In May, Nicole Freedman won the U.S. Olympic Road Race Trial to qualify for the Sydney Games. She entered the trials with only one race victory in 2000 and was not expected to contend for first place. But Freedman, known for her strong sprinting ability, made a bold move late in the race, attacking with 2.5 miles to go. Five other riders went with her, but she outsprinted Pam Schuster to win by slightly more than a bikelength. The Sydney Games was Freedman's first major international event. When asked about her training plans for the Games, she responded: "I think they're in September, right?" Freedman finished 10th at the 1996 Olympic Trials after only three years of racing. She says she has wanted to compete in the Olympics since she watched Joan Benoit win the marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Since December 1996, Freedman has lived in a '78 Ford Econoline van. The vehicle is parked in a friend's driveway in Palo Alto, and Freedman is allowed to use the shower and kitchen in the house. "It was cute (living in the van) at 24," she says. "I didn't picture being in it at 28." She generally goes to bed at 8:30 pm. and wakes up at 6:30 am. Her alarm? The passing CalTrain that shakes the van on its way by. Freedman has never made more than $10,000 in one year, so she uses the money that formerly went to rent to pay off $30,000 in student loans. Two years ago, her trade team, Shaklee, dropped her sponsorship, at which point she considered retirement. She also was pushed in that direction after a crash in her last race of 1998, in which she suffered a concussion and a broken thumb. She was without a sponsor until May 1999, when Charles Schwab began to sponsor a team. It wasn't until earlier in 2000 that Schwab gave her a salary in addition to providing equipment and paying her travel expenses. Her most recent part-time job was as a cycling category manager for venussports.com, an e-commerce site that caters to female athletes. The '78 Econoline has since been put up for sale.