PEZ Talk: New Pro Nick Schultz
Rider Interview: Young Australian rider, Nick Schultz, has been making the headlines for a few years and it was only a matter of time before a big team snapped him up. After big wins in France and his stints as stagiaire with Etixx Continental team and Orica-BikeExchange he has signed with the Spanish Caja Rural-Seguros RGA ProContinental squad for 2017. Ed Hood caught up with him to hear how it all came about.
It’s been a breakthrough season for 22 year old Brisbane rider, Nick Schultz; stage wins in the Tour de Bretagne and Tour de l’Avenir have seen him land a contract with Spanish Pro Continental squad Caja Rural-Seguros RGA for the next two seasons.
It was 2011 when Schultz first showed on the radar with a win in the Oceania Junior Time Trial Championships and there was also a silver medal on the track in the Australian Junior Points Race Championship behind a certain Caleb Ewan.
On the road there was a second place in the prestigious Italian junior race the Trofeo Emilio Paganessi behind Davide Martinelli who’s now in Etixx colors. A year later he was third in the National Junior Road race Championship and in the team which was second in the National Team Pursuit Championship.
For season 2013 he was with French team C4RC with a win in Aix-les-Bains and another for them in 2014 with a stage win in the Boucles de l’Artois. There was also a stagiaire ride with the Etixx feeder team that autumn.
In 2015 he was back with CR4C with seventh overall in the Tour de Gironde the hi-lite. But this year riding for Dutch team SEG Racing Academy saw the results take on a different complexion with stage wins in Bretagne and the l’Avenir as well as second on GC and best young rider in the Oberosterreich Rundfahrt in Austria. With icing on the cake in the form of a stagiaire ride for Orica-BikeExchange.
PEZ caught up with Schultz shortly after his last race of the year, the Japan Cup. . .
PEZ: Congratulations on the Caja Rural ride Nick, how did it come about?
Nick Schultz: Thank you.
I started 2016 with the clear goal of turning professional for the 2017 season. Basically after a stage win in the Tour de Bretagne and some consistent results following it, the team showed interest in signing me for next year. They seem to be a team that really look to developing younger pro’s and helping them learn the ropes and gain a lot of experience in a variety of different races, so in that regard, it was immediately very interesting. With help and advice from SEG, I quickly jumped on board the idea and could go into the second half of the season with the knowledge and peace of mind that I would be progressing into a team with a really good foundation behind it.
PEZ: How’s the Spanish?
My Spanish is pretty much nonexistent for the moment. It was actually a motivating factor for me to sign with the team. Since spending three years in France, I developed an interest in learning languages and cultures that are so different to that I grew up in. So, I hope that being part of a Spanish set up, where Spanish will be regularly spoken is a good way to learn.
PEZ: Will it mean a change of Euro base?
I spent 2016 based out of the SEG Racing Academy team apartment in Girona. I really like it there and will continue to live in Girona next season. I’m really looking forward to setting up base and hopefully getting settled before the season gets underway in earnest.
PEZ: When’s the first team get together?
The first camp that I will be attending with the team is in January. It’s always nice to meet and get to know the riders and staff before racing kicks off.
PEZ: How did you get into cycle sport?
When I was six, my Dad was watching the Tour de France highlights program that was shown in Australia at the time. I remember walking into the room and pretty much instantly being glued to the TV. I really bugged my parents to get a racing bike. It took a couple of weeks before they gave in. Without me knowing, Dad had done a little bit of racing when he was younger and still had a contact or two within the sport. He took me out to the track where they had a bike small enough for me to use. From there, my interest and love for the sport continued to progress and hasn’t changed.
PEZ: You were originally a track rider – why not pursue that avenue?
Up until the end of my U19 years, I was always pretty focused when the track season came around. It was nice to mix it up from the road and see a few fresh faces every year. I guess the main reason I stopped, was a loss in passion. It was perhaps induced by the repetitiveness of the training, but I had always had more of a liking when it came to being out on the road. I have some great memories from the track and I’m sure every now and then I will swing my leg over a track bike as it’s great fun – especially now that Brisbane has an indoor velodrome!
PEZ: CR4C Roanne, tell us about that club and your times there, please.
