Preparation for online champs going to be tricky for Harris

Dunedin professional cyclist Ella Harris gets in a training ride while in managed isolation in a...
Dunedin professional cyclist Ella Harris gets in a training ride while in managed isolation in a Hamilton hotel. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Ella Harris has not worked out what she will do with the final hours before competing in the inaugural UCI Cycling Esports World Championships next month.

The 22-year-old Dunedin rider might consider a power nap. Or perhaps she could eat her weight in bananas.

Normally, she would be well rested and well fuelled but that could be a challenge this time.

But then it has been a year jammed with challenges for the professional cyclist.

Covid-19 forced everyone off their bikes in March and, when the season resumed in Europe, Harris crashed and broke her leg.

She opted against returning to New Zealand and was able to return to racing before the end of the season.

But she is back in New Zealand now serving out the remainder of her managed isolation in Hamilton.

One more negative Covid test and she can get out on Monday at 9.30am. She will spend some time with her brother before returning to Dunedin on December 9.

The flight arrives at 6pm and at 2.40am she will be competing in said world champs.

The event is being hosted on Zwift, a global online training and racing platform for athletes.

Harris has history with the platform. She gained her spot on the Canyon-SRAM team after winning a Zwift contest in 2018.

But this time the preparation will be far from ideal.

"I just hope to hang in there, really," she said.

"I’ve been riding Zwift every day during hotel quarantine but I’ve more been doing that for fun and for sanity than actual training.

"I’m not entirely sure how I’ll go in the race. I don’t have high hopes for myself at all.

"But if I can get around that would be nice.

"It is at 2.40am which is another spanner in the works — as if I wasn’t disadvantaged enough as it is with my training."

"To be honest, I don’t know what my strategy will be," she responded when asked how she would spend the hours leading into the race.

"I think I might have a little nap. I’ve raced at 1am before and I stayed up the whole time.

"But 2.40am is a bit more of a stretch. It might just have to be a really early morning.

"And I don’t know about eating. I haven’t sorted it out.

"For a world champs, I won’t be going into it with much preparation or in the best shape — that’s a definite."

The year started so brightly for Harris.

In February, she claimed victory on the final stage of the Women’s Herald Sun Tour.

Despite being dropped several times on the final climb, Harris dug deep and sneaked past her rivals to claim her first professional win.

She also finished 13th at the Tour Down Under and ninth in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

When Covid arrived, Harris went home to Dunedin but returned to Europe in July once the season resumed.

However, she fractured her right femur when she crashed during a practice ride ahead of Strade Bianche in Siena, Italy, in early August.

She had surgery in which a large screw was inserted to pin her femur to her hip.

Remarkably, she was moving around shortly after the surgery but it was five weeks before she was able to cross her legs and had full mobility.

"Despite having a few setbacks and challenges I still have some really good things to take out of the year.

"I had a promising result a couple of weeks before I broke my leg. I had some quite good results on Zwift and, at the start of the year, I had a really good summer.

"But I’m just looking forward to starting off fresh next year with a clean slate."


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