The Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team is proud to announce that Nikki Harris is the squad’s fifth returning rider for the 2017 season. The 29-year-old will continue to race a dual programme that includes a full cyclocross and road schedule.
“Both the team and I see the combination of ‘cross and road as not only manageable but also mutually beneficial if balanced well,” said Harris. “I was a little nervous going into the road season this year after a heavy ‘cross season, but the team managed the transition really well. I’m hoping for the same scenario when I transition back onto the ‘cross bike.”
Having finished in fourth place at the 2015 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor (Czech Republic), followed by fifth place at the 2016 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder (Belgium), Harris has emerged as one of the top-ranked cyclocross riders in the world, but when Boels-Dolmans signed the Briton last fall, she was an unknown entity on the road.
Harris immediately showed her natural talent in the spring classics and her eagerness to learn from her more experienced teammates. She was a last minute call-up to her first race of the season, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and played an integral role in Lizzie Armitstead’s win. One week later, she rode solo off the front at Strade Bianche, setting Armitstead up for her second victory of the season.
“We threw Nikki in the deep end because we knew she would have the engine from cyclocross to handle the demands of the spring,” said team manager Danny Stam. “Nikki is a quick learner, and we wanted to use the shape she had from her ‘cross season. We knew immediately she had a good feeling for road racing.”
“I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but in hindsight, what I was able to do at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was quite special,” said Harris. “I jumped into my first classic ever with only a bit of notice and was able to make a key contribution to the team’s win and also finish in the first group on the road. Looking back, I’m quite proud of that.”
“It’s been quite a big change for me coming from a ‘cross only team, but I couldn’t be happier with how things are going,” added Harris. “We have a great bunch of riders and staff who fit well together. It’s a really nice atmosphere both on and off the bike. Everyone knows her role and has a great work ethic. Re-signing with the team was a natural decision. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Harris elected to focus on the road with an eye on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She’s on a short-list of around a half dozen riders in contention to support Armitstead’s bid for gold and glory.
“I wanted to give it a really good shot and put everything into making the team,” noted Harris. “My goal is to make the team, and racing a full road season was the obvious option to give myself the best shot at that.”
“I’ve been able to play a really strong role in the majority of my races, and the results we have had as a team whilst I’ve been there can only be a testament to that,” Harris added. “I’m starting to relish the harder races when the field is whittled down, and I’m excited about the possibility of making it to Rio and doing the same job for Lizzie that I’ve been doing all season.”
Rio or not, a renewed contract signals Harris’ intent to continue her commitment to racing on the road. She’s having too much fun and learning too much about strengths on the road to make this season of road racing her one and only.
“I started the season not knowing what I could expect from myself,” said Harris. “I learned pretty quickly that I am capable of performing in the biggest races on the road, and I’m in the perfect environment to do that with this amazing group we have.”
“Nikki learned very quickly how to be a part of the team,” said Stam. “It’s completely new to her from ‘cross where you are an individual. She has shown herself to be one of the best teammates. We’re very happy to have her continue with us.”
Harris’ signing follows the announcement that Boels Rental and Dolmans Landscaping Group have extended their sponsorship through at least the end of 2018. Stam, Armitstead, Chantal Blaak, Christine Majerus and Amalie Dideriksen have all recently renewed their contracts through the 2017-2018 seasons.