Young Emily Collins has claimed Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling first UCI victory of the season by taking out the Omloop het van Hageland, the second round of Belgium’s Lotto Cycling Cup in a tight bunch finish. The 22-year-old New Zealander notched up her biggest career win to date, out sprinting pre-race favourites Shelly Olds [TIBCO To the Top] and Emma Johansson [Orica-Ais] in a drag race to the line.
The 122km race was contested over a 55km loop, followed by 5 laps of a smaller 13km circuit. Each lap was to feature an intermediate sprint, and mountain classification points up the Roselberg.
An aggressive race was punctuated by several break-away attempts including one threatening last minute attack by Johansson with 5km left to race, who took with her World Road Championships Silver medallist Elisa Longo Borghini [Hitec Products UCK] and Anna van der Breggen [Sengers].
Capitalising on the efforts of Specialized-Lululemon’s to bring back the break-away group, Collins showed maturity and experience vast beyond her years to power home to victory.
“I really didn’t have a clue what was happening out there,” the tenacious youngster honestly explained. “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. It’s the first win of our team and my teammates did a tremendous job today.”
Whilst victory may come as a surprise to the talented Collins, team Owner and Rider Rochelle Gilmore realised her potential whilst racing alongside her in Europe, and knows that she has invested in something special.
“I’m not surprised. 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,” Gilmore commented.
Gilmore also credits much of the team’s victory to the leadership of Director Sportif Simon Cope and of course her talented Wiggle Honda team mates.
“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.”