Niamh needs to be where the action is, so she is currently living by herself in a town called Girona in Spain. Her parents live in New Zealand, and no doubt being the biggest fans of both their cycling superstar children, the time difference is no barrier to celebrating her achievements with her. “Sometimes they are staying up late into the night to watch my races and more than often I am probably waking them up with late night/early morning phone calls or messages,” says Niamh. “But it’s not so difficult to keep in good contact, they are only a video call away.” It must be hard being so far away from family, but Niamh assures us she knows her family is happy for her and proud of her achievements. Her father was the early influence for introducing both Niamh and Finn into the world of cycling. Being a cyclist himself he spent many of his weekends at bike races and this piqued the interest of his young daughter. Niamh started out racing at a weekly junior track cycling meet on the concrete Velodrome around Nelson’s Rugby Stadium pitch, “I raced on a little kids mountain bike. Eventually upgrading to a small road bike that I shared with my younger brother,” tells Niamh. As she grew older, she was part of the school racing scheme and progressed to some of the junior racing events around New Zealand, where she says she learned about racing craft.
Niamh is a global cyclist who has trained and ridden on roads in many different countries. She puts a lot of emphasis on keeping herself safe, noting that her level of safety varies country to country depending on the road quality and the other road users she encounters. Taking a sensible approach Niamh says she focuses on what she can control and so never neglects to wear her helmet, her gloves and rear light, even on short trips in daylight. Out on the road Niamh is mindful to stay on her side of the road, exercise at caution at intersections and always acknowledges that she is sharing the road with other road users. Of motorists she says that she is as conscious of motorists as she hopes they are of her. Disappointingly Niamh notes that, “It’s really unfortunate that, actually, some of my worst experiences have been on New Zealand roads.” Despite this she remains optimistic about the future of road safety and says that the increasing awareness and number of cyclists that can already be seen in New Zealand is contributing to the safety of our roads. While Niamh says she imagines a future where all cars have proximity sensors and speed limiters, she believes that if all road users make the effort to be aware of cyclists on the road and acknowledge their right to be there, the roads will eventually become safer.
There are big things coming Niamh’s way in 2022 with the introduction of the Tour de France Femmes, in which she will be competing. Of the race, she says it reflects how women’s sport is growing and developing, “The ‘Tour de France’ holds a lot of prestige, not just to the cycling world. It’s important for the growth of our fan base and the reach of cycling to the general population, that we have a women’s equivalent.” She has high hopes that the race lives up to its namesake.
At not quite 21 Niamh has already achieved more than most people dare dream of. We asked her what advice she has for aspiring young cyclists, “Think about the big picture if you have big aspirations in the sport. Make long term goals, take it slow. You don’t need to be winning everything or doing all the training right away. Take your time to learn the craft of riding and racing your bike with no pressure, just enjoy it.” Wise words indeed and we believe this incredible young woman has a huge future. We will be following her journey closely and championing her all the way.