Meet Nikki Brammeier: Cycling Legend & Cyclo-cross Coach
Nikki Brammeier retired from her truly epic professional cycling career in February 2019.
If you haven’t already, you should take a look at her impressive wikipedia listing which shows her achievements in the sport across multiple disciplines.
Since her retirement, she’s been busy as a new mum. Her daughter was born just over a year ago and as you might expect with cyclists for parents (Matt Brammeier is Nikki’s husband), the little one is already up and active on a balance bike!
So you can imagine how delighted we were when we approached her to lead a cyclo-cross masterclass for Clancy Briggs and she said yes!
We caught up with Nikki this week to ask her all about her career highlights, being an Olympian and what it takes to be successful in cyclo-cross.
How did you get into the Cyclo-cross sport?
Cyclo-cross is such a family sport, that’s how I got into it. My dad used to do some racing, he used to do motorcross but after too many broken bones he decided to get himself a cyclo-cross bike and started having a blast round some local fields with mates. Then my brother started racing and then I followed. Mum was there as the support squad.
You spent part of your career back on the track, how did that happen?
As a young rider I did everything in all different disciplines: mountain biking, cyclo-cross, road and track as well. Then I got taken on the junior development programme for under 18s, then taken on the GB track squad at that age. Then I started to compete in world cups and world championships.
I never thought I’d become a pro when I was younger, but then I started to earn money and make a living at what I was doing so there was a moment when I realised ‘this is what I do now’.
So how did you end up back doing cyclo-cross?
It was a conscious decision. I moved up to Manchester at 18, was on the track programme for 3 years doing word cups and commonwealth games and started to get bored of track. I missed racing outdoors and felt like I needed a change. I decided to come off the track programme, moved to Belgium, started going road cycling then accidentally fell into a cyclo-cross again and loved it so stayed out there and got stuck in.
For the first few years, I was just trying to find my feet. My first few events I was finishing nowhere, literally just finishing, sometimes I would end up getting lapped by leaders - these were world class cross riders I was racing against. I was quite new to the sport again, so had a lot to learn.
Over time I started to progress, my training stepped up a couple of levels, I started to get to know the courses, different conditions, what was going on with my bike such as tyre selection - which makes a massive difference to racing.
I found my feet and it wasn’t until 3 seasons later I’d gone from finishing top 25 to top 20, then top 15, top 10 then I started to get podiums. I started to win races and then won a world cup, won multiple other competitions, came fourth at the world championships, fifth at world championships.
Tell us about going to the Olympics
I went back to road cycling. I was there in a support role for Lizzie Armistead, so I was there to help her and that was the aim of my race to be a strong support rider for her, to help her get the best result possible.
It was a crazy experience, a bit of a whirlwind, everything is amplified at the Olympics. It was a whole other scale to anything I’d done before. I’d done so many world championships and world cups but the Olympics was really special, not many people get to experience it so when you’re on the start line it feels like a real achievement.
Being there among all the other disciplines and sports and being in the athlete’s village it’s something special that I’ll remember for a long time.
What would you tell young riders who are thinking about getting into cyclo-cross?
There are a lot of variables to contend with in cross racing. Because I did all those different disciplines as a young rider, it was really useful. As a cyclo-cross rider you need all those disciplines to be good. There are so many things to think about, you need to be able to adapt to different courses and different situations fast. The exciting thing about cyclo-cross is that you never know what’s going to happen on the day. It’s always different.
Any young rider should try to get as much experience as they can whilst they can. Find your feet in those different disciplines and keep having fun, keep doing those different skills. At the end of the day it’s not training that makes a difference at that age, it’s being able to keep doing what you’re doing and having fun and enjoying it.
How did the partnership with Clancy Briggs come about for the upcoming Masterclass?
I’ve seen what they’ve done so far and I think it’s amazing. Keeping kids in the cycling sport, providing a network where they can feel comfortable, get stuck into something different and have fun on their bikes.
I’ve known Graham and Ed for a while through cycling and then when they asked me to get involved I was delighted to say yes.
What has been your biggest career highlight?
I’d have to pick two.
The first would be winning the Namur World Cup in Cyclo-cross. It’s one of the hardest races there is in cyclo-cross and I'd been wanting to win a world cup for a long time.
I’d got podiums but never won one, so for that moment when everything clicked and I put my hands in the air that’s something I’ll remember forever. My mum and dad were there to see it and it was one of those times when I felt like I was floating on the bike and you never really have that. But sometimes you get those days where everything comes together, you have luck on your side and you’re feeling strong.
Secondly the Olympics, going there to represent the country, calling myself an Olympian - I’m really proud of that and will be able to tell my children and they’ll be able to tell their children.
What three things do you need to be successful at cyclo-cross?
Number 1 - Have fun!
When you lose the fun it's not enjoyable, keep the fun whatever level you’re at. Whether you’re an amateur just starting out or a professional.
Number 2 - Being resilient
Regardless of anything that might happen within the sport just keep coming back and being consistent and get stuck into something.
Number 3 - Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Trust in what you’re doing and your coaches, be open to progression and keep learning.
The next cyclo-cross masterclass led by Nikki Brammeier alongside our very own Graham Briggs & Ali Slater is POSTPONED DUE TO NATIONAL LOCKDOWN. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to get involved once we are permitted to run this session..