FORMER Tamworth cyclist Alex Nicholls, a Northern Inland Academy of Sport Athlete of the Year, has won a silver medal in the World Road Cycling Championships Under 19 Women’s Individual Time Trial in Florence, Italy.
Nicholls was the second rider to compete over the 16km course and was faster than the first rider of the day, Tamworth Cycling Club president Ray Griffin said.
“For almost two hours her time held as the fastest as, one by one, riders from across the world set out to ride quicker,” he said.
“It wasn’t until the last rider – the top seeded Severine Eraud of France – finished that Nichols’ time was bettered.
“The French rider was 13 seconds slower than Nicholls at the halfway point and it was only a strong last eight kilometres that brought her victory.
“In international cycling time trial events, the quickest rider literally sits in a chair known as ‘the hot seat’ and Nicholls, being the second rider of the day, had a long wait in the chair to see if her time could be bettered.
“Her teammate, Alexandra Many, took out the bronze medal, making it two Australians on the podium.”
While Nicholls was ever so close to winning a gold medal and the coveted “Rainbow Jersey” awarded to all cycling world champions, she was also philosophical about her silver.
“I came into the race not really expecting a medal,” she said.
“The fact that I’m standing here with a silver next to Alex is absolutely bewildering to me.
“To come away with a medal is just a dream come true.”
One of the first phone calls Nicholls made after the medal ceremony was to her first cycling coach, Tamworth’s Kevin Bartlett.
Bartlett was Nicholls’ coach from the beginning of her cycling career until her family moved to Canberra two years ago.
“I’m over the moon,” Bartlett said.
“Alex always worked extremely hard at training and was always keen to learn and, as a coach, there’s nothing more you can expect.
“I’m just so happy for her and her family.”
NIAS executive officer Di Hallam was delighted when advised by The Leader of Nicholls’ win.
“She was our Female Athlete of the Year in 2010,” Hallam said.
“It’s great for Alex – very exciting.”
It was also part of a successful weekend for former NIAS athletes.
“Wow, what a weekend,” Hallam added.
“First, Erin Osborne won the UNE’s Sportsperson of the Year and now Alex.”
Hallam attended the UNE Sports Awards on Saturday night and was stunned by the amazing array and depth of talent nominated for the UNE sporting gongs.
Meanwhile, Tamworth Cycle Club’s Sam Spokes will race in the World Under 23 Road Championships over 173km this weekend, Griffin said.
“The course is close to where he lives at Lucca in Italy,” he said.
In local cycling news, Tamworth Cycle Club held its Club Road Championships last weekend where Phil Kelaher won A grade from Fraser Ashford and Ben Clark.
Alan Spokes won B Grade from Tori Saunders and Dave Menzies while C Grade was won by Jess Saunders from Peter Nash and Josh Nash.