If there’s one rider racing in the UK today who really doesn’t need an intoduction, it’s Nikki Juniper. She’s won the National Women’s Road Series three times in a row, been National Circuit Race Champion and National Masters Champion for her age group and has won most of the biggest races in the country including the Tour of the Reservoir, the Curlew Cup, the Bedford 3-Day, the Banbury Star RR and many, many more – and if she hasn’t won it, she’s probably been second or third.
Recently, Nikki and her Ford Ecoboost directeur sportif Nick Yarworth gave NS an exclusive look at the team’s roster and plans for the new season – read it here.
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
My first bike was a Raleigh mountain bike I think! My twin brother and I had matching bikes and I remember my dad taking us over the local park, my most vivid memory was of one of us riding into a tree… I want to say it was my twin but it was probably me! I got into cycling after a major knee reconstruction just before my 20th birthday (a long time ago); coming from a running background I wasn’t ready to hang up the running shoes just yet so I took up triathlon, which soon progressed to Ironman. Eight years and six Ironmans, including two World Champs, later I decided the time had come to lock the runners away and concentrate on the bike… ie, my knees where cream crackered!
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you? And what do you love most about the sport?
I love riding my bike; some people love to race but hate training, I love training and always have, racing means I can justify the hours I put into training. I love nothing more than a hard fast crit with the crowds banging the boards, it’s a party on a bike, I’ve always said that. On the other hand I like being able to bury myself up a climb or just a good hard road race, and I’m also partial to a time trial when time permits! I love so much about the sport but mainly the people you get to meet along the way, young and old, people that get you! You can be yourself, a respect for the sport you have all chosen to dedicate your life to.
Which bit of your racing kit is most important to you?
My National stripes, don’t get me wrong, I’m proud every time I pull on the team jersey but being able to say I have a National jersey is something that no one can take away from me!
What makes Ford Ecoboost unique?
That’s a tough one as every team thinks that they are unique, but I guess we don’t just look at the results or performance, we look at each rider as a whole person, everyone that we choose brings something to the team both on and off the bike. Personality is a big thing for us, and the drive to learn, improve and lay it all out there for their team mates. Plus we have a massive sponsor like Ford, who else can say that!
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
To be fair women’s cycling does seem to be getting the recognition it deserves. However, it could be better and hopefully as time passes things will become more equal.
Tell us a little about your off-season training regime. Do you have a winter bike or do you stick with your usual trainer? What’s the best way to keep motivated through the winter?
Typically, I’ll have a couple weeks off the bike spent on a beach, then a mixture of basic fitness work which is a combination of work on the bike and in the gym.
I just ride my training bike, I don’t believe in going out and purposely buying a really heavy bike, I just use whatever I have.
I remind myself that its all work towards the next season! That and a good pair of gloves and over shoes.
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2016?
Favourite race was the Tour de Yorkshire because the crowds was like nothing I have ever experienced. It was equally the hardest race!
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Optimistic. It’s going in the right direction.
There are still some people out there who think women’s racing isn’t as interesting or competitive as men’s racing. What would you say to convince them otherwise?
Come and watch a Tour series!
What are your main aims for the coming season?
Same as everyone else I guess: Tour Series, Crit Champs… National Road Race Champs – I wasn’t happy with my performance last year in the National RR Champs, I have some demons to bury with that race!
Finally, here’s the keys for the Neutral Service time machine – you can use it to go for a ride with anyone in cycling history, past or present. Who’s it going to be?
The person who paved the way for womens cycling , it can only be one person – Beryl Burton!
Previous Ten Minute interviews on Neutral Service
Rebecca Johnson – Joanne Newstead – Connie Hayes – Alice and Tom Staniford – Catherine Coley – Sian Botteley – Maddie Gammons – Gemma Sargent – Gaby Homer and Savannah Morgan – Valentina Scandolara – Alicia Speake – Meredith Miller – Anneke Prins – Giorgia Bronzini – Marijn De Vries – Heather Bamforth – Georgina Pymer – Nicola Soden – Detta Guerrini – Isla Rush – Jen Edwards – Anika Todd – Alice Cobb – Deborah John – Tanya Griffiths – Laura Morgan – Rebecca Nixon – Suzanne Deveny – Karla Boddy – Sjekkie Vos