• Neve Bradbury of Roxsolt-Attaquer (Neve_Bradbury)Source: Neve_Bradbury
From the height of the Melbourne coronavirus lockdown to the roads of Europe, Neve Bradbury has arguably spent the months of isolation in a more beneficial manner than anyone else.
Jamie Finch-Penninger

21 Dec 2020 - 6:32 PM  UPDATED 21 Dec 2020 - 6:38 PM

It wasn't a long effort in the works or the conclusion of a grand masterplan, but rather a message from friend and fellow cyclist Kerry Jonker that set Bradbury on the path to winning the Zwift Academy. The Zwift Academy again had as its prize a professional contract on Canyon-SRAM, a swift springboard to the WorldTour for riders across the world with Jonker keen that Bradbury take a shot.  

"Kerry sent me a message," recounts Neve Bradbury in an interview with SBS Cycling Central. "'Are you doing it?' I said that I hadn't thought about it, maybe, all right. So I gave it a go. In Melbourne, we were in lockdown and I couldn't ride outside much. It was a plus-plus situation, if I get in then that's just a bonus.

"During lockdown, I did a lot of training on the ergo as we couldn't ride further than a five-kilometre radius. I was doing a lot during lockdown, then lockdown finished and then Zwift Academy started."

Bradbury faced a tough challenge from New Zealander Kate McCarthy in the Zwift Academy final, with the police officer from across the Tasman finishing just behind Bradbury in the points race, her 17 points just behind the Australian’s 18.

In the final time trial, Bradbury lurked behind McCarthy on the flat portion, before jumping away on the two kilometre ascent to the line where her significant climbing abilities came to the fore. The Victorian powered away and posted a 20-second win.

When it was announced that Bradbury had won, the 18-year-old looked full of emotion and couldn’t take the smile off her face.

"To be honest, it's still sinking in," said Bradbury. "It's 24 hours later and I'll be getting paid to do what I love, riding my bike. It's surreal.

"The idea of racing as a professional has always been something that I've wanted. Only now did I really think it was possible. I didn't think I'd be a pro at 18 years of age. It's been something... like since I was 12 years old that I've wanted this."

Bradbury was just off a tough set of races at the National Road Series in the Tweed with Roxsolt-Attaquer, where she won the sixth day of competition into Mooball, skipping away up the final climb and winning solo comfortably. Her win and other top results helped her Roxsolt-Attaquer team win the overall National Road Series title.

Nicknamed 'Nifty', Bradbury has been on the Roxsolt-Attaquer squad for two years now, a period that has seen her develop into one of the class climbers of the domestic scene, with the experienced riders and positive atmosphere of the squad something that Bradbury credits with her development.

"Roxsolt have given me the experience that I've needed to get to where I am," said Bradbury. "Kelvin (Rundle, team founder and part-owner) is very generous and he's the reason Roxsolt exists. They're like a family rather than a team to me, it's really nice having them behind me."

"We were in Tweed Heads racing the NRS and they all knew before me that I was going to be in the top five (the Zwift Academy final). I don't know how they kept it a secret, but it was a really good job on their part. It was really cool."

Bradbury's young career has been hitting progressively higher peaks against elite riders after a series of impressive showings in the junior ranks.

"This year was my first year where I could train properly," said Bradbury. "Last year I was in school, this year I was at uni. Because it was all online it meant that I could train pretty much however long I wanted to. Next year will be the same, I'll be studying online overseas which will be a bit harder."

Bradbury studies Exercise and Sport Science at Deakin University which she says ties in well to her cycling, though keeping up studies in concert with finding her feet in her new European base in Girona for 2021. 

Neve will be following a family legacy with her elevation to the WorldTour, achieving something her father Haydn, a very good cyclist in his own right, didn't back in his time as an elite cyclist. 

"Yeah for sure," said Bradbury. "Dad's super happy for me. He didn't end up going pro on the road as he wanted to start a family and whatnot but he's so excited for me.

"Mum and Dad have been driving me around to races since I was 12 years old, they're a huge influence on my riding and the reason that I'm doing it."

Bradbury is a keen follower of the sport, Zwift were happily sharing a picture of Bradbury as a young girl with idol and Australian star Tiffany Cromwell, who she'll be riding alongside in 2021. The adjustment of racing against some of her childhood heroes is something that will take some time for Bradbury.  

"I'm for sure going to be fan-girling for a while," she said. "I'm not sure what races I'll be doing but I'll be looking to help out the team as much as I can. Just getting used to the big peloton, getting some experience."