Emily Watts is chasing domestic and international success in 2022 after claiming the biggest win of her young career in January.
Emily won stage 1 of the Tour Down Under to start the year and also claimed the white jersey as best young rider. This followed bronze medals in the U23 Road Race and ITT at the national titles, and proves that she if fulfilling her undeniable potential.
Success at TDU preceded a block of training with the Podium Potential Academy in Adelaide on the track and the road, before reuniting with Knights of Suburbia teammates at the Tour of Gippsland.
Emily has won medals on the track at national level, but sees her future on the road and has mapped out a three-year-plan accordingly. Now that she has beaten some World Tour riders, she wants to join them.
“By 2025, I’d like to be riding for a World Tour team,” she said, while confirming that success at the World Championships and Olympic Games is the ultimate goal. The first step is to perform well on the National Road Series before heading overseas for the remainder of 2022.
“Winning the GC at the Tour of Tasmania is a major goal. I’m looking to learn as much as I can over the four days of the race, and combine this with what I learned at the TDU this year.”
One lesson was managing the added responsibility as road captain on stage 1 of the TDU.
“Normally I get pretty stressed before a stage, but this time I had to stay calm for the sake of the team and relax into the race.”
It clearly worked, as the KOS team planned their attack perfectly and launched Emily to the biggest win of her career in the bunch sprint, a result which surprised many, including Emily herself.
“I’m not a pure sprinter, I normally sprint well under load, but being an uphill sprint worked to my advantage over the pure sprinters. The win improved my confidence in sprinting, but If I did decide to become more of a pure sprinter, I’d have to change my training.”
The same is true of her climbing. She regards herself as a proponent of short, sharp, punchy climbs, and for that reason has her sights set on GC results in the long term.
Upon completion of the 2022 Australian racing season, Emily plans to travel to the United States to chase races, prize money and increased exposure in Criteriums and road races. If this objective is achieved, she will then head to Belgium in future years and into the heartland of international cycling.
“In Belgium there are races almost every day, plus a very high standard of racing and the chance to be noticed by some world tour teams.”
“I’d like to ride for Canyon Sram or Trek Segafredo, because they seem to have the same values that I have. Each individual rider in the team is supported and they look like they enjoy being in the peloton, and it’s important for me to ride for a team with the right atmosphere. This is what I feel riding for the Knights of Suburbia team as well.”
Despite planning to base herself in Belgium, Emily does not anticipate a career in Cyclocross.
“Cyclocross requires some pretty good bike handling skills and coordination. I don’t have very good hand-eye coordination, so maybe I shouldn’t ride Cyclocross,” she laughs, while also ruling out a career in AFLW:
“I’m studying a Bachelor of Education, PE Teaching, at Sydney Uni, and on a teaching practicum recently I had to teach the kids how to kick an AFL ball and, well, when I finally managed to kick it the kids all clapped and cheered.”
21-year-old Emily may have planned her career trajectory perfectly as the sport of women’s cycling continues to grow.
“By 2025, there might be more races for women,” she predicts.
“We already have the Giro d’Italia Donne and the women’s Paris Roubaix. I handled the gravel sections of some of the Aussie road races well, so who knows. This could mean more opportunities for female cyclists in general.”
Racing the Giro or the Hell of the North is a long way from the tiny town of Hartley on the edge of the NSW Blue Mountains where Emily grew up on the family property.
While a country childhood denied her the chance to train with a local squad on a daily basis, riding alone day after day helped to forge the self-discipline and mental strength that are vital to road cycling success. She is now a national U23 champion in the Individual Time Trial.
“I would get up at 5.30am to get in some training before going to school in Bathurst, and sometimes I’d leave my bike at the Principal’s house and then ride home to Hartley. I don’t remember exactly how long it would take, but I think it was about 60 – 70 km.”
“Plus, riding to places like the Jenolan Caves was enjoyable, and riding on the road to Oberon was hilly, so that developed my climbing skills.”
There was one ride, however, on which her father and younger sister would join her.
“To the Lolly Bug shop, because we could buy lollies halfway.”
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