IT'S the British National Cyclo-Cross Championships this weekend - and they are coming to the North-East.

The action takes place at Hetton Lyons Country Park, Sunderland on Saturday and Sunday.

Veterans and youths take to the demanding course on Saturday, while Sunday is for the Under-23 women, junior men and the highlight of the weekend, the elite men and women races.

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To tee the up the weekend's action I have been speaking to reigning national women's champion, Nikki Brammeier of MUDIIITA Canyon.

Matt: You described heading back to cyclo-cross full time as a leap of faith, why?

Nikki: The road scene generally has more support and stability with a greater support network too. So of course stepping away and going full on CX was always going to be a bit of a gamble, but it definitely worked out for me.

Matt: What is it about cyclocross that appeals to you in particular?

Nikki: The variety of races and courses - one race to the next can be totally different. You generally never get the same course or style of race, it makes for a new challenge every weekend and almost every time you step on the bike. There no monotonous routines in Cyclocross. There's also the camaraderie - the vibe at a cross race is something that always pulled me in, from starting out cycling as a kid until now I’ve always loved being at the races and chatting and having a good time with friends, team mates and opponents.

Finally, it’s fun – every time I jump on my CX bike it brings a smile to my face, I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what or why - I just love it.

Matt: You are the reigning national champion, do you feel any added pressure?

Nikki: Id be lying if I said no, it’s always a big event and being able to race in the national champs kit makes me massively proud so of course I always want to have a good race. On the other hand, I’ve won the last two years and that’s pretty special and always will be – as long as I give my all that’s all I’ll ever ask of myself.

Matt: Who do you think your rivals will be and why?

Nikki: Of course Helen Wyman is always super strong at Nationals - the UK courses tend to suit her quite well which I guess is why she’s won the jersey so often. I tend not to think about anyone else though, I just go through my own process and try to get on with the job.

Matt: What do you know about the course at Sunderland and how will it suit you?

Nikki: Not a lot actually, I’ve never ridden up there but I’ve heard some good things about the course. Let’s hope I like it!

Matt:What’s going through your head as you are on the startline?

Nikki: The same as every race, a little bit of nerves and excitement rolled into one. I’ve been there many times and have learnt to deal with the pressures and stresses of major events so usually It’s just another day at the office.

Matt: Without giving too much away, can you let us into some idea of your gameplan for such races?

Nikki: It’s impossible to say, as I already mentioned there’s no two CX courses or races the same, even the same course on the same day is constantly evolving and races can unfold in the strangest ways. So it’s just getting out there and doing what we do and having a good battle!

Matt: The event is going to be televised, how important is that to the future of the sport?

Nikki: It’s massive, it’s one of the key challenges for us to overcome in the UK. It was also one of the key elements and points of focus for our newly launched Mudiiita Cyclo Cross project. Awareness. The general public just don’t know enough about cross, so how can they learn just what an amazing sport it is on all levels? Televised races is of course such an effective way to get the show out there and show the nation what it’s all about and something we, as a project are going to strive for more of in the future.

Matt: Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2018?

Nikki: I’ll do my usual build up to the Worlds, my biggest goal of the season - it’s on a super course this year and one I love so I’ll be giving it my all to better my best ever result at worlds. After that I’ll finish out the season with my final races and then look forward to a well earned rest. Throughout the summer I’ll be launching a series of ‘Skillz ‘n Drillz’ cyclo cross coaching sessions throughout the UK - one of which is highly likely to be close by to Hetton Lyons so watch this space and keep an eye on Mudiiita.com for more info about that!