Feature – High Flying Cross Rider Nikki Harris


Talking to Nikki Harris ahead of the first World Cup round at Cauberg in Holland at the start of her sixth international cyclo-cross season

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Feature – High Flying Cross Rider Nikki Harris

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By Colston Crawford | Link to story in Derby Telegraph

NIKKI Harris launches her sixth season of international cyclo-cross competition in earnest tomorrow with the first World Cup round at Cauberg in Holland. At 27, the Draycott girl, who has largely made Belgium her home, along with her fiancé, top road racer Matt Brammeier, has been racing for two thirds of her life.


After a breakthrough season at world level last year, the girl who has been endearingly called “Derbyshire’s Queen of Cycling” is close to her peak years in the sport. Tomorrow’s World Cup race is the first of six rounds and the extra spice to it this year is that – for the first time ever – a World Cup round comes to England.

Milton Keynes will host the third round on November 29 and, undoubtedly, the success of Harris and British number one Helen Wyman over several recent seasons has contributed much to the international body, the UCI, including this country in their schedule of races this time.

The pair have been consistently in the top five for the last two years and a first-ever World Cup race win at some point during the series may not be beyond Harris’s compass this time around. To put things in context, prior to last season, she had not won a major race on the senior international circuit. Last season, she won one right at the start and followed it up with several more.


At Ronse last weekend

Did she feel she, to some extent, “arrived” last year? “Yes definitely,” said Harris. “It was my fifth season doing cyclo-cross internationally last year and I think it was a year where everything started to come together”.

“I think, in sport, it’s always about trial and error and learning your discipline. At some point or another, if you do something for long enough, I think you start to see the benefits of the years of hard work finally paying off. You become more confident with training and racing, learn what works for you and get to know what routine works. For sure, last season, I felt that had begun to happen.”

Perhaps surprisingly, although she starts the season injury-free – and that has not always been the case – Harris says she is not in her best shape. Rather, that is something she will build towards. “I wouldn’t say I was going into the season in great shape,” she said. “I’m happy with my form at the moment but I will build on that over the next few weeks and months”.

“I had a good solid summer and, at the moment, I have a good level of base fitness, so every week I will top that up with high intensity training, races and running to get me into top shape for when the races arrive in which I want to be achieving top results.”

In terms of targets, Milton Keynes is obviously in her mind – but she also feels she could be ready to reach the podium in the one-off 2015 World Championship race, which will be in the Czech Republic at the end of January 2015.

In February this year, she recovered from an early crash to finish fifth at Hoogerheide, Holland, while Wyman landed a bronze medal for Britain. “Rather than having one major goal, I usually break the season down into chunks and pick times where I aim to do big blocks of training and then choose times where I will taper into a block of races where I would like to be going my best,” said Harris.

“Obviously, as every year, a World Championships podium place would be a major achievement. “It’s something that I now see as being possible with a little bit of luck and some good legs – it doesn’t seem far away. The European and National Championships are also two races I want to be in good shape for, along with the various World Cups – a major one being Milton Keynes.

“That’s something I really look forward to.”


The season has already included three races for Harris, with mixed fortunes – although that is four if you count a nostalgic outing at Sherwood Pines in the Notts & Derby Cyclo-cross League, where it all started for her, last month, when she was at home visiting her family. Following a bout of illness, she was fourth the first time out in Belgium, then missed a week before taking on the first double-header weekend of the season on the continent.

“On the Saturday, I was racing for the win but made a few tactical mistakes and came away with third, which I was happy enough with,” she said. “The following day I was leading the race in Ronse (in Belgium) which I had won last season, when I had a mechanical with two laps to go which left me running half the course, so that was kind of race over.”

“I finished but it was disappointing. As always, that’s something you have to deal with in cross. You always need that bit of luck.”

It helps that she is now embarking on a fourth season with the same Belgium-based team, Telenet Fidea, and her assessment of that is one of a settled and focused athlete. “I’ve been with Telenet Fidea for three seasons now and at the end of last year I signed with them up until 2016,” she added. “It’s nice when a team has faith in you like that, to be able to give you a job in cycling for more than a one-year contract”.

“In terms of a set-up, there isn’t really any other team that offers that kind of set-up for cross. I’m happy there.”

Good luck to Nikki for the winter.

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