Emma, thanks for joining us! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to have a career in cycling.
EMMA:Hi! Firstly can I just say I’m so excited to be able to share a bit about myself with the Santini community! The support of Santini Australia makes a huge difference to me, so to be able to share a little bit of who I am with those who love Santini as much as I do feels great. My story is a pretty left field one so I’ll try and keep it short, but I grew up as far away from cycling as one could get - on a sailing yacht with my parents, doing correspondence school, while traveling the world. It was a really amazing way to grow up, but of course I took it totally for granted! Thanks to my very boaty upbringing, after finishing university I ended up living in Palma Mallorca in Spain and working in yacht racing. That took me all across the Mediterranean and Caribbean chasing regattas, which was just as intense as some of the World Tour cycling programs can be, in terms of back to back events combined with lots of travel.
I relocated from Palma to Sydney in 2014 to work with the yacht Wild Oats XI, where a fair few of the crew rode bikes to stay fit. I decided it was finally time to join the Lycra party after having watched on in Europe. After a year or so I was persuaded to pin a number on but my ‘hardcore’ Sydney cycling friends, and my introduction to bike racing was a mixed C Grade criterium at Sydney’s infamous Heffron Park. I somehow nabbed a 2nd place podium, between a junior and a grandad, and figured the Olympics was *clearly* within reach after such immediate success! I was hooked on the (relative) speed and adrenaline after that singular 45 minutes, and being an all or nothing kinda gal I decided to give bike racing a red hot crack. Through a few twists of fate and fortune, a few months later I ended up on the NSWIS women’s NRS team. For a baptism of fire, my fifth race ever was the women’s Tour Down Under in Adelaide, where I met and made some of my best friends to this day, and learned exactly how much I still had to learn about cycling. Fast forward a year of NRS racing and a stint in USA with NSWIS, and I ended up on the American team LA Sweat, which has been my home in cycling for the last four years. The team is run by the enigmatic Kelli Samuelson, and is made up of a wonderful collection of fierce, determined, caring and talented women who inspire me daily. In a normal season the teams focus is on the fast paced American criterium season and select UCI and PRT races throughout both USA and Canada. Unfortunately for me, between a shortened 2019 season to have surgery to resolve ongoing Iliac Artery Endofibrosis, and covid heavily affecting travel thereafter, I haven’t been able to spend half as much time with the team as I’d have liked, so fingers crossed 2022 is the new chapter we’re all hoping for!
What are your other hobbies, that you spend time doing off the bike?
EMMA:I’m still heavily involved in the yacht racing world through Wild Oats XI - I do the logistics for the race program, which is really rewarding. The team feels like a big family, and is well resourced and supported - the combination of those factors has meant we’ve seen some great success as a team over the years, on and off the water, which has cemented it as a really positive environment. When I’m not juggling cycling and boats, I spend a lot of my time up the coast at our family farm in South West Rocks, on the Mid North Coast of NSW. The area is a perfect combination of rugged coastal bushland, dotted with sparkling sapphire bays, white sand beaches and quaint coastal and country towns strewn across floodplains of farmland, all connected by quiet country roads perfect for training on. When I’m at the farm I spend my time riding (duh), baking (the lockdown inspired banana bread obsession is real), trail running (recklessly), surfing (badly), painting (very abstractly), and making Negronis to drink by a fire in the paddock while watching the sun set (I do that extra well). I even get on the John Deere on the odd occasion. I think it’s really important, whether you identify as an ‘athlete’ or not, not to get too hung up on only doing the one sport or hobby you identify as being your ‘thing,’ and to balance your time and energy between that and other activities that bring you a sense of fulfillment and joy. Some of my most rewarding days have been spent far from a bike, on two feet running a fire trail, or sitting out the back of a local break on a longboard watching dolphins catch waves. You don’t have to spend all your time and energy on cycling to see results, in fact the opposite is true. The happier you are off the bike, the better you’ll perform on it.
We’re seeing lockdown’s right across the country now, what are the best tips to keep training at home during lockdown?
