King Island is constantly smashed by ‘Roaring 40’ winds. And with only one stretch of sealed road, it wasn’t an ideal place for road cycling. But while on the island during his Year 9 term in 2011, Nick White regularly nagged me to come for a ride. We’d head out on that windy road and Nick would do his best not to get blown into the Bass Strait. I think he would be the first to admit that, in those days, his determination to succeed was a bigger driver for him than his raw talent. Back then, Nick was just a little kid with braces who always looked like he was riding a bike one size too big for him.
Fast forward to 2019. With a kilometre to go in the Australian Under23 cycling championships, Nick is in a small group of riders that have a break on the chasing pack. Coming into the final 300 metres he launches his sprint perfectly and crosses the line, arms aloft as the winner of one of the most competitive cycling championships in the world. He goes on to turn heads over the next few weeks, racing against household cycling names and never giving an inch. If his heart’s desire was to be an elite professional cyclist, it has been fulfilled.
But a destination is just the end point of a journey and Nick’s is one worth reflecting on. He started cycling in his primary years, when then Head of the Junior School, Roger Bade, saw the velodrome as a safe and exciting opportunity for younger students. The steep banking and riding a fixed wheel with no brakes requires students to operate well outside of their comfort zone.
In this context, Nick and his older brother, Liam (also a professional cyclist), shone. Together they share a fighting spirit and a willingness to work hard which, overtime, saw the White brothers make steady progress. While never the outstanding riders of their age groups, they kept progressing long after supposedly more talented riders had either given up or stagnated.
And the White’s weren’t the only ones who made their mark at the recent Road Race Nationals held in Buninyong.
The Clarendon community also saw Jesse Norton win the Under19 Criterium Championship on the same weekend as Liam White, Lucas Hamilton, Angus Lyons and Nick Loccandro competed. This is an incredibly disproportionate number of elite level cyclists from one regional school. It reflects that the requirements of cycling mirror much of what we hope for within our school culture – an understanding that doing your best is a worthy ambition.
From that original groups of kids, three have competed professionally over the last few weeks, all having successfully completed their VCE studies before combining study and cycling after leaving school. No one could have predicted the heights they would reach as they wobbled around the track on their first forays. But opportunity and determination have led to something special.
Nick’s Australian Championship is a victory for his brother Liam, his coaches over the years, his parents, Jenny and Gerard, the Ballarat cycling community and the Ballarat community in general. It is a victory built on the back of many small contributions and a foundation of some simple values; reward comes from effort – and effort over time can achieve amazing things.
Well done, Nick, and all our Clarendon students who keep striving to make progress in whatever endeavor they choose. May they all achieve their heart’s desire.
Written by Dean Griffin.