From the Valley Beautiful and around the country, Nolan Tankersley has seen his fair share of success on the roadways.
The Unicoi County native and East Tennessee State University cyclist added another notch to his belt by earning two first place finishes in the USA Cycling National Collegiate Championship Road Race and Criterium held in North Carolina May 13 and 14.
“It was the best days of my cycling career,” Nolan told The Erwin Record on Monday, May 16. “Finishing the race and seeing my family and friends cheering me on at the finish line … I was fighting back tears.”
Nolan, along with his brother, Connor, have been on the forefront of helping the cycling scene expand locally. The home turf atmosphere, along with seeing support come for himself and other local riders over the weekend continues to show the growth of cycling in the area, Nolan said.
“My fifth grade teacher was there for the event,” he said. “It’s great to see how much cycling has grown and what it has turned into over the years.”
Nolan’s journey is one that can’t be made up. Following graduation from Unicoi County High School, Tankersley took his talents to Milligan College and aided the program by contributing to the awards won by the team.
Things didn’t stop during his time with the Buffaloes. Nolan continued his collegiate cycling career by transferring to ETSU this past year, which added an extra level of stress.
“Milligan was a recognized varsity program,” Nolan said. “Coming over to ETSU, it was more of a club team. I was put into a director position with the group, talking with teammates and other people to help grow the program. It added an extra level of pressure, but it all pays off in the end.”
Those leadership qualities and level of maturity have netted Nolan gains over the years. After taking home the Slow Ride Omnium in Johnson City in 2015, Tankersley joined Lupus Racing, a UCI Continental team, for his first year as a professional racer.
The busy attitude helped prepare Nolan for the event, he said.
“I was finishing up a race in New Mexico,” Nolan added. “I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I was feeling good after that race. I knew I was in a right spot heading into the national championships.”
Even with a burst of confidence, the day of winning the road race brought a level of anxiousness, he said.
“There’s always that bit of nervousness,” Nolan added. “You’re sitting there before the race, sizing everybody up and going through the mind games. You’re thinking about what you need to do to win.”
The road race brought its fair share of ups and downs, literally. Tankersley was able to make some headway heading into the final stretch by bursting out of the gates on a downhill slope. While discussing the race, Tankersley highlighted the accomplishments of friends Jake King and Johnny Mitchell – who ride with Liberty University and Milligan College, respectively.
But with the jockeying of position going on, Nolan saw the finish line and checked behind him to see how the competition faired.
“The rider that was behind me was checking out the field,” he said. “At that point, I knew it was do-or-die and push to the finish line.”
After the excitement from the weekend, Tankersley said that it was time for a cool down. As far as the months to come, the busy schedule kick back soon resumes.
“There will be a lot of races … a lot of them,” he added. “As far as school goes, I’m looking into heading to King University next year. It will be an experience with them being more of a varsity program. I’m excited to see what’s to come.”
Tankersley will be back racing locally when he defends his Omnium win on June 4 and 5 in Johnson City in the SweetWater IPA Omnium. The first event takes place in Elizabethton. Other races include the Mountains at the Tour of Gila in May and then the Tupelo Honey Time Trial in Erwin, which could qualify Tankersley for the Omnium at Fountain Square Criterium in Johnson City.