Autumn Collins (21) talks training and rebuilding for road racing

Posted on: March 11th, 2019

Autumn Collins sprints in at the front of the bunch to win last Saturday. She has changed her approach and is now looking to make strides on the road and in track endurance rather than sprinting (Photo: John Hammer)

 

The switch from track to a greater focus on road has already paid dividends for Autumn Collins; the Limerick woman winning Rás Naomh Finian on Saturday.

And with a full season ahead she plans to mix road and track racing, but is moving away from the sprint on the boards to endurance events.

While it is early in the campaign, she is hopeful of making the Irish team for the U23 European Track Championships in the summer.

And having decided to step away from track sprinting, which has always her speciality, she is eyeing the scratch race instead.

It seems an obvious choice for a cyclist looking to develop as a road rider but who still wants to train and race on the track.

Last Saturday she went early in the bunch sprint and won it well; a great confidence boost following the new approach she’s taking to her cycling.

“I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a road race with so many riders as Saturday; there was more than 50 starters,” she said.

Collins believed Brendan Whelan’s work in developing female riders via the intermediate league was largely responsible for the turn out.

And taking victory at the head of such a big field simply added to her delight at winning the 47km race.

 

Riding the European Championships in the green of Ireland in Portugal last year.

 

Saturday’s race was marked by plenty of aggression, with Collins saying the start was especially fast. Once those rapid fire early kilometres were out of the way, Collins said she made a number of attacks.

And she pointed to Lucy O’Donnell of O’Leary Stone Kanturk and the O’Brien sisters from Lakeside Wheelers as the main aggressors.

“It was ridiculous, in a great way, for women’s racing; such positive racing all the way,” she said.

“It really was a proper race and it shows we are gone beyond negative racing that you can sometimes see with women’s racing.”

However, despite the attacking the bunch did not split up, though it was thinned right down by the finish.

Collins said Emma Porter of UCD Cycling Club went for a flier at a technical section on the run-in. She opened a gap and was powering for the chequered flag.

At the head of the bunch Collins decided Porter wasn’t coming back and so she unleashed her kick early.

She opened a gap on the others and passed Porter, who still ended 5th on the day such was the quality of her late surge and her ability to keep it going.

“I was delighted, I honestly didn’t think I was going to win it because I haven’t ridden a road race in 18 months,” she said.

“I was just track sprinting and that was it. But in the middle of the season last year I just seemed to go backwards.

“I raced badly and my head fell off a bit so I just decided to take a couple of weeks off the bike.

“After that I got in touch with Mark Dolan of Epic Coaching and I told him I didn’t want to sprint any more but had no endurance for the road.

“I told him to get me fit so I’d have that endurance for the road and then for the track as well. And it seems to be going OK.”

 

Looking more than a little reluctant on the start line of the Lacey Cup last Sunday week just before racing was abandoned (Photo: George Doyle)

 

A 21-year-old student at Maynooth where she is doing a law degree, Collins said her big chance during the winter months to do miles was at the weekend.

Most Saturdays and Sundays have consisted of four-hour rides followed by a one gym session per week, under the watchful eye of Darragh Zaidan, and one rest day.

On the other three days, especially if college allows, she has tried to do two hours on the road at Zone 2 and the three 20-minute tempo efforts. On other days she also did sweetspot sessions on the turbo trainer.

“I’ve lost 7kg and I’ve leaned up a good bit. My FPT wasn’t good at the beginning,” she said of initially switching to road training.

“At the start I probably went backwards before I went forwards. I had a weird period where I’d lost all my track speed but I still wasn’t fit; so it wasn’t good for a while.

“But once I got through that; every week I got better and better. I’d train with the Newcastlewest lads when I wasn’t in Maynooth at the weekends.

“I was getting dropped initially but then I wasn’t and finally I was able to be on the front by the end of the rides or go with the strong riders on the climbs.

“But every week something was happening, there was a difference. And then of course the motivation increases when that happens.

“You’re thinking to yourself ‘feck it, this is working, get your head down’. And you’re ready to go hard training the next week again.”

 

International road and track racing

Now riding with road team Torelli-Assure-Madison, Autumn Collins goes to Portugal to race in two weeks time, with two Portuguese national series one-day events pencilled in.

In the weeks and months head she was also keen to ride the hardest one-day races in Ireland, including the national series.

“I’m riding a few races in the UK as well and I’ve put my name in for the Tour Series crits, so we’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Rás na mBan and the national road championships are also on her radar. However, because she still planned to race track, if she is picked for the U23 Europeans they will clash somewhat with the road nationals.

“I’m riding two track races after Portugal on Good Friday and Easter Monday in Lee Valley on London and in Manchester,” she said, contesting omniums there.

“Ireland has a number of good U23 track riders now; Mia Griffin is on the team pursuit squad. And Gabby Homer rode the junior worlds next year.

“So there is competition for places and if I was picked the scratch race is the one I’d put my name in for.”

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