• Schultz wins on the summit finish of Stage 7 at the Tour de l'Avenir (Cycling Australia)Source: Cycling Australia
Promising Australian rider Nicholas Schultz (SEG Racing/Orica-BikeExchange) claimed the biggest win of his young career when he soloed to victory at Val d'Isère et Valmeinier, on the penultimate stage of the Tour de l'Avenir.
Cycling Central

27 Aug 2016 - 10:56 AM 

After a fast an aggressive start to the day's Schultz was part of an early attack that formed behind solo escapee Ole Forfang (Joker-Byggtorget). 

He was joined by Gabriel Cullaigh (Great Britain) and Nico Denz (AG2R-LaMondiale) who managed to ride across to Forfang with Anders Skaarseth (Joker-Byggtorget) and Schultz soon joining them.

Schultz summited the penultimate climb of Col de Beaune first but it was Skaarseth who went solo on the descent.

At the bottom the final climb Schultz was 30 seconds behind but was soon with the Norwegian on the early slopes. With the catch made Schultz powered on solo building his advantage every kilometre he rode.

After a hard day of climbing in the French Alps the peloton split as the general classification (GC) battle began. With Western Australian riders Jai Hindley and Michael Storer in 8th and 9th position overall coming into the stage, it wasn't just the battle for the stage win that drew attention from Australian fans.

An acceleration from the peloton saw Hindley and Storer find themselves temporarily out of position in a split. Superb teamwork from Lucas Hamilton, who had been sick in the earlier stages of the race, allowed Hindley and Storer to return to the main GC group as they fought to maintain their GC position.

As Schultz hit the five kilometre to go mark he held a 30 second advantage on a chasing Adrien Costa (United States) and over a minute on a group containing Hindley, David Gaudu (FDJ), Matteo Fabbro, Edward Ravasi (both Italy) and Egan Bernal (Androni-Giacattolli).

With two kilometres remaining Costa hit the wall and was caught by Hindley, Ravasi, Gaudu and Bernal but Schultz still maintained an advantage of over a minute.

Despite the tempo from behind there was no stopping the Queenslander as he continued to set his own furious pace up the climb, soloing to the stage victory one minute and 24 seconds ahead of Gaudu in second, with Hindley rounding out the top three.

Hindley strengthened his position on GC in the process, moving up the sixth overall and to top it off, the Jayco World Tour Academy team now holds an 18 minute advantage in the teams classification.

"This victory means so much to me," said Schultz. "I've worked really hard to get to where I am and to be repaid with a win atop of a mythical climb, I couldn't be happier.

"For years, I've been chipping away and this season everything seems to be coming together. I have so many people to thank for their help and support over the years."

"First and foremost my family and close friends, the staff and team members of SEG Racing Academy and Cycling Australia and my first European team, CR4C Roanne for giving me opportunities to enjoy racing my bike," added the 21 year old who rides for SEG Racing Academy and is currently a stagiaire with the Orica-BikeExchange team.

"At the base of the final climb I tried to find a rhythm that I though I could maintain until the summit. I perhaps got a little bit excited and pushed a bit hard at first," a still ecstatic Schultz explained.

"Once I calmed down and was at the front of the race, I stuck to my guns and didn't look back. There were moments of doubt when Adrien Costa and the group of favourites just behind him were breathing down my neck but I just didn't look back and kept going.

"It wasn't until the final few hundred metres that I knew I was going to cross the line first. There wasn't a great deal of time checks coming through so I was pretty happy to get to that point and see I had held off the chase."

Schultz wasn't a part of the initial roster for the World Tour Academy, but strong results in the early part of the season, including a stage win in the Tour of Bretagne saw him picked up by Orica-BikeExchange as a stagiare for the final part of the season, racing with the squad at the Vuelta a Burgos.

Indeed, Schultz has largely worked outside the fast-track system of the academies and institutes of sport in his career to date, going to Europe and working his way up the ranks in French amateur cycling. 

"It's great to join up with them and be a part of their continued success," said Schultz. "Right now, I'm pretty tired. I was already on my hands and knees yesterday and I've taken that to a new level today.

"It will be hard to sleep tonight but I'll do everything I can to recover as well as possible and pursue the team goals tomorrow whatever they may be.

The 2016 edition of the Tour de l'Avenir concludes Saturday with a short 72 kilometre stage between Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves. With a category one climb half way in to the stage before a summit finish atop Saint-Sorlin-d’Arves the general classification battle will go all the way to the finish.