Nicole Shields is an emerging track cycling talent. Nicole tasted success at the Junior World Cycling Championships in Agile, Switzerland earlier this year and is training hard to taste some more. image central caught up with Nicole and captured some images of her training in Earnscleugh (near Clyde, Central Otago) where she lives.
Words Adrian Morgan | Images Clare Toia-Bailey
Nicole was part of the New Zealand under-19 women’s team who claimed silver in the 4,000m team pursuit. Nicole was joined by Emily Shearman, Michaela Drummond and Kate Smith who qualified for the final by defeating arch rivals Australia in the semis, before going down to hot favourites, the Italian pursuit team, in the final (you can check out the race below).
It didn’t all go well for Nicole in the team pursuit at the Junior World Champs. She crashed out in the final but the team still went on to finish second and receive a silver medal (3 of the 4 riders need to cross the line to finish). However, Nicole managed to dust herself off and competed in the individual pursuit the following day where she was thrilled to record a personal best and a 5th placing.
Nicole has been cycling seriously for about four years and was introduced to the sport when her grandparents took her to visit the cycling velodrome in Invercargill. She enrolled in a holiday programme at the velodrome and has been racing ever since.
Nicole showed a natural talent for the sport and experienced success early. When she was in was in Year 9 at Dunstan High School she took up the offer to be coached by rowing coach Simon Smith.
Nicole is highly self motivated and has a very positive approach to her training, as she says
“I enjoy training and pushing myself … good results come from good training.”
For Nicole the hard work has paid off. She was in the under-17 New Zealand development squad for two years before moving into the under-19s this season. In April last year Nicole became the first girl in 20 years to win two consecutive time trials and road races at the club nationals in Napier (2016) and Cambridge (2015).
Nicole has also won the Manawatu Junior Tour twice and has won Canberra Junior Tour. Nicole was also named Central Otago Junior Sportswoman of the Year in 2014.
Living in Central Otago and some distance away from other track cyclists can be a struggle for Nicole at times, as she explains:
“When it got serious going to worlds [Junior World Championship] … it was a lot more hours and it got a bit hard. There are not many people around to train with. It’s okay in summer, there are people around that are keen and I have a few mates that are into mountain biking so I try and get out with them a bit, but in the winter they are not so keen.”
On average Nicole trains six days a week on the bike and has two gym sessions as well. She does a lot of training on road or in the garage on the wind trainer. She trains during the day and works at the Dunstan Hotel a couple of nights a week. In between she tries to catch up on her school work where she has some catching up to do, as she points out ‘at school I have struggled a little bit I was away 6 weeks this year and I’m still catching up!’
INFLUENCES & INSPIRATION
Nicole says that her passion for cycling emerged from a love for training but also the travel possibilities and meeting other people,
“I love the competition and pushing myself, the opportunities it’s given me and the people I have met and all the skills it’s given me not just on the bike but for life.
Nicole singles out her coach, Simon Smith, as having a strong positive influence on her cycling. Nicole says that she has a very good coach-athlete relationship with Simon and over the last four years he has played an important role in keeping her motivated and on track with her training. Simon was named Central Otago Coach of the Year in 2016 following his success with Nicole and the Dunstan rowing team.
Nicole remains committed to the sport and is considering a short term move up to Cambridge or down to Invercargill before Junior World Champs so she can train with like minded athletes and have a bit more of a social life, albeit revolving around training and cycling.
“I want to keep enjoying it for as long as I can. The Olympics and World Champs are definitely on the cards at some point. I want to travel and ride all over the world and gain experience racing in different places.”
This coming year Nicole has track nationals in February and hopes to get selected again for Junior World Championships in China next August. She also has road nationals in April (Cambridge) and Invercargill. Let’s hope Nicole is rewarded for her commitment.
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2016 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships – Team persuit final from 1:45:00