An interview with VI Form Academy Student Harry Jukes: On the road to success - The VI Form Academy
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-18155,single-format-standard,bridge-core-2.0.3,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,vertical_menu_enabled,side_area_uncovered_from_content,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-19.1,qode-theme-bridge,disabled_footer_bottom,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.0.5,vc_responsive

An interview with VI Form Academy Student Harry Jukes: On the road to success

After breaking records to become the Junior South West Cycling Champion last year and with a string of impressive national results to his name, The VI Form Academy student Harry Jukes has his ambitions firmly set on competing in the Tour de France one day.

From balancing his academic work and training timetable, to a recent cycling scholarship trip to Spain where he got to train alongside elite riders, we spoke to Harry about why he chose to study at The VI Form Academy in order to fulfil his ambition of becoming a professional cyclist.

Hi Harry! Thanks for speaking with us today. Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your experience at The VI Form Academy.

Sure, it’s all been very positive! I chose my sixth form based on where I wanted to go in life. Between the different colleges in Cornwall, The VI Form Academy was the closest location and offered the most flexible courses, and they were the most supportive of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my sixth form years. Plus it was only 10 minutes away in the car so it was perfect!

My ambition when choosing the next step in my education was always to gain a professional cycling contract. The VI Form Academy said they were more than happy to help me manipulate my timetable so that I could balance academic work and training.

We have ‘supervised studies’ at The VI Form Academy, where you sit in the study room and a teacher will be there if you need it – it’s a space to get on with independent work. During one of those sessions in the first couple of weeks of school starting, we looked at my timetable and moved my independent studies into the gaps I had between lessons. That evolved into learning how to do my own independent work and plan my own work time over the course of the year, to the level where I am now. As long as I don’t miss any lessons, they are happy for me to crack on as much as I need to outside of school times.

When did you first realise you had a passion for cycling?

I specialised into cycling when I was 14 which is quite late really; when I first started on the scene a lot of the kids had already been there for a long time, racing and competing long before I had.

We’d always been a relatively active family. Our family holidays to France would involve kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking – that’s like a standard Jukes Bootcamp! That lifestyle has always been there so I think it was a natural progression into cycling. I tried other sports but cycling just clicked because it’s not completely anatomy-based, so being fairly academic it was quite nice to have a side that’s almost like playing chess on wheels. The anatomy and physiology plays a big part but the way you can read a race, calculate your training and nutrition to create a balance, or obsess over the sports science elements, like how much super nutrition and breathing exercises can help your training, is very exciting. There are so many tactics and uncontrollable variants in cycling.

What sporting scholarships have you been part of at The VI Form Academy?

Scholarships at The VI Form Academy run like events; you go through the application process and have your interviews, but then you can apply to do one off things like your PADI, or go to France to see the Arc de Triomphe. Essentially if you can propose something strong enough, then The VI Form Academy will support you with it.

For example, I’ve recently just been on a five week professional cycling training camp in Calpe, Spain, which was organised as a scholarship trip through The VI Form Academy. It’s a big thing in cycling; everyone at higher level goes away for a couple of months over winter to get foundational training in. I was originally meant to go in January and February 2021 but I ended up being out there for five weeks in total from the end of January to the start of March this year. 

There are two types of scholarship applications at The VI Form Academy; academic ones which can help you progress along a career path get into a certain university, and then enrichment ones. Cycling is my future career and going to Spain will eventually become my job in a couple of years, so I proposed a plan and showed how much the trip to Calpe would help for the season ahead with my networking and team profile. I then worked with my teachers to get extra lessons planned in. In the run up to the trip, I got all my coursework and lesson content done in advance, alongside balancing working and training.

I went out there for three weeks with St Piran Professional Cycling. I’m in a team called ‘0503’ which is the direct feeder team for that professional team. St Piran’s is the only continental professional team that’s ever come from the South West let alone Cornwall, and they’re only two levels below the Tour de France. We would be out on the bikes for about 4-8 hours every day, cycling anywhere from 70-130 miles, and we were cycling alongside ex-Tour de France riders, so riding with them and learning from their wisdom was awesome. I’ve never been on a professional team training camp, let alone ridden with half of the calibre that was there. It was a big step up; it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but also it was the most epic experience at the same time. 

