by Jonathon Ogle
For British rider Nikki Harris there has only ever been one form of cycling that she has truly fallen in love with – and that’s cyclocross.
The 23 year-old from Derbyshire, England, has decided to return to the cyclocross discipline after spending time as a track cyclist, and has signed a contract with top professional team APB Cycling, located in Belgium.
The move across Europe seems to be paying off for Harris, as she has made the best start to a season in her career. All of this is focusing on her dream of representing Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games, to be held in London.
And Harris admits that moving to Belgium and returning to the cyclocross discipline has been the best decision she has ever made.
“I was delighted when I signed my contract with APB, as it’s a top cyclocross team in Belgium.
“It is nice to be able to concentrate on just one cycling discipline, rather than spreading myself thin and doing a bit of everything,” Harris continued. “I decided I really wanted to do cyclocross professionally, so I knew I needed to move out to Central Europe really, as the support for cyclocross in Europe is crazy.
“Everywhere you go in Belgium you see cycling some way or another, it’s on the television, in the newspapers – everywhere really. You can compare the size of it to how Brits love soccer – it’s the same for Belgians and cyclocross.”
So moving out to Belgium, where cyclocross is well covered by the media, seems like it was an excellent decision for Harris, but has the move paid off?
She told Cyclocross Magazine: “The move is definitely paying off so far, and my skills on the bike have certainly improved. Throughout the cyclocross season, I’m racing week in week out with the best girls in the world and it really gets the best out of you racing against them, so you can’t help but improve. I also have a great team that looks after me and gets the best out of me on the bike.”
Moving to a new country on her own might seem quite daunting, but Harris moved out to Belguim with her boyfriend Matt Brammeier, another professional cyclist. This has made the transition a whole lot smoother for the 23 year-old.
“Matt’s been great, and he’s just signed a contract with HTC for next year which is fantastic for him, and I’m really proud. He’s already spent a few years in Belgium, so he made everything so easy for me when I relocated there. He’s a road cyclist, and has always been focused on the road. But we do often train together in our spare time, and it can get quite competitive! Let’s just say I’ve been known to push him into some mud a time or two when he comes out with me on the cyclocross bike – it’s just my way of getting him back for half-wheeling me constantly whilst we’re out training on the road!”
And while Harris is loving life as a professional cyclocross racer, she knows that the main focus is improving her skills as she gears up for the Olympics, to be held in her home country of England in 2012. “I think for every cyclist the Olympics are the dream, and doing one in your home country, well that would be something else! It would be amazing to do the Olympics, there’s a great level of GB girls racing internationally at the moment so it will be hard to be part of that team for sure, but anything can happen and it’s still two years away so we will see what happens.”
But for now, Harris is just concentrating on putting in a strong season as a foundation for her to build on, before she hopes her Olympic dream becomes a very real reality.