What were you doing when you were three years old? Trying to shove square bricks into round holes? Drawing on walls? At three, Eversheds’ business support manager Nichola Anderson was already riding BMX bikes. And at seven she was British champion.
During her career (that is, if you can call anything that a seven-year-old does a ’career’, but ’hobby’ does not seem to cut it as a description) as a BMX rider, Anderson won the BMX British Championships six years running.
A valid question is – where do you go from there? Well, Anderson took some time out from racing and began her actual career, joining Eversheds in 2004 as a secretary. As business support manager she is now responsible for business continuity and risk planning in the firm’s international operations, managing initiatives and looking at innovative ways of working.
But now she is firmly back in the saddle and making a name for herself in the world of four-cross for a team known as Naked Racing, competing at both national and World Cup levels. Not bad for someone who only took up the sport last year.
For the uninitiated, four-cross is an extreme sport; a discipline of mountain-bike racing in which four riders race down a track made up of obstacles such as logs, rock gardens, sheer drops and jumps. The two riders who finish first progress to the next round.
“I’d been keeping up BMX riding, but just as a hobby,” says Anderson. “But then I was speaking to a friend and discovered that she was doing four-cross. I was thinking ’I’m getting on a bit’ and wanted to give it a bash before I got too old. The sport is 10 years old now, but it’s growing.”
A good time for a rider to complete a 450-metre four-cross course is one minute. Four-cross has a lot in common with ski-cross, and because the four riders are on the course at the same time, fighting for the best line through the course, the racing can get pretty rough. Shoving and cutting other riders up is inevitable. In fact, short of so-called ’T-boning’, whereby one rider cuts across the front of another forcing a collision so the riders form a ’T’, little is considered out of bounds.
The rough-and-ready rules make the races exciting, but do mean that injuries are a hazard. That said, Anderson is quick to add that “generally, the people aren’t like that”, meaning that riders rarely go out looking to collide with each other, but that things such as T-boning can and do happen.
Anderson’s worst crash left her with a broken elbow, but luckily injuries that severe have been few and far between, although she adds that she has become “quite good at hiding bruises”.
To stay in competitive shape Anderson trains three times a week at the gym and rides at weekends. Many of her rivals ride full-time with the help of sponsorship from companies.
While Anderson is only part-time she still has a number of sponsors including One Industries, SixSixOne, Sunline, Maxxis, and No Limits. But she says Eversheds allows her to work flexibly.
“The flexible working scheme is great – it allows me to train more frequently,” she explains. “My training regime’s pretty aggressive and it can be a challenge competing at World Cup level while holding down a full-time job.”
Last year Anderson finished second in the National Series. This year she was leading the series on points until a leg injury meant she could not take part in the last race of the season, pushing her down to second.
So far on the World Cup scene Anderson has placed eighth in Fort William, 12th in Austria and second in the Euro Four-cross Series event in Belgium.
Quite an effective use of one’s flexitime, no?