Feature: Hannah Barnes – British Champion!

On Sunday, 18 year old Hannah Barnes from Towcester surprised herself by winning the Women’s British Circuit Race Championship for the second year running.

Well clear, Hannah Barnes is ready to celebrate a mighty victory.

Women’s Circuit Race Championship – Preston
by Larry Hickmott.

The surprise was because Hannah was up against the might of the Horizon Fitness Prendas team and before the race when we spoke, she explained it was an all or nothing strategy and that was to stay with World Team Pursuit (Women) Champion Dani King who had just returned from the European Championships with a Gold (Team Pursuit) and Silver medal (Omnium).

Hannah was banking on the Horizon team working for Dani and that certainly appeared to be the case when from the get go, multi Paralympic and World Champion Sarah Storey, single handedly reduced the field from 40 or so to a small group of only eight. Each lap, Sarah would come into sight at the finish area in the Victorian covered fish market, Harriett Owen on her wheel, Dani King a few places back in the string and on her wheel, Hannah Barnes.

Lap after lap, Sarah, on her Dolan bike, would come round, the break strung out behind her and that was pretty much the race. It was a race of survival for many, especially those who had been dropped and a big shout to Corrine Hall who did get dropped but fought her way back to the leaders who were racing quickly around the wet circuit.

Sarah Storey driving the race along and keeping the pace high for the whole event.

With four riders in the break, it was expected that one of the Horizon Fitness/Prendas riders from the well drilled squad would triumph but in a crit, nothing is ever set in stone. First the lone riders who were not confident of their sprint had a go.

Student, Sarah Byrne, who has switched teams to ride for Abergavenny RC, attacked the group and had it split for a time in the final few laps and then Elinor Barker, silver medallist in the European Track Championships recently, took her Cardiff Ajax colours (those worn by Olympic champion Nicole Cooke not that many years ago), off the front.

These attacks though came to nothing and it was going to be a sprint that decided the title. Dani King has won so many races with her sprint, she was the favourite but Barnes too has easily won many a sprint and was certainly a contender.

Of the two, I favoured King. Not only did she have a great team behind her,  Dani was also in great form from the Euros whilst Barnes had just returned from the Assen Youth Tour where her and her sister Alice, had won their classifications in a very prestigious six day stage race. Would Barnes be fatigued by the six day stage race and the trip back overnight?

Sarah Byrne goes on the attack.

As is so often when many a favourite has been beaten on the final corner, so it was in Preston that Barnes dive bombed King and her teammate Rich and came out of the that corner in the prime spot for the race to the line, a spot she didn’t give up, racing to the chequered flag and celebrating with a  look of sheer joy. Hannah was again national champion and now, with so many top riders there, a champion who could rightly be proud of her achievement.

Women’s Circuit Race Championship Result
1. Hannah Barnes, Motorpoint
2. Dani King, Horizon Fitness Prendas Dolan
3. Hannah Richard, Horizon Fitness Prendas Dolan
4. Elinor Barker, Cardiff Ajax
5. Sarah Storey, Horizon Fitness Prendas Dolan
6. Corrine Hall, Team Corridori
7. Penny Rowson, Horizon Fitness Prendas Dolan
8. Sarah Byrne, Abergavenny RC
9. Harriett Owen, Motorpoint

@ 1 lap
Eve Dixon, Maxgear
Marriane Britten, VC ST Raphael
Hannah Walker, Motorpoint
Jessie Walker, RST Trigon
Gabriella Shaw, Fo Viored Brookvex
Laura Murray, Velocity 44
Brit Tate, Dirtwheels
Anna Ewing thebicycleworks
Anda-Jay Burgess, Sandy Wallace Cycles
Cerri Dipple, Twenty3C-Orbea
Louise Mahe, Mule Bar Girls
Sarah Smith, North Cheshire

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Speaking after the race, Hannah explained “I am pretty pleased with that! This year I wasn’t coming here expecting to win it and felt I’d make the podium so I am really chuffed that I have another year in the jersey.”

“Sarah just made it so fast and everyone was blowing and I was quite happy to sit back. It was quite windy down the back and last year, I went between the two bottom corners and this year I did the same because I could see Hannah Rich was giving Dani a lead out which kept the speed quite high.”

“I had more speed going into the bottom corner and it was drying out a bit so I was a bit more confident in the corners.”

“The legs felt good after Assen. Originally, I wasn’t going to go but decided to do it last Monday because I know I am always fitter and faster after a long stretch of racing so I decided to do it to prepare for this. When the breaks went as Horizon had more riders in there, I let them chase it down. When an Horizon rider went, I knew to chase them down but anyone else I knew they would do it. Dani had a dig but I was able to get straight onto that.”

Elinor Barker attacks and Dani King is right on the move as Hannah Barnes gives chase behind.

Dani King (2nd, World Team Pursuit Champion): “I’m really disappointed. The team rode really hard and somehow from riding around in circles (on the track at the Euros), I have forgotten how to corner! I was just terrible today on the corners. The team did everything they could and as Hannah says, I wasn’t expecting the drive bomb from Hannah. She has obviously been practicing in Assen  and so she got the jump on me and there was nothing I could do. I have come here as a rider more used to racing for 3 minutes and 21 seconds (team pursuit)  not 43 minutes but I still felt strong out there”.

Sarah Storey: “We went out there with a strategy to make the field as small as we could with as many Horizon riders in the lead as we could and then give our sprinters every chance to finish it off. Hannah Barnes though was phenomenal, coming up the inside on the last corner and just nicked it.”

“The corners made it difficult for people to come past so while people came past me up the hill here (finish straight) or on the back straight, but then once I was on the front through the corners, we managed to stretch it out a bit and that is something  I have been working on.”

If there was a medal for the most time on the front, this rider, Sarah Storey would have won hands down!

“I kept checking that my riders were safely tucked in and I could hear Hugh (Porter) talking about the war of attrition going on behind me. We came up behind a crash on the last corner before the finish so the strategy was the safe one for today.”

“I had an easy week after Germany and then recently have just been putting the gas on up some climbs and some more springy stuff because this type of racing is close to what I will be doing at the Para Road Worlds (Denmark).”

Podium: Hannah Rich, Hannah Barnes and Dani King.

Hannah Rich (3rd) “Two on the podium is good but it would have been better to have had one on the top step! We did our best and Sarah was so strong it was unbelievable. She was making the race so hard and I was finding it hard just to sit in on her wheel. The eight in the group was all down to Sarah.”

“On the last lap, there was about four of us away, so I took it up on the front and then going down into the last corner, Hannah dive bombed me and Dani and we weren’t expecting it and she just got a jump on us. Today was more my kind of thing than the 140k hilly races I have been doing! It was a tough  circuit here though.”

Sarah Byrne: A consistent performer in the top women’s races, Sarah managed to stay in the wheels while Horizon reduced the leading group down to eight riders and then with a few laps to go, put the cat amongst the pigeons by attacking through the start finish area. “I thought I would have a go because I don’t have much of a sprint.”

“I was feeling okay but with it being so wet, and having had so many crashes recently, I was a little nervous and don’t feel I put everything into it. I am still pleased with the result after the injuries I’ve had in the last week. I have had a really good season.”

“I started with VC St Raphael and they were really helpful to me but I needed a little bit extra support which Abergavenny have provided for me. I’m a student as well so struggle for money and also have a big event coming up so that was one of the reasons in joining them halfway through the season. I have loved every minute of the season.”

Sarah is studying in Buxton and because of the hilly area, is perhaps going to do the national hill climb champs there before having a break before hoping to have a good year in 2012.

The start and the riders wait for the flag to be raised …

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