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Cyclo-cross specialist Nikki Harris has described her selection for the 2012 UCI Road Race World Championships as a bonus, but will be hoping for improved fortunes in comparison to her last outing at the event in which she suffered a broken collarbone.
In 2009, Harris started the race in a similar fashion as she will this year – with her cross season one week away and riding in support of Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke. But three years ago her race ended early when she took a turn too quickly, resulting in a crash, broken collarbone and the disruption of her off road priority for the winter.
Three years on and as Harris prepares to re-run 2009 – albeit hoping for a more favourable ending – she believes she is a different athlete.
This newfound confidence was born at the British road race championships – a performance that would impress selectors and even turn her thoughts to the possibility of racing road more frequently through the year.
Describing the process of gaining selection, Harris explained her locality to the event was also a factor.
“I knew at the start of the year that the road world championships were only an hour away from where I stay in Belgium for the cyclo-cross season. I had it in the back of my mind that it would be good to do as the cross season doesn’t start until the week after the road worlds. So it seemed like a good thing to speak to the team about and see if I could play a part in it.
“I had quite a good ride at the British road championships, I felt really strong, like I could sit with the girls and that gave me a real confidence boost, so there may be some opportunities for me in the future from that kind of ride. It made me think maybe I do want to do a bit more road. Obviously my focus still lies with cross but it would be nice to do more road in the future.”
Harris’ thoughts were further reinforced after seeing the success of the Great Britain team at the Olympic Games – and while there has been suggestions for cyclo-cross to become a winter Olympic sport, little progress has been made – leading Harris to think differently about future opportunities.
“After seeing how big the Olympic Games were, it made me think about Rio 2016. As the Games were approaching I had a few thoughts, the ‘what if’, but I’d made my choice to stick with cross. I think it’s so hard to focus on so many disciplines and be good at all of them, so cross gave me something to focus on.
“I decided a few years ago I wanted to go down the cross route, but as your body changes and your strengths develop in different areas, you think of other disciplines where you could also go well. I’ve changed a bit as a rider. I’d really like to do some of the classic races, like Flanders, on the road and maybe I could see myself doing quite well in them in the future.”
Right now though, Harris’ focus must be on the world championship road race, which holds its own uncertainties.
“ I’ve been training through almost the whole summer, I’ve not done much racing, so it’ll be a bit different going straight into a race situation. I think I’m in quite good shape so whatever the outcome, it’s a bonus for me being here, it’s nice to do before the cross season comes in.
“Emma’s going really well at the moment and I’m sure I can do a good job and play a strong part in the team and hopefully try and get them a good result.”
Follow British Cycling for live text commentary of the 2012 UCI Road World Championships.