Cyclocross Features Interviews

Josie Nelson interview: stepping up

The youngest in a trio of cycling sisters, Josie Nelson is carving her own tracks in the sport

As her eldest sister Emily stepped away from professional cycling this autumn, Josie joined the ranks of Trinity Racing for her first senior cyclocross season.

The multi-disciplined team, who recently announced that its road team is stepping up to UCI Continental level for 2021, showcases some of the most exciting young talents in cycling.

Being in an environment that is solely focused on cycling performance is very different from last year when I was juggling school and training and living with my parents

Josie is one of two women – the other being Abby Mae Parkinson – on Trinity’s selectively small cyclocross team this winter. Despite being just 18 years of age it is clear that she is already one of the best British riders in the discipline. In her two seasons as a junior, Josie won back-to-back National Trophy Series titles. And in February this year she finished 7th place in her last junior cyclocross race; the world championships no less.

As you will hear below, Josie is much more than a cyclocross rider though. Her results show she can excel across four disciplines. We caught up with the rising star to hear about her current cyclocross campaign, her first in the senior ranks, and her plans for the new year.

Featured photo: Billy Ceusters

Josie at the Superprestige Boom. Photo: Yefrifotos

Tell us how you got into cycling…

My older siblings started cycling when I was only two or three years old. I used to sit and watch them at the club training sessions with Lichfield City Cycling Club, wishing I could join in. Finally, when I was four years old, the coach let me start training with them too. I started doing the fun races for kids at the events my brother and sisters went to, and I loved it so much I’ve never stopped.

Focusing on multiple disciplines creates a wide skillset and brings variation to my training

As a junior, you raced mountain biking, cyclocross, road, and track. What’s the attraction of juggling all four disciplines?

I enjoy all of them so there’s no reason to specialise in one or two at such a young age. Focusing on multiple disciplines creates a wide skillset and brings variation to my training.  

What are the challenges when it comes to balancing them all? 

It’s hard to always do specific training for each discipline, there aren’t enough days in the week! One of the biggest challenges is that mountain bike races tend to clash with road races, as they are both summer disciplines, meaning I have to choose between them.

Do you have a favourite, and if so, what is it and why?

Mountain biking or cyclocross because they’re the most fun and adventurous. My MTB has taken me to some amazing countries.

Josie at the Ethias Cross Leuven. Photo: Billy Ceusters

Do you see yourself competing in all four as you progress?

No, I don’t think I’ll be racing any track next year – maybe just a few track sessions for fun and because it’s good training. I’ll definitely be competing in road and cyclocross though and, hopefully, I’ll be able to do some mountain bike races around my road season in Belgium. 

How have you found growing up with a World and European champion for a sister? 

It’s inspiring and always motivates me. I have always wanted to be as good as her one day. I’ve found it so exciting going to see her race or watch her on the TV.  

Do you feel pressure to achieve similar success?

No, I have never felt pressured. There’s no time limit on success. 

I was able to have a bit of a break and then focus on getting a good foundation built up ready for the cyclocross season

With a lack of racing in much of the season due to the Covid pandemic, how much training have you done this year? 

I think a lack of racing has had both positives and negatives for me. Positively, it has meant that I was able to have a bit of a break and then focus on getting a good foundation built up ready for the cyclocross season. Negatively though, it was hard to stay motivated during the lockdown period. Not being able to train with my friends or teammates meant that I did a lot of my training alone with no idea of when I’d start racing again. 

However, my power numbers have increased massively from last year which I’m really happy with. All my hard work over lockdown is finally showing. I just wish I could have raced my last year as a junior on the road.

Josie at the UEC Cyclo-cross European Championships. Photo: Yefrifotos

Have you kept riding multiple disciplines? And have there been specific focuses to your training?

Lockdown was a good chance to mix up my training. I did a lot of long miles on the road. As I only finished school this year, I’d only ever previously been able to do long rides at the weekends or in the school holidays. I also spent some time on both my MTB and my cyclocross bike, training on Cannock Chase which is close to where I live.

You are currently racing the 2020-21 cyclocross season on the continent. How have you found the first few races in your first year as a senior? 

Having already raced with the elites and under-23s as a junior, the standard wasn’t much different from previous years. One of the main differences is racing at such a high level every weekend, because I’m living there now, rather than travelling back and forth. My results have improved massively this year so I’m really pleased with that. 

What’s it like racing with Trinity?

Trinity has a really good set up and it’s a nice environment to train and race in. The bikes and equipment always run so smoothly, and the Maap kit is so comfy. I feel really lucky to be part of such a supportive team. I’ve already learnt a lot from my teammates and they always look out for me as I’m the youngest on the team.

Josie at the Superprestige Boom. Photo: Yefrifotos

And tell us about the lifestyle of living in Belgium with the team?

It’s really fun living here with the team, we all get along well. Being in an environment that is solely focused on cycling performance is very different from last year when I was juggling school and training and living with my parents! It’s good to live with other athletes as they’re all good influences. We share the cooking and cleaning, and ride together when we have similar training. 

What are your goals for the 2021 season?

As a first-year under-23 on the road, I’m not looking for any big results, more just the experience of racing in Belgium and the chance to compete in some elite UCI races. 

Do you have team/s for road, track and MTB for next year? Can you tell us who you will be riding for?

I haven’t got a team for mountain biking or track next year as I’m focusing more on the road season. I will be based in Belgium racing for the Isorex No Aqua team. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the races there.