In 2018, Nicky Rolls won the Masters 4 Champion of Champions award at the Masters Road Nationals in Victoria after taking wins the in road race and criterium and finishing just off the podium in fourth in the time trial.
The Brisbane Cycling Club member took up cycling in 2014 after switching from triathlons and will aim to defend her crown this October in South Australia. But first she has the National Road Series 2019 Tour de Tweed in her sights where she will line up for KOM Financial Planning and Insurance for Cyclists.
In between cycling and her day job as a sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, Nicky found the time to chat with us about her successful 2018 Championships, her love and dedication to cycling, her goals for 2019 and more!
My 2018 Champion of Champions Week
I was quite nervous leading into 2018 Masters National Championships as there is always stiff competition, but particularly this year in regards to Katie Banerjee. Katie had recently placed second at the World Masters Gran Fondo Championships over a tough course in Italy. She is an amazing climber not only amongst masters but also Australia's women NRS riders.
The Time Trial
The ITT is my worst event, so it was good to get that over and done with on the first day. I placed 4th by 1/100th of a second and was disappointed but the road race and crit are my main events. There is a friendly and supportive atmosphere in women's racing, particularly masters as we all realise the effort, commitment and training that is required to be a competitive cyclist, especially at our age. Regardless of the outcome, we congratulate each other on our achievements.
The Road Race
Friday's road race was the nail biting event for me. Would I be able to keep up with Katie on the final climb near the finish of the race? Talk about butterflies in the stomach. Those feelings of nerves and dread make me question why I race bikes. The road race was hard but not overly difficult in that a few breaks were attempted but none stuck. In the end, the group stayed together knowing it would come down to that deciding hill at the end of the race. We all approached it jostling for position. When Katie took off, I went with her and managed to keep abreast until the crest of the hill. Luckily it was only a 600 m or so climb. We'd left the rest of the peloton behind, it was just her and me. I knew I had a chance now as it would come down to a sprint between us 2 km or so away. As the finish line approached, we slowed down and played a bit of cat and mouse, neither of us wanted to lead the other out in the sprint. Finally, I just put my head down and sprinted for the line. I crossed first but it was close. The sense of relief was overwhelming.
After a rest day, we had the crit. Right from the first corner I heard a crash behind me and was thankful I hadn't been caught up in it. There were a few breaks but none stuck until Anna Davis attacked and I managed to jump onto her wheel. We worked well together and kept swapping turns until we'd lapped the field, it was at this point that I knew we both had the crit in the bag. Anna was in the age group above me, so we didn't have to worry about competing against each other. Katie had won the ITT, so was ahead of me in points, I knew I had to win the crit to get the jersey. At the end of the race, I found out that the person who'd crashed was actually Katie Banerjee. She'd gotten back up with two broken collarbones and continued the race. Katie didn't just sit in either, she did an awful lot of work on the front to try and catch the break. That's gutsy.
My favourite event
I'd have to say it's the road race. Criteriums are usually more risky in that there's a lot of cornering at high speeds in bunched up groups. Road races are longer and often result in the peloton being split up by a climb, which reduces the numbers if/when it comes down to a sprint finish. Considering I come from a triathlon background, you'd think I'd be good at the ITT but noooooo, it just doesn't suit my strengths.
The love of Masters Cycling and juggling work, riding and racing
It is refreshing to race against women my own age. Usually, I'm racing open women who range in age from their teens to their 40-50's. I am easily old enough to be the mother of many of the girls I race against. Masters racing levels out the playing field.
For anyone racing at an amateur level, juggling work and home duties is hard. Racing requires consistency and commitment. You will not achieve your best if you don't complete your training programme, otherwise what's the point of having a coach?! Unless you're content with performing at "not your best", then there's no in between, you're either a social rider or a racer.
There's no staying up late if you're getting up at 4.15 am most mornings. Going out to movies and restaurants is only done if they don't interfere with an early bed time. Thankfully, most of the people I socialise with are cyclists and they all want to get to bed early too. This lifestyle won't suit many people and can sound downright boring to some.
I'm sure there are competitive cyclists out there who do fit in a lot more socialising and events than I do, but I can't manage that
Goals for 2019 Road Nationals
I'd love to win the road race again this year and make it 5 in a row, but the course in Adelaide this year has some longer climbs in it, which suits Mrs Katie Banerjee down to a T. In saying that, it pays to not focus on one athlete as there are plenty of women in my age group capable of kicking my butt on any given day.
You have to be aware of everyone and anyone. Despite the rivalry of being in the same age group, Katie and I are actually on the same NRS Team (KOM Financial Planning and Insurance for Cyclists) and are friends.
I applaud her achievements and she mine, that's what I love about women's cycling.