Ella Harris of Canyon-SRAM will line up for her first World Championship experience this year alongside Mikayla Harvey and Georgia Williams for the elite women.  As the 21 year old’s first season at the highest level comes towards an end, we caught up with her to preview Worlds and look back on 2019.

RC:  First of all huge congratulations on your World Champs selection.  How are you feeling about being selected for Yorkshire Worlds, your first World Champs?

Ella:  I’m really excited and honoured to be selected for Worlds this year. It’s been a big goal of mine since the start of my season so to be named in the team is a nice feeling and an achievement in itself for me!  Now that it’s gone from a possibility to a happening thing, I’ll admit I’m a little scared and nervous just thinking about the magnitude of the event.  Aiming to put that aside, I’m trying to treat it like just another race where I’ll give it my all and see how I go.

RC:  It’s been a completely different season this year to anything you’ve experienced before obviously with Canyon-SRAM Racing.  Tell us about your 2019 season and how your expectations of the year met with how it actually unfolded.

Ella:  When I was first awarded the contract I was so thrilled but also a little daunted and apprehensive. Obviously it is incredibly exciting to have these opportunities suddenly open up for you all at once, but also pretty overwhelming given how life changing it all is. I remember the hours that followed after being announced as the [Zwift Academy] winner and almost thinking to myself “s***, what have I just gotten myself in for.”  Being in the team environment at that stage was so foreign and surreal, and there were suddenly so many major life adjustments on the immediate horizon that I hadn’t tried to think about previously as nothing was ever certain. 

I didn’t really have any expectations for the year as it’s hard to anticipate anything when you’re diving into the complete unknown, yet somehow at the same time the year has far surpassed anything I could have ever envisaged.  I’ve competed in some amazing races, been in so many different locations, met lots of new people and made great connections. The racing itself has been surprisingly smooth to transition into largely thanks to having great team support from both staff and the riders, so I’ve been able to learn a lot very quickly and find my feet quite well in the European peloton. 

To put it bluntly, I had absolutely no clue whether I’d be able to cut it internationally as I’d seen many riders from NZ appear to struggle and lose focus with their cycling once in Europe.  I’m almost relieved that I haven’t felt as if it just isn’t working out or that I’m too out of my depth, and it’s been so awesome to experience a total mix of many different races here. Being able to recognise my own progression from the start of the year to now is definitely cool, and to actually gain a little success for myself has been totally unanticipated. 

RC:  The Colorado Classic was a huge race for you with a fantastic 4th place overall.  Tell us about that race for you and how important it was, with the Worlds so close now, to be in that kind of form.

Ella:  The Colorado Classic was quite an important race for me as the overall course suited me well and there’d be a good chance to go for my own results from the outset; an exciting but nerve wracking prospect when it’s an unfamiliar position to be in. I had quite a disrupted spell in June/July with a second broken collarbone straight after a mid season break, so I was unsure whether I’d be able to regain enough form despite really focusing on the event. 

It was excellent to get in some tough and fast racing with all the stages being pretty demanding, and the fact that I could combine the racing with an altitude camp was great in terms of worlds preparation. I flew straight from Prudential Ride London to Boulder in Colorado (1600m altitude) where I spent 10 days training, before staying in Steamboat Springs (2100m altitude) for a week before the Colorado Classic kicked off there. It was my first time staying at altitude and I was able to fit in some really quality training alongside a 160km gravel race and the tour, so I’m hoping I can reap the rewards of this well-timed and intensive block come Yorkshire. 

RC:  What can you tell us about the course and how it plays to your abilities?  And how do you see the team working together in the road race?

Ella:  I raced at the Tour de Yorkshire in early May so had a glimpse of the Harrogate finishing circuit when we rode around it back then, but I haven’t had a chance to see the rest of the course. Based off what I’ve researched and saw when racing in the area, I’m expecting it to be a very tough day in the saddle; constantly demanding with no major time for recovery. 

I know there are two major climbs in the first 100km before entry into the circuit, but I’m thinking the entirety of the course will be very undulating with no real flat sections. Normally, I can go reasonably well on the climbs so I think this aspect should be okay for me, although in saying that it is the World Championships so I expect most others to be very strong here! 

I also understand that the roads in Yorkshire can be very technical and narrow, so positioning will be incredibly important to conserve energy and to make it through safely. Once onto the Harrogate circuit it’ll become increasingly an attritional affair with the peloton whittling down through tactics and the relentless nature of the loop – the strongest will definitely rise to the top! For us as a very small team in comparison to the bigger nations, it’ll definitely be about playing our cards right, racing smart and using what we’ve got as effectively and efficiently as possible. It’ll be cool to work with the other two and learn more about the strategy when racing in a situation like this.

RC:  You’re heading into your first World Championship experience, and obviously Mikayla and Georgia have previous Worlds experience.  What is your relationship like with Mikayla and Georgia and how important to you is working with riders who have their kind of worlds experience?

Ella:  Obviously I haven’t been with Mikayla or Georgia in a team before, but through racing with them both and watching other events that they’ve competed in, I feel like I have a fair idea of their racing styles and strengths as riders.  I believe that as riders we can compliment each other nicely when working together, and that our small but mighty team will have a really positive overall vibe to transfer into racing also.

Photo: Marion Wright/RoadCycling.co.nz

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