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An Interview with RONA's Witty Nicole Freedman
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 8/9/2002
An Interview with RONA's Witty Nicole Freedman

" I love riding my bike, I'd be out here almost as much whether or not I was a racer."
--Nicole Freedman, pro racer and member of womens pro RONA team.

I don't often start out an interview with a quote from an earlier interview, but this goes to the heart of the matter with Nicole and it is 'sympatico' with how many of us feel about cycling.

Nicole started cycling in 1993 at Stanford University. A former runner, she had early success winning the National Collegiate TTT in 1994. By 1999 she was a fixture on the podium, winning six of the most hotly contested races on the Womens National calendar including Wendys International Cycling Classic, Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, Another Dam Race, among others.

In 2000 she followed up with five podium finishes in major races and polished off the year with selection to the Sydney Olympic team and winning the USA National Road championship.

2001 followed with five wins and Nicole capped it with the USA National Criterium championship at Downer's Grove. In the Giro del Toscana (UCI 2.9.1) Campi Biscenzio stage she finished second.

This year Nicole started her season with six podium places and two victories including a May campaign with the Italian team G.S. Liguria Sports. In her own words, "I returned to racing in May to compete in Europe in the Tour of Czech Republic, May 1-5, and the Tour of Midi Pyrenees, May 7-12. I competed for an Italian team, G.S. Liguria Sports. Team Liguria Sports consists of four American riders, zero Italian riders, 1 staff member."

A finely honed sense of humour as well as a dynamic sprint make Nicole's diaries entertaining and informative. So let's hear what Miss Freedman has to say as she ramps up to defend her National Criterium Championship shortly, at Downer's Grove on August 18th.

DP: Nicole you have had a great career: US Olympics Team, US Road & Criterium champion, and numerous victories in road races and Criteriums. Is there any one race or event that is a favourite of yours? A favorite victory?

Nicole: It's really a toss up. That second in the 5th grade jump rope contest was phenomenally exciting, but then again, winning the Olympic Trials was okay. I probably would have to go with the Olympic Trials, though. I had never focused on and trained with such determination for a race. Winning the trials fulfilled a life long goal, but also gave me the confidence to know that when I truly dedicate myself to a goal I can succeed.

DP: You had a great race in the Philly Liberty Classic, coming in tenth without support. Like to tell us how the race went, riding without support against some of the best womens riders in the world?

Nicole: Actually I thought this year's Liberty race was the easiest in years. No longer a World Cup race, the Classic did not attract nearly as many under-fed European racers who typically zip up the wall faster than the rest of us could descend the wall. As usual, Saturn was dominant and predictable.

I did not really feel like I was such a disadvantage racing solo, except in terms of getting a ride from the airport to host housing and getting to the race.

DP: Is there one race where victory seems to elude you, that you have targeted to win in the future?

Nicole: Pretty much any race that climbs over a speed bump. Long term though, I do have two goals: I want to win a US National Calendar Stage race - it doesn't have to be of the HP Classic or Redlands caliber, but somewhat hard. I am sure if I look carefully, I can find a stage race that conflicts with another race in which every other US women is competing. Also, I would like to win stages or one day races in Europe.

DP: Are we going to see RONA do a campaign in Europe this year or next?

Nicole: Are you reading my mind? I can't speak for RONA as our plan is extremely top secret. But I can say the team is transitioning into European jello wrestling. The first event is Genevieve versus Lyne Bessette. You may not have noticed, but our "Little G" has been bulking up in preparation for the big event. As for myself, I would like to do certain races in Italy. I really like their pasta.

DP: You are riding the HP Classic? You have done this race before, it's a tough one with some tough climbs. Are you looking forward to it? The Boise Capitol Criterium should be right up your alley.

Nicole: Hopefully by this time you realize I was not at HP. I was busy at home getting a professional manicure and could not make it. Fortunately, RONA management was very understanding about the conflict.

DP: Nicole, I really enjoy your website and your diaries from the races. You have one great sense of humor - who did you get that from? I just want you to know when things are tough I know I can go there and just get cheered up. Thanks! I think your site reminds me that life and riding should be fun. By the way, I really liked those racy photos of Britney Spears on your site. Whew!!

Nicole: That wasn't Britney Spears, that was me. I get so annoyed when Britney tries to mimic my style. By the way, I got my sense of humor from years of laughing at myself. My friends were pretty helpful in laughing at me as well.

DP: RONA is one hell of a team, whoops sorry, one heck of a team. You look like you may be the best educated team in the Pro Peloton, men or women. I mean, look at these academic palmares:
Karen Brokel, Germany...working on her Master's Degree in Physics at University of Colorado.
Andrea Hannos, degree in Biology from two universities: Midwestern in Texas and University of British Columbia.
Melissa Holt (Meshy), a degree in Physical Education from Otago University, New Zealand.
Amy Jarvis, Mathematics degree University of Waterloo.
Manon Jutras (Canada), degree in Microbiology and Marketing.
Gail Longenecker, degree in Mathematics and a massage therapist.
Genevieve Jeanson, "le infant terrible" of the the team, is currently studying at Andre Laurendeau college in Montreal.

