While their Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team teammates head for the Spanish sunshine for their second pre-season training camp, Nikki Brammeier and Christine Majerus will pin numbers on home soil as each looks to mount a national title defence.
Majerus is a 24-time Luxembourgish champion across three disciplines (‘cross, road, time trial). She hopes to add a title to her impressive tally in Schengen on Saturday.
“In sport, nothing can ever be taken for granted, especially in cyclocross where everything can happen,” said Majerus. “You can have a mechanical, get sick the day before because weather is miserable or simply have a bad day on race day. All of this means that, no matter how many titles I have won, nationals is an exciting race day for me.”
Brammeier races in Bradford on Sunday where she aims for her third elite cyclocross title. Since 2010, the British National Championships have been a two-woman race between Brammeier and Helen Wyman (Kona), but Wyman remains sidelined with injuries sustained in the crash both she and Brammeier were involved in at the European Cyclocross Championships in late October.
“The focus is still on the Worlds, so I haven’t backed off my training too much, but I won’t be going into the Nationals super tired,” said Brammeier. “Wearing the British champs jersey is always a big goal, every year, and I will be doing everything I can to retain my title.”
Weather conditions are expected to play a major role in both races. Brammeier hopes for mud in Bradford.
“It’s pretty heavy and hard going if it’s bad conditions, so I’m hoping for those conditions,” said Brammeier. “The last time I raced there in 2013, I won the national title.”
Majerus predicts a fast but technical race at the new national championship venue Schengen.
“I won’t look at the course until Saturday morning,” Majerus said. "The weather has been changing so much these past few days in Luxembourg that I don’t necessarily see the use of riding on it until the day itself because it will be different again by the weekend.”
“Basically it’s a flat area alongside an artificial lake,” she added. “Yesterday was snow, today was deep mud, tomorrow it’s going to freeze, so I guess on Saturday, we’ll have a frozen lap with frozen lines.”
While racing for a national title is hugely motivating, National Championships weekend offers other benefits. What do Brammeier and Majerus see as the biggest advantage?
“Of course it’s the local support,” said Brammeier. “I started my career doing cyclocross at such a young age and still have many friends back at the UK ‘cross scene, so catching up with all of them and hearing them cheer me on is always pretty cool."
“There’s no travel stress and there are plenty of known faces,” said Majerus. “This year the Nationals are on a whole new lap, so I can’t say that is an advantage. It will be new for everyone.”
Majerus' will start her race on Saturday at 2.02PM, with Brammeier's race on Sunday, 1.15PM GMT.