Peloton Watch
  Nina Wollaston targeting Hong Kong Track World Cup selection after season of development  
  December 9th 2015  
  A late start to track cycling didn't stop New Zealand's Nina Wollaston achieving early success. In her first National Championships on the track as an under 19, Wollaston claimed gold in the sprint, silver in the team sprint before adding bronze in the omnium.

More success followed in 2014 as she claimed the points race title off the back of a strong showing at the Oceania Championships. Selection for the UCI Track World Championships followed just over a year after her first National Championships.

Wollaston teamed up with Holly Edmondston, Bryony Botha and Holly White to claim bronze in the team pursuit behind Australia and Italy. Confirming her as one of a number of rising stars of track cycling in New Zealand.

2015 has seen Wollaston compete at the International Track Series Adelaide that featured a world class field including omnium world champion Annette Edmondson. Despite the challenge of stepping up to the elite racing, Wollaston sees the challenges and development opportunities including a month long block of racing in American in July as crucial for her future goals.

Wollaston is currently studying at the University of Waikato while part of Cycling New Zealand's Elite Development Squad. The challenges of combining studying and training have added another complexity to her year.

With the 2015/16 track season half way through Wollaston is targeting selection for the final UCI Track World Cup of the season in Hong Kong in January. With the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and a senior world championship debut also on her radar.

PelotonWatch: How did you first start cycling and how old were you?

Nina Wollaston: I first started cycling when I was around 13 years old (year 8), because my friend needed someone else to make up a team in order to do a race! I loved it and decided to continue riding after that. My Dad also got involved and did some riding with me so that support helped a lot.

PW: Bronze medallist in the team pursuit at the 2014 Junior World Championships how did it feel standing on the podium?

NW: There was a mix of emotions... Satisfaction, joy, relief, and most of all pride. Words can't describe the feeling of standing on the podium wearing the silver fern, and knowing all your supporters back home are watching you in that moment, it's priceless.

You could say I am a late entry into track cycling - my first ever championships and first time on wooden boards was as an under 19. Just to make the National squad was a goal but a big stretch. So to make the starting pursuit team in Korea and then medalling was a real bonus!

PW: Moving from juniors to elite can often be challenging with everyone finding it different how have you found the step up?

NW: The step up to the elite level has proven to be very challenging but also very motivating. The hardest thing I find is that you have to start as the baby again, and always be surrounded by athletes with a whole lot more experience and talent than you. However, that also brings a sense of motivation knowing you are training with some of the top athletes in the country. Being part of a high performance squad makes the step up harder, but at the same time my ultimate goals a whole lot more realistic. I entered the Elite ranks without a huge endurance base so the build up of aerobic capacity to live with much more experienced riders just takes a lot of hard work. It hasn't come naturally to me so it's something I'm having to really work on!

PW: After a year in the elite ranks what is the biggest difference you have noticed in the racing?

NW: I have noticed that athletes do not save themselves in races like in the junior level, you have to take that hurt box to a whole other level. I have (and still have a long way to go) learned new levels to where by body can take me, and that when you think you're cracked there's always that little bit more gas left in the tank. It is a mental game as much as physical.

PW: What is the most important thing you learnt as a junior?

NW: I learned basic tactics to race, having done so many road and track races as a junior I learned to become very confident and aggressive on my bike. This was also helped by the fact I knew my competitors strengths and weaknesses, which I found, was crucial in racing a smart race.

PW: You competed in the omnium at ITS Adelaide and Oceania Championships this year against some strong fields. How did you find the racing and were you happy with your development?

NW: ITS Adelaide was the hardest week of track racing I have ever had, being my first international elite race it was extremely physically and mentally challenging. Although there were a lot of negative aspects from that week I think it is important to focus on the bigger picture (development) which yes I am happy about now that I look back on it. Oceania was also not the best experience as I was going into it just recovering from being sick. However, being given the chance to race such talented fields including world champions was a privilege and I learnt so many valuable lessons. As the saying goes; you learn from your mistakes!

PW: Spent July in the US racing what was the experience like and how important is a big block of racing like that for your development going forward?

NW: This was such an awesome opportunity for me. Being able to train with such a talented group of girls every day with support always around me was very cool! It was good going over to America because we got a good five weeks of hot weather when it was cold and rainy back home, which meant a lot more solid training was done. We raced once a week on the track against some local Americans, and then just got some good road miles in the rest of the days. It was important because we could train in good weather, we could gain some track racing skills and tactics when we raced as a team and we could get used to being in a team environment away from home!

PW: How do you combine training with studying?

NW: It takes a lot of time management! I believe knowing your priorities are the most important thing, and being able to achieve a good balance between everything. I completed my first year of uni living on campus, which made it a lot easier. Now that I live closer to the track and am hoping to start performing at a higher level, cycling will become a priority so I may have to take uni down to part-time. I like having the distraction of studying when training gets quite hectic and it makes me set goals other than cycling ones.

PW: Raced the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge in November how did the racing go for you?

NW: Even though the weather was miserable, the race went well and I am happy with how it went. Our track squad didn't know how we would get on as we had been training pretty full on that week and the weeks leading up until then. We treated it as a solid training session but ended up leading out one of our leaders to the top of the podium which was a great result, and all of us finished in the bunch.

PW: What are your goals for the 2015/16 track season?

NW: My current goal is to be named in the NZ Elite squad heading to the third World Cup in Hong Kong in early January. Following this is elite track nationals where I have some personal bests to beat! For next year my goal is to be a continued member of the NZ Elite Development Squad to have another solid year of training and racing in the team.

PW: What are your goals on the road? Using it for training for the track or do you have ambitions for a professional career on the road later in your career?

NW: At the moment, my goals are all on the track, so my road races are all being used as training sessions along my program. Somewhere in the future I may look more seriously into the road, as I think it would be a great opportunity to do a road season overseas with a team (during the NZ winter) to build a good base for the track season.

PW: Longer term what are your ambitions for your career?

NW: When I think more long-term, my goal like every other athlete's will be, is to one day become a World Champion. 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are always at the back of my mind, as are the track world championships leading up to then. Along with one day hopefully pursuing this dream, I would really like to become an inspiration and a role model to young women in their lives. I want to be able to encourage young riders to pursue their goals and see that it is possible with a bit of hard work.
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