on the road things will continue to progress.”