Mikayla Harvey: Pushing the limits
Cyclingnews speaks with the newest member of Canyon-SRAM on becoming the future of the Women's WorldTour
Canyon-SRAM's newest signing, Mikayla Harvey, is ready to officially make her mark on the Women's WorldTour in 2021. The New Zealander is one of the fastest rising talents in women's cycling, and after winning the young rider classification at the 2020 Giro Rosa, she has her sights set on becoming a contender for victories in mountainous stage races and tough one-day events.
Harvey, 22, was set to race for another two seasons with Equipe Paule Ka, however, she was left to search for a new team after they suddenly folded due to financial difficulties last October, when Paule Ka failed to make its sponsorship payments.
In what became a coup for Canyon-SRAM, the Women's WorldTeam announced they signed Harvey on a two-year contract through 2022, which added climbing strength and versatility to their roster, and they have committed to further her development and talents. Canyon-SRAM have also newly signed Chloé Dygert, Elise Chabbey and Neve Bradbury, and retained their core roster which includes Kasia Niewiadoma, for a 14-rider team this season.
"Mikayla is one of the shooting stars of the season and has made big steps forward. Her results in mountainous races were exceptional, even better when put in context to her young age," said Team Manager Ronny Lauke.
"With Mikayla joining, we strengthen our climbing group which was underrepresented on the team in previous years. I am convinced with the added talent and depth from our new riders we have found some very good additions that will make the team tactically more versatile."
Cyclingnews: You had an outstanding season in 2020, particularly winning the young rider competition at the Giro Rosa. Can you talk about your performances at top-level cycling last year, and your potential as a general classification contender?
Mikayla Harvey: 2020 has been such an incredible year for me, despite the difficulties I had to overcome during the season. I learnt so much during the year, especially believing in myself and not putting any barriers in the way. Performing at the top level of cycling was something very new to me and I was on a steep learning curve. Being surrounded by an outstanding support crew - family, friends, and my team - really helped my improvement and my successes would not have been possible without them. There is still so much for me to learn and improve on, however I definitely see myself contending for overall titles in tough stage races and even one-day races in the future.
CN: Your previous team Equipe Paule Ka had already signed you for 2021. Can you talk about what it was like to find out, so suddenly, that the team would fold due to financial difficulties, and because the main sponsor did not make payments according to their initial agreement?
MH: I was very upset when I learnt that the team would be folding. My previous team had become my ‘European’ family and I was really looking forward to continuing my journey with the team, especially as the group was developing so well together. I am very disappointed in our sponsor for pulling out of their agreement. However, one thing I learnt during 2020 was resiliency; I learnt not to dwell for too long on the past and not to worry about things out of my control. Life is about moving forward and I believed new opportunities would arise.
CN: How did your contract negotiations come about with Canyon-SRAM for 2021-2022?
MH: After news that our team had folded, I came in contact with Canyon-SRAM. Negotiating a two-year contract made me very excited. I wanted to be on a team where I could continue to learn and develop into the best version of myself.
CN: You've come a long way since your time at the American Team Illuminate in 2017 and 2018. What have you learned about yourself as a rider since those years?
MH: WOW, it is crazy thinking back to me as a rider with Team Illuminate. I was fresh out of high school and navigating myself in the ‘adult world’. My travelling experience was very little, and the world felt so huge to me back then. I had to learn so much about myself as well as racing semi-professionally. Over the past four years I have really grown into myself and learnt how to handle stress, anxiety and acting professional. I have always loved training and pushing myself to new limits, but since racing in Europe I have really discovered a new level of suffering! Professionalism is something else I learnt a lot in the past couple of years as well as the importance of looking after your body. Recovery is just as important as training hard!
CN: You're stepping up to a Women's WorldTeam with Canyon-SRAM. What do you hope to learn in your first season with your new team?
MH: I am so excited to be stepping up to a WorldTour team, I am living the dream! There is still so much for me to learn, especially coming onto a new team. However, I am looking forward to properly meeting and learning from all my new teammates, staff and partners.
CN: You're a very strong climber, but can you tell us more about your strengths and weaknesses, and areas that you would like to improve?
MH: My biggest strengths are on tough courses, especially once the field has dwindled down. Also, give me any gravel and I love it! I still need a lot of work with positioning especially leading into the finale, this is something I noticed last season. I wasted a lot of energy moving too late! I struggle with the terrain in Belgium, it is all still very new to me and I have so much to learn about racing on those roads and the cobbles. Also, my sprint and raw power needs a lot of work which is something I still want to develop as I believe it is important to be a well-rounded rider!
CN: Is there a rider that you most look forward to racing with at Canyon-SRAM?
MH: I can’t wait to meet everyone on the team, I am especially excited to race with Kasia [Niewiadoma]!
CN: Can you tell us about where you're from in New Zealand and the type of terrain on which you normally train at home?
MH: I am from a small town called Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand. Wanaka is based in the Alps, so there is plenty of climbing back home. I also spend a lot of time mountain biking and riding gravel roads.
CN: Will you move full time to Europe in 2021?
MH: Europe is now my new home! I have spent my off-season settling into my new apartment in Varese, Italy. Usually, I would like to go home [New Zealand] during the off-season, however this year has been difficult to get home. It has also been a good opportunity to set myself up here in Europe. I love Varese, the training is incredible and there are so many amazing climbs! It has also been a good chance for me to start learning Italian!
CN: Can you name a few events that you would like to target in 2021?
MH: Strade Bianche is my favourite race! Also, Trofeo Alfredo Binda would be a very special race for me as the course is on roads that I train on every day, and finishes 20 kilometres from where I live. I am also really excited for the Spanish races and the Ardennes Classics.
CN: You secured the best young rider jersey at the Giro Rosa last year. What are your thoughts on the event being downgraded to a 2.Pro event in 2021, and would you still hope to target that event even if it is not on the Women's WorldTour?
MH: I am upset the Giro Rosa has been downgraded especially as Italy did such an incredible job to hold a stage race during such difficult times. I still really want to target the Giro Rosa. It is such an iconic race and Italy has a special place in my heart.
CN: An impending women's Tour de France could happen in 2022. What are your thoughts on the potential for the women's peloton to race in a Tour de France during your career? Is this a race you might target to win one day?
MH: I think this is very exciting. The Tour de France is so iconic, and it sparks interest in those outside the world of cycling. So, a proper women’s Tour de France would be an incredible race. Even racing La Course is huge and seeing all the fans is such an incredible experience. It would be a dream come true to win such a race. Hopefully, women’s racing continues to develop, and I am excited to see what happens in the future.
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
By James Witts