The time trial wasn’t the start to the Australian Federation University Road National Championships that Nicole Frain had been hoping for as, even with all the work she’d put in, the rider that had been on the podium in 2021 could only manage eighth.
It was enough to have her questioning her form but, not one to let anything defeat her, the 29-year-old bounced back in time for the road race and, in doing so, delivered a win that could well be career-making.
Stepping up to the top step of the Australian championship podium usually draws attention and, despite her time trial disappointment, it was her skill riding fast solo that netted her the win in the most prestigious race of the national championships.
In the final 3km, Frain took off from a lead group that included Australia’s top ranked road cyclist, Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), and national criterium title winner Ruby Roseman-Gannon (BikeExchange-Jayco). Neither should be trifled with in a sprint.
"It was now or never because, you know, having Ruby and that still there – I didn't want them there, not for me," Frain said. "So the gap opens and then I was like, ‘just don't time trial like you did on Wednesday, and you'll be fine'.
As the riders went into the final straight, Frain had a solid gap and, even though the sprint was winding up behind, it was a run her rivals left too late. They underestimated Frain, who had developed as a rider in part thanks to her experience racing with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank in the last part of 2021, where she got to take on races including the first Paris-Roubaix Femmes and The Women’s Tour.
"It gave me some confidence, and I was just a bit more sure of myself in the bunch… and then it also obviously just made me really hungry to want to get back over to Europe," said Frain.
"I want a career [in cycling], 100 per cent. I'm definitely stepping a little bit deeper into it this year, a bit further away from my job. It sort of feels like a bit now or never for me."
Frain is a late-comer to sport, having only become embroiled in cycling four years ago, but is determined to pursue it to the top level even though she’s had plenty of obstacles in her way to make an already difficult path from Australia to European racing even tougher.
They include crashes, notably one at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race that led to multiple surgeries on her hands, plus the difficulty of racing both locally and overseas amid the pandemic-induced border closures.
"I just kept pushing," Frain said. "I just don't like people saying, you can't do things. If someone says you can't do it I say, I'll show you."
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.