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Hannah Barnes interview

Cyclist magazine
20 Jun 2016

Hannah Barnes talks about making her way back from injury, and racing the Women's Tour with Canyon/SRAM Racing Team.

Speaking in Jan 2014

Cyclist: You won your fifth Nocturne title this year, but you weren’t initially awarded the victory, what was your reaction?

Hannah Barnes: I don’t really know what happened to be honest. When I saw Wiggle Honda there I really felt the pressure, but it was going really well and towards the end the crowds just set me off, so I celebrated before the line. I thought I’d thrown it away and Laura [Trott] had clinched it. Dad was laughing, saying, “I told you it would happen one day!” But I was quite upset, and it wasn’t until the Tuesday at the Woking stage of the Tour Series that people were telling me I had crossed the line first. Then on Thursday it actually came out that I won, but had been relegated for celebrating before the line. But then by Saturday they’d reversed the decision. Crazy.

Cyc: Why do you think they made the decision to relegate you, and has it tarnished your view of the event?

HB: I think it was partly because Wiggle sponsored the event, and Laura winning it would have been so good for their publicity. But there was an amazing reaction. I couldn’t believe when Mark Cavendish tweeted his support for me! It’s still my favourite race though, and I’d love to come back next year.

Cyc: Only a few days later you face-planted at Woking but remounted and went on to win the race. What was that like?

HB: It was my probably the performance I was most proud of, just based on the response from everyone. The ground was wet and I was leaning into a corner too much and the bike slipped from under me. I didn’t really know it was as bad as it was, and it was only two laps into the race. When I crossed the line, it suddenly hit me and I went a bit dizzy. The paramedics were saying I needed to go to hospital, but I kept saying it was only a cut. I didn’t even think twice about carrying on – I was there to race, not be a wimp. In the end I needed nine stitches, but it was worth it. Jens Voigt even tweeted me!

Cyc: Having achieved so much so young, are you starting to feel the pressure?

HB: I do now. I never used to. I remember when I was racing in Westminster, this little girl who must have been about six had a laminated picture of me to sign, and that was when I realised that people actually knew about me and were expecting me to win. At the moment I don’t really let myself get stressed, though. It winds my coach up a lot, I just rock up to the start line. I guess one day it’s going to get really serious, and I want to enjoy it now before I have to really start worrying about it. I’m like that with everything – people obsess over power data and I don’t even have a Garmin! I generally just ride and when I get tired I come back. I did 93 miles on Saturday and it was horrible! 

Cyc: We gather you’ve changed team?

HB: Yes, I’m joining the new UnitedHealthcare women’s team over in the US. I really enjoyed my time with MG Maxifuel. They were really keen for me to stay on and they have quite big plans for the team, but I just felt I wanted to do something else. I could just do the Tour Series again, and try to win it again, but I wanted to try bigger and better things.

Cyc: Will you be sad to leave the UK?

HB: My friends keep saying, ‘Oh everyone’s going to forget you!’ Hopefully not, but I’ve loved racing in Britain, I just love Britain. The support from the public has been unreal, so I’ll be quite sad to go but also really excited as well. But for now if you stay as a domestic [racer], you won’t ever make a career out of it. Which is a shame and hopefully it will change.

Cyc: You started this year with Team Ibis, before it folded. What was it like to return to racing in the UK?

HB: I remember my first race with Ibis, it was the World Cup in Drenthe and I lined up next to Marianne Vos. I was just so in awe. So taking a step back from that was quite disappointing but I think it was good for me actually. I’ve become well known now and had some really good results that will go well on the CV.

Cyc: How did it feel to be racing Marianne Vos?

HB: Vos is my idol – she’s just amazing. The whole year round she’ll just win, it’s unbelievable. I’ve never spoken to her, but when I was in the bunch in Holland and this gold bar tape rolled up next to me I was just like “she is so cool!” She’s just so nice and at a race she’ll have loads of camera crew around her and she seems quite chilled out and relaxed about it. 

Cyc: Do you have any other idols?

HB: I’d say Fabian Cancellara is definitely my male idol. He’s awesome. It’s because of how he races – he’s not scared to have a go, especially when it comes to events like Roubaix. I think the Classics are so good generally, I just love them. 

Cyc: What are your goals over the next few years?

HB: This is my first year on a professional team, so if they want me to ride for someone then I will, quite happily. I’m expecting to work for the team. I’m really looking forward to it. Everyone I’ve spoken to says the racing in the USA will suit me down to the ground. But I do want to develop my long distance riding, so I need to focus on being able to go the distance then be able to sprint at the end. I’m looking forward to just being out there, and experiencing being on a professional team.

Cyc: You’ve developed a great reputation as a sprinter, is that where you got the nickname Quadzilla?

HB: Not really, actually, that was a name I picked up at school. All the guys who went to the gym got a bit jealous that my legs were bigger than theirs and I could lift more weight. It said it on the back of my school leaver’s jersey. It was quite funny, but it wasn’t really the best for a female. Thankfully I don’t get called that one anymore, I just get called ‘Barnes’ these days.

Cyc: Have you had to support yourself around cycling so far?

HB: I do a bit of waitressing at a stately home, Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire every now and then. It’s just to save up some money. I did quite well on prize money this year, but I’m not very good at saving it! I do about a shift a week, just to keep me normal. It’s also where all the Grand Prix drivers go – I served Michael Schumacher cappuccino the other day – that was pretty cool.

Cyc: How do you feel about the current state of women’s cycling, in terms of racing and general popularity?

HB: I think it’s getting better and better. I was doing races this year where there were reserves, and in the past you would never ever have had that. There are so many teams this year. Loads of men’s teams are folding while women’s teams are starting up. Sponsors actually want to support the women instead of the men. And while I’m training I’m starting to see women cyclists everywhere, even when it’s wet and cold and windy.

Cyc: Do you feel the depth of field has a way to go?

HB: I think so. For women’s racing, you get the problem of Elite riders against 4th category riders who have never raced before. I mean, it’s good to get them involved in racing, but it also makes it very dangerous. It’s a shame at events like the RideLondon race, where there were over 100 riders, but they don’t do a separate race for 3rd and 4th cats.

Cyc: Do you ever try to mix it up in men’s races?

HB: I do the Thursday night crits at Milton Keynes Bowl with the men. When I first did it they used to give me a little push and let me in gaps, but it only took a few top 10 finishes and that quickly stopped.

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