Sounds amazing! Would you have been able to do this experience if you weren’t at The VI Form Academy?

No! Plus the VI Form Academy is the only sixth form in Cornwall where you can mix BTEC courses and A-Levels, and then you can do an EPQ on top of that. My sixth form choice was based on a combination of what was going to benefit my career the most. I’m not planning to go to university because I want to become a full time, professional cyclist, but I’ve applied to Loughborough, Exeter and Bath to study Sports Science as a back up. I’m at a point now with St Piran’s where I could get a call straight up into the professional team as soon as they think I’m ready. One or two people a year get the call up, because we’re the direct feeder team they can pick from us whenever we’re pulling the results in. 

What would that entail if you made the professional team?

It would be a huge step up and a big calendar of UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) racing. Most of my races this year are one day but I’d be doing a lot more stage races, which are across back-to-back across multiple days and they could be different disciplines; one day it’s a 120-mile road race in the mountains and the next day is a flat 30 mile time trial. That’s what happens at the higher levels and then before you know it, you’re at the Tour de France!

So your ultimate aim is to cycle in the Tour de France…Do you think you’ll get there?

Yes, 100%. It’s like cycling’s version of the Olympics, and it’s just a case of when, where and how I plan it. 

You’re well on your way as you became the current South West Junior Cycling Champion last year! Were you expecting that?

I had a few big results from last year that all put me in a very strong position as a time trialist. Time trialling is when we race individually on fancy spaceship bikes that are optimised for aerodynamics. We are positioned on the bike so we’re optimised in terms of our helmet, wheels, the size of the cogs, chain line – it’s all thought about. The set distances are 10 miles and 25 miles, and we do those on different courses all over the country. Between 30-32 mph is a national level speed for both those distances. Last year I was ranked third in the whole country for the junior category for the junior BAR (best all rounder) which is assessed based on my two fastest 10s and my two fastest 25s, and my average speed was just shy of 30mph across the whole distance. Then I placed third in the national junior long distance time trial championships, as well as being named the junior South West time trial champion.

I’d been the dominant junior time trialist in the region for a good few months and the year before so I wasn’t worried too much about competition for the South West title. However, it was was more of a surprise to get third place in the national championships! That now becomes a rolling target because everyone in the country does time trials across the whole season, so times will get faster and riders will move up out of nowhere when all of a sudden they have enough times to classify for the ranking. It was touch and go whether I would make the national rankings, so that was cool.

What’s your proudest cycling achievement?

There’s very much an attitude in cycling that you’re only as good as your last result, but I like to think that my proudest cycling achievement is where I’ve come from five years ago to where I am now. If you’d have told 15-year-old me who was doing roughly 400 miles a month that I’d be doing 1,000-1,5000 miles a month in Spain with some of the best riders in the UK, cycling with Tour de France pros in the Spanish mountains, that would have blown his little brain. So I think it’s more the progression and where I’ve come from to where I am now that’s my proudest achievement.

Similarly, have you got a proudest VI Form-based achievement?

I got an A in my EPQ and it’s the hardest I’ve ever had to work academically. Admittedly I mismanaged my time a little towards the end, but I figured it out and ended up with a top level grade in the end. I did a dissertation for my EPQ, which was an analysis on how nasal breathing and autonomic nervous system control affects anaerobic and aerobic sports performance and general health. 

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who was questioning what VI Form to choose?

I’d say that some people might think that they want to go to college for the university feel, but as long as you build the life skills and confidence levels, college doesn’t necessarily set you up for university any more than sixth form does. Being able to manipulate your timetable and have the support from the teachers that are here at The VI Form Academy was key for me. The quality of engagement that you get from your teachers in a sixth form classroom is far higher than a college lecture because the class sizes are so much smaller – you’re being taught here not lectured.

“If you’d have told 15-year-old me who was doing roughly 400 miles a month that I’d be doing 1,000-1,5000 miles a month in Spain with some of the best riders in the UK, cycling with Tour de France pros in the Spanish mountains, that would have blown his little brain.”