Jessie, who says her nicknames include ‘jesiwak’ and ‘j-wak’ is part of a cycling family with a brother Joey also doing nicely right now as a Junior. No surprise Jessie and Joey are very competitive with parents Lynne and Chris Walker who were both world class cyclists and the cycling connection goes even further back in the family tree.
Jessie has been racing for four years. She started racing as a last year Under 16 in 2010 but didn’t do many races. “I had a massive step up to junior” Jessie explains “but loved the racing even more. The longer harder racing suited me better. For my second year as a junior, I was lucky to join Matrix fitness women’s team so that was another huge step for me being in a team with Olympic champions.”
“This was also the first year that I had a complete season of racing. 2013 was my first year as an U23 so I had to step it up once more. So my whole cycling experience has been a very steep learning curve but I’ve loved every minute.”
Have you noticed any changes to the sport of women’s racing in that time?
Jessie: The main change I’ve noticed in the past few years is the development of the women’s teams. When I first started, women were in teams but rode as individuals. Whereas now there are many top level teams all battling each other.
What has been the highlight of 2013 for you?
Jessie: My highlight would have to be the two weeks I spent in France doing stage races. I competed in the Tour of Brittany with Matrix Fitness and then the team arranged a guest ride for me with an Irish team (D.I.D Electrical) for the Tour of Limousin. A big advantage of my team is their network of contacts around the world in women’s cycling.
I love the mountains in France so the racing suited me quite well. At the end of my season, I also rode the Tour of Ardeche, again as a guest for team set up by Matrix Fitness. This was the hardest racing I’ve ever done as most of the riders were using it as prep for the World Road Race Championships.
Jessie beats multi Hill Climb champion Lynn Hamel and Nicola Soden at the Monsal Hill Climb recently
Which race has been the best one to do?
Jessie: I love racing the Johnson Health Tech GP events. The crowd creates an awesome atmosphere that gives me a buzz when racing. The fact it’s on TV too gives it a higher status, so I’d love to win a round in the future.
Do you coach yourself or have a coach to help structure your training?
Jessie: For my 2013 season, I had a coach for the first time, Frances Newstead (former GB rider). I learnt a lot from her and found it all interesting.
How many hours a week would you train on and off the bike?
Jessie: In the summer, my week is full of races so in a way I don’t train. I have local time trials on Tuesday/Wednesday then North Midlands Road Race League on Thursday, Scunthorpe track league on Friday and then road races at the weekend. However, in the winter, I like to have a bit of variety in my training so I do some work in the gym.
Are you a full time cyclist?
Jessie: This is my first year not being in full time education so I have a lot of time now. So I guess I could be called a full time bike rider! I’m currently doing an online photography course (her dad Chris is a dab hand with a camera!) and like to do art in my spare time.
What is the best thing about racing bikes?
Jessie: I love the buzz that you get when it’s coming to the finish. There’s no time to think, everything falls on instinct. So much is happening and the mind is working so fast. Also the satisfaction after a long hard race.
Jessie lines out the field at the Tour Series crit in Aylsham
And what is the one thing you enjoy least!
Jessie: Crashing!!! I’m sure any cyclist would agree with me on that one.
If you could change one of your weaknesses into a strength, which one would it be?
Jessie: My sprinting.
What type of bike do you ride and what type of groupset & wheels does it have?
Jessie: I ride a Velocite Geos with Fast Forward wheels and a mixed SRAM Red/Force Group.
Are you ‘geeky’ when it comes to the equipment on the bike?
Jessie: I’ve got to admit I don’t know much about equipment but I’m learning all the time.
What will you be doing training wise during the winter – as little as possible or a structured programme based on getting success in 2014?
Jessie: Long miles and structured sessions working on my weaknesses.
Do you see 2014 being a big year for Women’s racing with a UCI Stage race bringing pro teams here?
Jessie: I think its a great thing that there’s going to be a UCI stage race in Britain. I’ve always thought that Britain wins so many medals in cycling at world championships and the Olympics yet there are little international races held here, why?
What is the one thing outside of pedalling the bike that you feel you need to learn to be a better bike rider.
Jessie: It’s not just about being physically strong on a bike. So much more is involved like understanding racing and tactics, being confident in a bunch, learning to be in the perfect position for the finish etc. But most importantly learning how to suffer and push the body beyond its comfort zone.
Finally, is it live to race bikes or race bikes to enjoy living!
Jessie: Race bikes to enjoy living!