ACT Suzuki Brumby’s team from left, Alison Rice, Chole McIntosh, Alex Nicholls, Emma Viotto, and Laura Darlington training at the Arboretum ahead of the Canberra Tour that starts on Friday.She juggled schoolwork and illness to make her mark on the world stage, now Canberra cyclist Alex Nicholls wants to teach the locals a thing or two at the National Capital Tour.
Despite battling recurring bouts of tonsillitis and completing year 12 studies last year, Nicholls showed her potential by collecting silver at the world junior time trial championships in Italy last September.
The 18-year-old will start as one of the fancies for the second running of the tour, which begins with a time trial on Friday.
She is one of five Canberrans riding for the ACT Suzuki Brumby’s women’s team, with teammate Allison Rice also tipped to be one to beat.
“It [the silver medal] was a great surprise,” Nicholls said. “I was stoked to be there, let alone get a medal. I had tonsillitis on and off through last year and it made it really difficult to try and stay fresh.
“It would crop up in stressful situations, because I was studying year 12 and racing overseas, I had to balance everything. It wasn’t great going into competitions, or coming out of races trying to recover.”
Nicholls is still hitting the books part-time at university, studying to be a primary school teacher.
She said the lessons learnt from Canberra stars Michael Matthews, Matt Heyman and Gracie Elvin when training had inspired her.
“Canberra produces a lot of riders at the professional level, it’s the best training ground in Australia,” she said. “It’s so awesome to see those guys achieve, you see them on the bunch rides [in Canberra] over the off-season and they’re so generous with their wisdom.
“It’s nice to see them get some good karma.”
After a tough initiation in Europe last year racing against seasoned pros, Nicholls has stayed in Australia this year to develop into a strong enough rider to compete with the world’s best.
“I’ve just been racing around the NRS [National Road Series], trying to be consistent and getting a few podiums here and there,” she said. “Europe opens your eyes, going from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.
“I loved every minute of it. It’s just a matter of getting stronger so I can be more competitive in that type of environment.”
Rice, 20, believes the race could be won and lost in Friday’s time trial and the gruelling finish to Saturday’s road race.
The tour will conclude with two road races on a flatter course on Sunday.
“The winner of the tour will be someone who can time-trial and hill-climb well,” she said. “Saturday’s race finishes with a 7-kilometre climb, so there’s potential for massive time gaps to open up there. It’s a Canberra-run team and winning our home event is a big goal, and knowing the courses really well is definitely an advantage.
“We know where to put the pressure down, the descents and technical bits of the course, having trained on it before.
“It’s great to have all our friends and family there to support us, so we’d like to come away with a great result.”
Avanti Racing’s Mitchell Lovelock-Fay is Canberra’s standout hope in the men’s event, with Commonwealth Games gold medallists Scott Sunderland and Alexander Edmondson also to compete.
NATIONAL CAPITAL TOUR
Friday: Time trials (women 10am, men 10am)
Saturday: Road race (women 7.30am, men 1.30pm)
Sunday: Road race (women 7.30am, men 1.30pm); Criterium (women 1.50pm, men 3pm)
For stage maps, visit www.nationalcapitaltour南京夜网