In 2013, I went across to France oblivious to what was waiting for me on all fronts. I was excited that a French team had given me an opportunity and I was ready to grab it with both hands. I quickly found myself in the deep end and was struggling to find some shallow water during my first year. In general, I was getting smashed in the races, couldn’t speak French and pretty much wanted to throw in the towel. Both the riders and staff of the team, along with my family and friends back home, were so supportive of me that I felt I should just try and make it through the year. It was during that time that I took a completely different approach to training and racing too. I wanted to enjoy my time over there and it was then that things started to click with the language and I found myself enjoying the training, the racing and most importantly their lifestyle. I became happy off the bike, which in turn, resulted in better performances on the bike; 2013 came to an end and surprisingly, I had agreed to return in 2014. I hit the ground running in 2014, improving my French all of the time and really meshing with the guys. I got some good results including a stage win on the last day of a Coupe de France tour and I think that took some of the pressure I had placed upon myself away. From there, I also spent 2015 with the team and developed a love for France that I don’t think will ever go away. The people that were around me over there are true friends and I’m sure we will catch up over the years. Without them, I probably never would have returned after my first year and would be doing something completely unrelated to cycling now.
PEZ: And you were a stagiaire with Etixx Continental – how did that go?
It was a nice opportunity to have for sure. I learnt a lot from that stint with them and it showed me that I still had a lot of work to do if I wanted to progress. I struggled a little in the races that I did with the team and that really motivated me to work hard heading into the 2015 season.
PEZ: How did the SEG ride come about and what’s the set up like?
After having a taste of the Continental level the year before, I was keen to find a team that could give me exposure to that level of racing. Eelco and Martijn Berkhout, who are the heads of SEG Cycling, had some contact with my then coach (Ian Melvin) and planned clear objectives which they believed would help me become a professional. They had a lot of focus on development and I thought it would be the best pathway for me. I can say a big thank you to them and the team that they set up. It gave me an opportunity to show myself at the continental level and learn from the great staff on the team.
PEZ: Then a stagiaire place with Orica this year – but you went to Caja Rural?
The Caja Rural-Seguros RGA contract and the Orica BikeExchange stagiaire place almost came about simultaneously. It was a perfect scenario as I could race the back half of the season knowing that a great team had a place for me, while still being able to chase a spot at OBE, who had made me aware from the beginning, that it was going to be an opportunity to gain experience and that it would be quite difficult to earn a contract following the stagiaire. Regardless of that, I was still keen to give everything in the back end of the season and put in good performances.
PEZ: This season has seen you ‘breakthrough’ with big U23 wins – why?
I think it’s down to many years of hard work. I also feel quite at home in Europe and don’t struggle with being away from home so much. Combine that with the great support around me at SEG, it allowed me to score my breakthrough ride in Tour de Bretagne. Following that win I had the confidence to race more aggressively and also the support of team mates who had faith that I could deliver results. I also continued to work really hard and made a lot of sacrifices to continue performing well and hopefully turn pro.
PEZ: Tour de Bretagne – that’s a tough race. . .
It sure is! My first participation was in 2015 with the National team and my memories of it were pretty grim. It was freezing and rained almost every day that year and we all struggled to get through. Although being incredibly tough, I got through and gained a lot of character from it. In 2016 I went back with SEG and was really ambitious to get a result there. The crowds are always incredible and they just love cycling in that region of France. Being able to speak French, I felt at home which helped. The racing was yet again really hard and as a team we were struggling to be at the top of the results sheet. It wasn’t until the final day where, with the help of the team, I was able to attack in the final kilometers and grab the stage. It was a really special way to finish that week.
PEZ: And l’Avenir too – it’s a big ‘shop window’ for the pro teams, isn’t it?
L’Avenir is really different to Bretagne. The stages are quite short and it’s a u23 race. It lends itself to really aggressive and fast racing which makes it tough. For sure, a lot of pro teams are watching the race so it was nice to perform well there.
PEZ: What’s your favorite kind of race?
I like stage races. Especially ones that lend themselves to opportunists like myself. I enjoy it when it is aggressive.
PEZ: How were the Doha Worlds?
Doha was HOT! I fell ill during the Olympia’s Tour which hindered my preparation a little bit. By the time Doha had come around I was feeling healthy again and confident that I could do a lot to help and support the team – specifically our sprinter, Jason Lowndes. As a National team, we went in with a specific goal and we were all really happy when Jason finished off the hard work with a great 6th place.
PEZ: How was the Japan Cup with Orica?
Japan Cup was incredible. The supporters were amazing, making it the perfect way to end the season. The riders are quite relaxed and the organizers looked after us well. It was my last race with the team and I still saw it as an opportunity to be like a sponge and absorb as much from the senior riders as I could. It was pretty special to be alongside the Paris-Roubaix winner too!
PEZ: Will your winter be back in Oz for the Nationals or will you stay in Europe?
I returned to Australia in the first week of November and I think I will head back to Europe at the start of January to get settled.
PEZ: And 2017 is all about. . .
Working hard, learning, progressing and most importantly – having fun! I’m really happy that Caja Rural had confidence in me and gave me a place. I hope I can repay them by being the best I can possibly be. I’m really excited for what 2017 will present!
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 1,200 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.