And Nicole, you have a degree in Urban Planning from Stanford. Some, good looking and educated, I'm impressed of course.

Nicole: Hmmm, we were just talking about that the other night. All the degrees in the world and we still couldn't figure out how to split the dinner bill and get the tip right.

DP: Nicole, with the degree in Urban Planning, when you travel do you look at the cities you are in and think of ways they could have been planned better?

Nicole: More shopping malls, more strip malls...of all the places I have seen, suburban Chicago really has done the best job in plowing down all that ugly open space and nature in favor of more strip malls. Kudos to suburban Chicago.

DP: About a year ago Indurain suggested that areas be set aside for cycling parks so young riders could have roads to train and ride. Does this sound like a viable part of a "Urban Planning?"

Nicole: I did work as a bike planner at Stanford University for a number of years. I definitely think about going back into open space planning/bike planning when I retire. I was such a wonderful employee. Everyone else would sign out to lunch with a note that they would be back in half an hour or one hour. I would sign out and come back three months later after cycling all around the country.

DP: Are there any changes you would make to the Womens Pro circuit that you think would make it more popular? Some comments I've heard is that the womens races should be longer and prizes larger.What are your thoughts on this?

Nicole: I think they should abolish the prizes. Can't we just wear a ribbon around our necks?

DP: I always expected more support for womens racing from popular womens magazines, Revlon, etc. Shoes, sure why not shoes? All the women I know seem to collect know Nicole, that vast machine that merchandises products for women only. I wonder what they are waiting for?

Nicole: A few have actually tried it. Since I have never worked for a women's products company...actually since I have never really had a job, I probably shouldn't speak for them.

DP: Is there a male or female rider who is a favorite or inspiration to you? A current favorite you follow?

Nicole: Kermit the Frog and Dede Demet. Kermit, (in the Muppet Movie) with his scrawny legs, gave us all hope that genetics alone do not make a great cyclist. Dede because she is a brilliant racer who races with more heart and guts than anyone I have ever seen.

Sad to say, when I started riding in '94 I didn't know any cyclists. I remember waiting in a long line with a friend of mine at a bike store to get some guy to sign a cycling poster. I threw the poster out minutes later when I got home. It turns out the guy was Lance Armstrong signing posters after winning the Worlds.

DP: Any advice to young riders starting out or that have the goal of making it to the top ranks of Pro Cycling as you have?

Nicole: Enjoy all sports and activities when you are young, and finish school absolutely. Women peak so late anyway, you might as well enjoy all the fun of college (I mean study very, very hard) and ramp up the cycling later as your body begins to peak.

Also, if possible, check out collegiate cycling. For many of us, collegiates were some of the most fun years ever. It is also a great place to develop your talent, meet other cyclists who are the same age and enjoy being part of a team. Plus, some schools cover all the racing expenses which means you are basically sponsored like a pro.

DP: I see you have a personal sponsor, E-Lyte, which is a drink with electrolytes. How important is it for a rider to replace his electrolytes and fluids during intense racing?

Nicole: Depends if you like to race with leg cramps or not. Guaranteed, replacing electrolytes is the most important thing you can do in conjunction with drinking water to maximize your power and endurance during races. E-Lyte has really helped me immeasurably. I received some free samples from them and noticed a huge difference. I now sit on the couch all day pouring E-Lyte over my ice cream instead of training.

I like E-Lytes in particular because it has the most pure form of electrolytes, has no chemicals or coloring, etc., and it has made a noticeable difference in my performance.

DP: You have a personal coach - Gale Bernhardt of Ultrafit. I am assuming there was a time you worked without a coach. Has working with Gale helped you prepare for races and achieve your goals? Could you tell us a little about Gale and Ultrafit and how you work with her? Is it done by e-mail as you travel during the season? When would you suggest someone get a coach?

Nicole: Gale is my dream coach. She is knowledgeable, supportive and truly cares about all her athletes. I still don't know how she does it, but before some of my largest races, she tracks me down at host families across the country to chat, give me confidence and wish me good luck. She has been intrumental in my success and achieving my goals. We talk a lot by phone and through email.

When to sign-up with a coach is not an easy question, so I will give one of those default wishy-washy answers that help nobody - when you feel like extra knowledge, structure or motivation from a professional could add more to your cycling.

I would definitely recommend Gale and Ultrafit Associates. They screen and train their prospective coaches superbly; the entire group communicates often and stays abreast of new training methods; their newsletter is extremely helpful.

DP: The National Criterium Championships...just about here. I know you're prepared and in form coming off of a stage win in The International (Tour of Toona). Any predictions or comments on your competition or the course?


Thank you, Nicole! Good luck in your bid for a second National Criterium Championship. See you at the races, hope we can do this again in the future.

For more info on Nicole, her sponsors and womens racing:
Nicole Freedman:
RONA Team:
Gale Bernhardt:
Dede Demet:
Palmares of Elite Women:

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