Muddy magic for Nikki as she storms to British title for the first time
NIKKI Harris added a magical day to her breakthrough cyclo-cross season when she became British champion for the first time yesterday.
The 26-year-old Draycott girl defied a knee injury which had kept her off the bike for a week to storm away from British number one Helen Wyman in the mud at Bradford's Peel Park.
In doing so, she ended Wyman's seven-year winning streak at the championships – a run which had seen Harris have to settle for the silver medal in each of the last three seasons, including one when the championships were held in Derby.
"Words can't describe how happy I am," said Harris, who left it until the morning of the race to decide whether she felt her knee had recovered sufficiently even to race at all.
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"Three second places – I was getting tired of second place and I really wanted to win.
"I've definitely set my stall out this year and every race I've been getting better.
"When I came to look at the course it was heavy and hard and that's good for me, so I'm made up.
"It was so nice having great support and everyone shouting on the last couple of laps. It really helped because it's not an easy course and I had to keep digging in all the time."
It was Wyman who took an early lead in the race. She was 10 seconds ahead before a slip on the third lap – and Harris was close enough to take immediate advantage.
She had a 10-second gap herself by the end of that lap and though Wyman was back into her stride, Harris had the bit between her teeth as she stretched the lead to 40 seconds by the time she crossed the line.
Gracious in defeat, Wyman acknowledged that Harris's form has been so good this year that she feared the worst when the Derby girl overtook her.
"I had a small gap and I wanted to keep the pressure on but I took a silly line on a corner and crashed," said Wyman.
"When Nikki came past me I thought 'oh no!' She's been riding so strong this year.
"I know Nikki will wear the champion's jersey with as much pride as I have for the last seven years. But she had better watch it next year!"
Both women spoke of their pride in being a big part of Britain's progress in cycling's winter discipline – only Holland are now ahead of them in the rankings.
"We're only 60 UCI points off the world number one nation, which is awesome," said Wyman.
"I'm second in the world, Nikki is fourth and Gabby Day is 11th or 12th. British women's cycling has always been good in cyclo-cross and this year it's incredible. I'm so proud to be part of it."
Harris added: "The level in Britain is definitely moving up each year and it's great for the sport."
Derbyshire's mountain bike Olympian Annie Last was largely unchallenged behind Harris and Wyman as she collected the bronze medal.
Harris's triumph completed a family double at the championships, after her father, Pete, had won the over-55s gold medal the day before at Bradford.
There was also a bronze medal in the youth (under-16) race for Matlock CC's Will Gascoyne.