EMMA:As I mentioned, I believe momentum is really important in keeping the ball rolling on your fitness and cycling goals. My advice would be to commit to getting out every day that you can, even if it’s just for an hour. Exercise has remained one of the valid reasons to leave your home throughout all of these lockdowns, and once you’re out the door it’s impossible to regret kitting up and clipping in. If you’re really battling with the idea of riding, and focus on how you’ll feel after the ride versus how you’ll feel if you don’t ride at all. And if that fails, bribe yourself with a stop at your favorite cafe. Even if you have to drink your coffee sitting in a gutter it’s invariably going to be better than whatever you can make at home! During the earlier lockdowns my team hosted weekly Zwift rides, and my old Strength and Conditioning coach hosted free classes via Zoom that helped break up the monotony of stay at home orders through adding structure and accountability. Adding a sense of connectedness through doing group activities from your own home really helped me feel like I wasn’t doing it alone.
What are your favourite garments from the new 2021 Winter Collection?
EMMA:I’m really enjoying staying extra warm and toasty on those really chilly winter mornings in the Coral Bengal Bib Tights and Long Sleeve in the Granatina color way. Both pieces are fleece lined and breathable, so paired with the Guard Nimbus Rain Jacket you’re basically ready for any winter weather that comes your way. The rain jacket packs away into its own pocket too which is handy! I really like the bright color palette and reflective details of the collection - it’s so important to be visible on the roads, especially during those early morning and late afternoon rides when lighting isn’t great and drivers may struggle to see you.
How would you dress for multi-seasonal weather? One minute it can freezing cold, the next sun’s out guns out…
EMMA:LAYERS! The not-so-secret secret to dressing well for changeable training conditions is to layer appropriately so you can add or remove items as required. In winter I start with a fairly standard undershirt as opposed to a heavy winter one, and knee or leg warmers under my knicks. I add a fleece long sleeve over my jersey and a gilet or packable windbreaker over the top of that if I need extra insulation. If you really feel the cold it’s worth wearing a neck warmer and booties over your shoes, and it goes without saying that full finger gloves make a huge difference. By the end of most of my rides I’ve at least got my leg warmers and gilet in my pockets, and if I’m lucky I’ve ditched the long sleeve too for the full *suns out guns out* experience! Hot tip: If you’re struggling to fit the bulkier layers you’ve stripped off into your jersey pockets, try folding them neatly and tucking them into the back of your knicks where the pockets of your Jersey would sit. Just don’t forget that’s where you’ve stashed your long sleeve if you make a trip to a cafe loo (unfortunately this advice comes from first hand experience)! When I’m training at altitude in Colorado I often use a handlebar bag to stash the multiple layers of clothing I need to go from summery sea level up into the chilly mountains.
What are your goals for the remainder of 2021 and beyond?
EMMA:My biggest aim for the remainder of 2021 is to stay fit and healthy both physically and mentally while we navigate the uncertainty of covid. Unfortunately I have to have another procedure on my iliac artery before I can really focus on my performance on the bike again, but once that’s out of the way I’ll really hone in on the form and speed necessary for success in racing as I work towards the Australian summer racing before heading overseas. I’ve had some great conversations recently regarding the meaning of success, and how different it looks for different people. Goals are often so results based and therefore ‘success’ driven, but a big focus of mine over the last few years has been to focus on process as opposed to obsessing over the end result. That translates into me making sure I find enjoyment and purpose in each step of the journey to being the fittest and fastest future version of myself, as opposed to pinning my satisfaction to a race result. I’m really looking forward to being reunited with my team next year, and am lucky enough to already have locked in a contract extension for 2022 with the team, so now it’s just a matter of ticking the boxes to get back to where I want to be.
Any wise words for aspiring young bike racers?
EMMA:Firstly, keep showing up! Don’t be disheartened if you’re not immediately seeing the results you’d hoped for. Progress is linear and takes time, so the more time you spend working on your weaknesses, the better you’ll get.
Secondly, focus on the process, not the result. I mentioned that earlier, but it’s really important to remember that your self worth is not determined by how many people crossed the line before and after you.
Thirdly, enjoy the journey. Bike racing and cycling as a whole has opened so many doors for me, and has introduced me to some of the most inspiring and supportive people in my life. I’ve made brilliant memories with along the way and it’s easy to miss just how special some of the experiences you have are, so don’t forget to stop and smell the roses once in a while.