Vélo Pro: A green and gold Liv Langma for Australian champion Nicole Frain

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New Australian National Road Champion Nicole Frain is not yet a household name for many cycling fans, but that may soon change. Breaking into elite cycling just three years ago, the Tasmanian made her mark with a late solo attack at this year’s Australian National Road Championships which earned her the green and gold jersey for the coming season .

Racing for Australia’s only UCI women’s continental team, Roxsolt-Liv-SRAM, Frain will soon represent the Australian champion’s jersey in a number of European UCI level 1.1 and 1.2 races, before heading to the vibrant stage of the criteria in the United States.

Here we take a look at Frain’s freshly painted Liv Langma Pro race bike and get to know the newcomer a little better.

A meteoric rise in Roubaix

Nicole Frain is quick to say that her journey in cycling is different from the norm. Prior to cycling, Frain followed sports that fit his role as a product developer for Australian sports supplement company, Bulk Nutrition.

“I did several years of life in the gym, because my work is in the space of the gym, but I got fed up with the aesthetic side of it. The work sponsored a triathlon and I loved the physical feeling of achieving something with my body, so I pursued triathlon for a year,” Frain said.

During that year, Frain suffered stress fractures in his foot and hip. “Run and I disagree. I stopped that and a friend encouraged me to go full into the bike stage – that was in 2018/19. I don’t even climb stairs anymore,” laughs Frain.

Living in Hobart, Frain soon found herself on the Tasmanian Institute of Sport (TIS) women’s cycling team and with big goals for time trials and road races. The following year it was the Sydney University-Staminede National Road Series team, then at the end of last year it was a traineeship with the WorldTour team Tibco – SVB.

This internship at Tibco quickly led to Frain’s WorldTour debut during the first edition of Paris-Roubaix. “It was a bit surreal,” Frain recalls of competing in the first women’s edition of the legendary race.

“I think it was really different from other races, in that everyone was nervous. It wasn’t like it was my first WorldTour race and I’m personally nervous because it’s my first in a big peloton in Europe. Everyone was nervous because there was all this nervous energy and expectation and hype for women. In general, some of the seasoned pros were feeling the pressure and what the race meant,” Frain explained “It was a different energy than what the other races felt. Subsequent runs felt cooler and I felt more comfortable in my abilities.

Even before he started with Tibco, Frain had a confirmed run with Roxsolt for 2022, a team that seems keen to develop riders for the next stage in the sport. After getting a taste as a trainee, Frain still has his sights set on a WorldTour ride.

First custom painted bike

Last week, the new Australian champion received a bespoke painted version of the team’s Liv Langma Advanced Pro. This is Frain’s very first custom painted bike and the final design was a surprise until the day of delivery. “Peta (Mullens) did business with Sun Graphics (Melbourne-based bike painter) and Liv,” Frain said. “The little personal touches were my input, but that’s about the only input I had.”

These personal touches include a small Tassie emblem on the downtube, the “why not” quote and “#FrainTrain” painted on top of the seatstay bridge.

“The Tassie is where I come from. Of all the trips I’ve taken, it remains one of my favorite places to ride and train – which is great because it’s my home.

“The ‘why not’ is because I’m a big proponent of concepts and quotes like ‘you don’t know unless you ask’, ‘you don’t know unless you try’, and that sort of thing A lot of these quotes were getting too long, and so “why not” just shortens them.

“People often say you can’t do something but I ask why not, what’s the worst that can happen if you try and fail? I’m a big advocate for that because it’s something I have met a bit later in the sport. In 2019 I told people I wanted to be on the national team for events like the Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Ocean Road Race, and some people said I wouldn’t be on those teams. Also some people say I can’t jump into WorldTour that fast, and again I’m asking why not? People are defined by those pathways and I feel like create my own way, so this quote is quite personal to me.

“The #FrainTrain is just a bit of fun. (Matthew) Keenan seems to like to say it in the commentary, while Matt Gilmore (Head Cycling Coach at TIS) who has been with me from the start has always used it as a nickname.

#FrainTrain

Frain had just returned to Hobart when we spoke and had only done a few rides on the new race bike.

“It’s really cool, and I’m going to ride, and I’m going to think, do people know what this bike is?” Frain said in response to what it’s like to ride a bike covered in the national champion’s colors. “The bike gives me the same feeling when I look down and see the golden jersey sleeves, and I just think, wow, that’s pretty cool.”

While the regular team bike is now the backup practice and race bike, Frain planned to show off the custom machine in a few of the local Hobart bands. And a few days later there was the Kunanyi (Mt Wellington) Challenge, a popular annual club race held on Frain’s doorstep.

“I want to give him a boost on the climb.” said the local of the mountain for which she already had the QOM. Frain mentioned that she aims to break the one hour mark and thus join an illustrious club that includes names such as Nathan Earle and Richie Porte.

Looking at Frain’s rapid rise, it’s easy to see how many different bikes she’s ridden in such a short time. And the changes to the new gear don’t seem to bother the Tasmanian too much. “I take a ‘get what you’re given’ attitude to my bikes. We receive this material from our sponsors and we have an obligation. [Plus] it’s high end so it’s always going to be good. The exception to this is where Frain thinks the minor percentage points matter the most—”on my time trial bike, I get more temperamental.”

Frain says switching from Shimano to SRAM was quick to learn.

All of the sponsored riders generally speak positively of the gear they’re on at the time, but Frain seemed genuinely happy with the team’s only road-racing model, the Langma Advanced Pro Disc. “I started on a Liv back when I joined TIS, the women’s racing team. I’ve actually always loved Liv bikes, and it’s not even a sponsor, it’s just that I love the geometry and they have always been one of my favorite bikes to ride.

As the team name suggests, Frain’s race bike is built with a SRAM Red AXS groupset, Quarq power meter and Zipp wheels. The bike is pictured with a pair of new 454 NSW wheels, but Frain usually trains and races on 303 Firecrest wheels with tubeless tires. The handlebar tape is from Tasmanian brand Burgh and the tires are Pirelli.

So how did Frain compete in the annual Kunanyi Challenge on the All-New Bike? Well, there is now a new QOM time to beat, a time good enough for 4th place overall for the day, but a frustrating 44 seconds away from dropping below the 1 hour mark. “So painfully close to an elite club – it was a headwind [for the] last 3 km. Next time,” laughed Frain.

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