Interview by Bart Hazen

Interview by Bart Hazen

Interview: Jessie Walker

Interview with young talented rider Jessie Walker. The 17 year old junior will be part of the UK based Matrix Fitness – Prendas team in 2012.

17 year old Jessie Walker is one of the talented riders in the UK. In her first season with the Matrix Fitness – Prendas team Walker hopes to learn from her team mates and help them to get the results. Next to cycling Walker is still going to school studying Psychology, Chemistry and PE A Level. An interview:

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Jessie Walker, I’m 17 years old and I live in Sheffield with my mum, dad, brother and two dogs. I currently race for Matrix Fitness – Prendas.

How did you get involved with cycling?
I’ve been cycling for as long as I can remember. Ever since I could sit up we’d go on family rides in Sherwood Forest, I loved it. Cycling is in my genes as my mum and dad were both international level racing cyclists. From my mums side it goes back 4 generations, starting with my great grandad who was a good time trialist. Even my 82 year old grandad still races to this day. He even got voted Britain’s fittest grandparent when he was 80 and featured on the Alan Titchmarsh Show. Before cycling, my brother and I starting running and competed in cross country races. My dad asked my brother and I several times if we were interested in cycling but I didn’t give it a second thought. It wasn’t till 2009 that we went to watch one of my dads closest friends, Russell Downing race at Lincoln GP and win, that my brother Joey said he wanted to race. Once he had a bike he did his first race at Richard Dunn in Bradford. I was surprised to see girls racing and soon gave it a go myself. Unfortunately that was the last race of the season so I had to wait to 2010 to race again. 2010 was my first official racing year as a second year under 16. I competed in most of the National series and the UK School Games which I absolutely loved. I learnt so much that year and it gave me even more of a drive to continue to race. Then I had the big step up to Junior.

What kind of rider are you?
I would class myself as more of a rouleur type of rider as I don’t have much for a powerful sprint. I like climbs and exciting races with lots of attacking especially when I’m in the breakaway. Even though I’m not much of a sprinter, I like getting involved in them and I’m quite good at positioning myself.

How do you look back at the past season?
Last season was a big step up for me, from under 16 races to Women’s Nationals but I liked the challenge. I admired all the teams and how they worked together. It wasn’t ideal being on my own with no team mates so that’s one of the reasons why I’m looking forward to this year.

What do you expect for your first season with Matrix Fitness – Prendas? 
I am not expecting big results for this season because I’ve got to fit training and racing in with my A Levels but I’m really looking forward to helping my team mates get the results. I expect it to be exciting being part of such a professional team and even though I’m not expecting great results I think it will be a really good learning year especially as I’m still a relative rookie.

You are still a junior. What do you hope to learn from the experienced riders on the team?
I think I will become more of a mature rider and learn the tactics needed for working in a team which I’ve never needed before.

The UK has some very strong juniors with as result the world title of Lucy Garner. How do you explain the success? 

Obviously people like myself who have raced with Lucy, can see what’s achievable with a lot of hard work and dedication. I know first hand there’s no one out there more dedicated and determined to win than Lucy.

Who are your role models both in and out cycling? And why?
I would say a role model in cycling would be Lizzie Armitstead. She started cycling at the age of 15, the same age as me and performed incredibly well so quickly. She is a huge inspiration and she’s also a Yorkshire girl like me. When I met her on the Out of the Saddle ride and dinner she was full of great advice and such a lovely down to earth person. But I’d have to say my main cycling role model is my dad because he is full of experience and love for the sport and gives me constructive feedback after every race.

I suppose you are still going to college as well. What do you study? And what is the study all about.

I’m currently studying Psychology, Chemistry and PE A Level at 6th form. I chose these because I love sport and science and hopefully in the future I’d like to be a Physiotherapist if my cycling career doesn’t take off.

You are competing in both road and track. What do you like the most and why? 
Well I started cycling on road then it’s only recently that I’ve started racing on Manchester track. I absolutely love road because its more relaxed and enjoyable especially on a warm summers day. I see myself as more of a endurance rider so I mainly perform better on road and I much prefer it because the thing I like about cycling is being outdoors.

Which race or races you like the most? And what race (s) do you dream of winning one day?
Last year I liked all the Team Series races as the atmosphere with the big crowds was fantastic. Some women’s races can be negative but in all of the tour and team series races there was a deserved winner. I also love Otley for the same reasons and because the circuit is so challenging. I’m looking forward to the return of the Sheffield City Centre races as it will be in front of a home crowd. I dream that one day I will win the Olympic Women’s Road race, but doesn’t everyone.

What will be your goals next season? 
I would say my main realistic goal for next season would be to in the sprint finish for as many races as possible. Another goal would be to keep up with Dani King up the French mountains in April. A medal at the Junior National Championships would be a great but if Lucy Garner is in the picture my chances are limited.

What will be your goals on long term as a person and as a cyclist?
Long term I would ideally like to race abroad in Italy in the mountains. Hopefully after a cycling career I’d like to be a sports physiotherapist and stay involved in cycling some how.

What are you doing when not riding a bike? 
In my time off the bike I am mainly studying because I find it very important to have a good support of qualifications. Apart from that, I like to walk my dogs and spend time unwinding with my friends.

What do we have to know from you what most people don’t know?
Well I don’t have many surprises, but one hidden talent would be art. I love to do pencil drawings or oil paintings of animals and portraits. I also have an interest in motorbikes as I have been brought up going to watch motorbike races from an early age and learnt how to ride a motocross bike at the age of 12. I am interested in photography and I’m a perfectionist in what ever I do.