Wanaka’s Mikayla Harvey will be the first of the Vantage Cycling New Zealand team in action when the re-arranged UCI Road World Championships begin in Italy overnight.
The 22-year-old, who turned cycling heads with a top-five finish in the Giro Rosa last week where she won the young rider classification, will join Commonwealth Games medallist Georgia Williams in the women’s individual time trial. The pair will be joined by 21-year Niamh Fisher-Black for the weekend road race.
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the championships were hastily re-arranged for Imola in Italy after the original hosts in Switzerland were unable to stage the event under Covid regulations.
Accordingly, the championships have been reduced to elite races only with individual time trials for elite women overnight (NZ Time) and men on Saturday, while the road races are on Sunday (elite women) and Monday (elite men).
Harvey won plaudits in the nine-day Giro Rosa that finished on the weekend - the major event on the women’s professional calendar. The Équipe Paule Ka rider, in her second year on the women’s World Tour, won the young rider category and was fifth on general classification.
“I was really motivated to go for the young rider jersey,” said Harvey. “What surprised me more was coming fifth on GC. It was such a surreal feeling being there and racing with those top girls. The result on stage eight coming third was the most incredible day I have had on the bike. I ended up dropping so many great climbers and fighting for a podium was an amazing feeling.”
With only a few days rest, she is aiming to continue her progress with strong performances at Imola.
“Recovery after the nine days of racing was super-critical. As soon as the racing was over then boom it hits you and I was super-tired. I’ve spent a lot of time doing yoga, massages, eating well and doing some light rides, and getting as fresh as possible and in a nice healthy head-space ready to rock and roll tomorrow.”
Harvey has long term ambitions for the time trial but this week she feels that she and the three-strong Vantage New Zealand women’s team are more suited to the road race.
“I haven’t been specifically focussing on the time trial but it is definitely an event in the future that I want to get a podium in. I have Olympic aspirations for the time trial so tomorrow will be a good learning experience.
“I am excited for the road race. The course looks super-challenging but it will suit me. I am keen to play a nice part in the race and be competitive. I will be fighting for a podium spot.”
While Harvey, her World Tour teammate Fisher-Black and Williams are a small team, Harvey thinks it can play to their advantage.
“We can hide in the peloton and other teams won’t be looking for us. We can more easily get into breakaways or sit and hide in the bunch until the finale and we can start launching. We won’t be able to control the race but we can definitely play an important role.”
Tomorrow’s time trial is 31.7km on a largely flat and fast course with just 200 metres of total altitude gain and will be also used for the men.
It differs significantly to the road races on a challenging course with the men over 260km with 5000m of climbing, and the women over 144km with 2750m of climbing, based around a 29km circuit with the start and finish on the famed motor race circuit at Imola.
Harvey, who travelled back to New Zealand for lockdown, is excited at the prospects after a challenge to get her way back to Europe for the compressed World Tour cycling season.
“When I came home, I thought the whole season would be over. Now I have ridden the Giro and now riding at the worlds which is amazing because a few months ago I didn’t think it would happen.”
Harvey is fifth rider off, with Williams 30th in the 51-strong women’s field with top seed and defending champion Chloe Dygert (USA).
The Vantage New Zealand team is:
Female: Niamh Fisher Black (Équipe Paule Ka, Nelson), road race; Mikayla Harvey (Équipe Paule Ka, Wanaka), road race and time trial; Georgia Williams (Mitchelton-Scott, Auckland), road race and time trial.
Male: Patrick Bevin (Team CCC, Te Awamutu), road race and time trial; George Bennett (Team Jumbo Visma, Nelson), road race; Dion Smith (Mitchelton-Scott) road race; Finn Fisher-Black (Jumbo-Visma) road race, time trial.
CAPTION: Mikayla Harvey on the podium at the Giro Rosa. (Photo: Equipe Paule Ka)