Caja Rural-Seguros RGA’s Nick Schultz Gets PEZ’d!
Rider Interview: Young Australian, Nick Schultz, has been going ‘full gas’ with the Caja Rural-Seguros RGA team since the start of the 2017 season and so it was past time Ed Hood caught up with the man from Brisbane. With a Grand Tour and a load of WorldTour appearances under his belt, he has a big story to tell.
It was the end of season 2016 when last we caught up with Australia’s Nick Schultz; a stage win in the Tour de l’Avenir had sealed his spot with Spanish pro continental squad Caja Rural-Seguros RGA. He enjoyed a solid first year with the men in green and when we saw he was on the podium in the recent GP Miguel Indurain we figured it was overdue to have a word with the 23 year-old man from Brisbane.
3rd in the GP Indurain
PEZ: Third in the GP Indurain, an excellent result against the might of Movistar.
Nick Schultz: Finishing third in GP Indurain was certainly a nice result and perhaps one of the best performances of my career so far. It was not only very satisfying on a personal level, but it was an important race for the team; so I was very happy to deliver a reasonable result on our home roads of Navarra. The race was ridden hard throughout the day and I think this suited my characteristics. It was really fun racing the final 30km from the small front group. It reminded me of a junior race because of how much everybody was attacking!
PEZ: You had some nice results in 2017, top 10 in Norway, you must have been happy with that one?
The Tour of Norway really exceeded my personal expectations last year. I never expected to be racing for results in a race like that, against the calibre of riders who were present. It was a very important step for me and one that provided me with a realisation that I do have a place in the peloton.
PEZ: You rode the 2017 Vuelta, how did it match your expectations physically and mentally – what were the low and high points?
My expectation going into la Vuelta was that it will be the hardest challenge I will potentially ever face in terms of racing. My first Grand Tour, first year pro etc. It was by far the hardest race I have ever taken part in and also the most mentally challenging, It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. It was really difficult to keep my head in the game at times, but with great support from fellow team mates and the amazing staff, I managed to make it to Madrid.
The low point was probably on a stage in the last week. I can’t quite remember what day it was but the start was along the west coast of Spain. I had been suffering with quite bad saddle sores and was really uncomfortable throughout the neutral section of the race. The stage was full gas from km 0 and I remember spending a large chunk of the first 70km hanging on to last position in the peloton thinking that it was the end of my journey. I had to really battle through that day and was very relieved when I made it to the finish line. There were two high points in quick succession of each other. They came on stage 20 and stage 21. Stage 20 was the brutal stage finishing on the Angliru. I had really good sensations that day and finished in a reasonable position which was very satisfying at the end of my first grand tour. The second high point was being in the breakaway on the final stage in Madrid. I feel as if it really made the feeling of finishing the grand tour sink in. I had time to take in the atmosphere while being out the front with the added motivation that my girlfriend was waiting for me at the finish.
PEZ: What was your hi-lite of 2017?
I think the highlight was finishing the Vuelta. I didn’t have any spectacular results throughout the season, but I think that making it to the finish of a grand tour was something I’ll always remember.
PEZ: Overall were you happy with your season?
In general, I was very pleased. I managed to enjoy almost all of the season and learnt so much. Keeping it fun was really important and I think if I can maintain happiness with the sport than I can continue for a long time.
PEZ: You went home for the winter, what do you get up to?
I guess you could say that I got up to ‘normality’. I have a very close group of friends who I went through school with and I always love spending time with them. Lizzie came back to Australia with me too, which meant I got to show her a few Aussie experiences. I’m privileged in the way that my friends have some cool toys, like big 4×4’s and jet ski’s. We did a lot of driving up and down beaches, some camping, fishing, jet skiing and all sorts of other things. It’s such an important time for me, it reminds me that there is so much more going on in the world and I just love seeing how well the people I grew up with are doing and that I can still be a part of their lives even if it is for a limited time each year.
PEZ: No Nationals?
No nationals for me, that’s correct. As you can see from the list above, I was pretty busy with keeping occupied off the bike that racing the Nationals didn’t really cross my mind. It’s by no means saying that I don’t ride my bike when I’m in Australia, but under my current circumstances, I feel that to be well prepared for races that the team focuses on, skipping the January racing works out better for me. I’d love to have a crack at the Nationals one day but I want to have a real desire to go there, rather than just making up numbers. I feel that out of respect to the race, I should go there with the mind set of trying to perform at my absolute best.
PEZ: Your early 2018 programme took you from the Etoille to Oman – that’s a big temperature difference.
Sure, it was a big temperature change but, I liked that program. It meant that I got to see a different place and experience a different culture all while getting in some quality racing. It was a good workload to kick me into some shape and really set me up for the races that followed.
PEZ: How was The Tour of Catalunya? – I remember you found it pretty savage last year.
Last year Catalunya was the first time I was exposed to World Tour racing. It was a big eye opener. This year, it was nice to go back and see that I am progressing. I felt like I ‘raced’ Catalunya this year rather than the ‘surviving’ of last year. That’s probably the best way to sum it up.
PEZ: What’s the programme now?
I will race Amorebieta on the weekend and then head to Tour of Croatia. I think that after Tour of Croatia I will have a few days off the bike and then race the Rhone Alpes Isere Tour to get back into the swing of things. Following that, I am unsure of specific races, but it is generally a busy time of year. I’d like to go into that period with a fresh and motivated body, ready to go.
PEZ: Is there anyone in the team you look at as a mentor and do you have a coach?
There are many experienced guys on the team. Sergio Pardilla is a prime example. He seems to chip away and is quite consistent throughout the season. He is also very relaxed and just nice to be around. I do feel that I can learn something off every rider in the team though. Whether they be younger or older. Everybody has a slightly different way of doing things and I always want to learn. So, I’m not just looking to the senior riders for advice, I’m looking to everyone – I’m like a sponge. My coach is Ian Melvin. We have worked together for a long time. I think since 2011. He has been a part of this journey through my days in France and has always been there to keep my head on. He’s far more than just a coach to me. He’s my mentor and my motivator. He is a coach who sees much further than just the numbers and that’s so important to me.
PEZ: How’s the Spanish and Catalan coming along?
My Spanish is improving a lot. I’m far more at ease than I was last year and I think that is really improving my quality of life at the races. It’s nice not having to guess the daily schedule and extra nice being able to express myself in race briefings or on the massage table. I would like to nail the Spanish side of things before I learn Catalan, so it’s on hold.
PEZ: Are you still in Girona – who do you train with?
I still live in Girona, that’s right. Training buddies can vary from day to day. That’s the beauty of this place. There are so many guys here that you can pretty much have company for a ride whenever you’d like it. There’s certainly no exclusive group that I ride with. I’m basically down to ride with anyone if their banter is good.
PEZ: I believe the social side of Girona is cool?
It is really great here. I’d say it’s the best thing about Girona. The vibrancy of the place is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. There is always something going on in this town and it’s great to keep the mind occupied off the bike. The coast isn’t far away which always makes for a nice lunch trip in the summer too.
PEZ: What are the goals for 2018?
The goals are pretty similar to always. I want to keep progressing. Keep working hard and hopefully the results will come because of that. It’s nice to get some confirmation over the weekend at GP Indurain that my training is paying off. Other than that, I want to enjoy it. We as cyclists are very lucky to have this as our job, so I want to make the most of it every day.
You can catch up with the Caja Rural-Seguros RGA on the team’s website HERE.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,600 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.