Hannah Barnes leaving no stone unturned in bid to beat clock and capture world cycling glory in Harrogate

Back for more: Hannah Barnes in action in the women's elite race in Austria last year. Picture: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix
Back for more: Hannah Barnes in action in the women's elite race in Austria last year. Picture: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix
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As Hannah Barnes will atest, practice makes perfect.

Late last summer she and her professional women’s cycling team Canyon SRAM rode the course for the women’s team time-trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck a total of nine times before the actual race.

With such dedication to the cause it was hardly surprising that, on the day of reckoning in the shadow of the Alps, German trade team Canyon SRAM won the time-trial by 21 seconds ahead of a line-up that included Anna van der Breggen, who four days later would win the women’s road race world title.

“We’d done 550km on the same course before we raced it so we knew it really well,” recalls Barnes, 25, from Kent.

“That preparation gave us huge confidence going into the race. There were six girls and we knew our preparation had been spot on, so it was a really good feeling knowing that on the start line.”

The flipside of that coin was evident a few days later when Barnes and the British squad failed to get anywhere near the podium in the women’s road race.

AIMING HIGH: Hannah Barnes during the Elite Women's Race at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

AIMING HIGH: Hannah Barnes during the Elite Women's Race at the 2017 UCI Road World Championships. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“We weren’t as well prepared and it was difficult,” concedes Barnes, who finished 45th. “Mentally it was a challenge maintaining the intensity all week.”

Imbued with that experience, Barnes and the British squad are approaching the next instalment of the UCI Road World Championship in six months with the mentality that no stone will be left unturned.

The fact the rainbow jerseys will be won right here in Yorkshire makes it easier to prepare for than assembling everyone in Austria, but the home team’s determination to succeed in the White Rose county in September is admirable.

Planning for the women’s road race that runs for 149.5km (almost 93 miles) from Bradford to Harrogate on Saturday, September 28, began on a dank day in December. “British Cycling did a get-together before Christmas and we did the last 100km of the road race, which we found really beneficial,” says Barnes.

The day before the Tour de Yorkshire won’t be the last time I ride it, hopefully it’s the first of many. It’s good to have the files from the rides you’ve done.

Hannah Barnes

“It was a really grey, cold December day but it was great to have that chance to see it.

“I did it when I wasn’t race fit so it was really tough but I should be in better shape, hopefully, by the time September comes around.”

Barnes will have to be at peak fitness for the worlds, given she hopes to contest three races at Yorkshire 2019; the women’s road race, the individual time-trial and the mixed relay, the innovative new event from the organisers of the Yorkshire championships, which has replaced the trade teams’ time-trial.

“It’s interesting the mixed relay,” says Barnes of a concept which sees three men and three women complete two laps of Harrogate on Sunday, September 23.

“It’s going to be difficult to prepare for that as thoroughly as you would with the trade teams because the season is so busy. To get national riders together is proving quite difficult.

“But it should be good fun.”

Not that failing to prepare for the team time-trial will affect her ambition of challenging for honours in the individual time-trial.

Racing against the clock is Barnes’s speciality. She was ninth at the world championships in Bergen two years ago and won the British title last summer ahead of younger sister Alice.

She would have ridden solo in Innsbruck, but a broken collar bone suffered in July meant she missed out on selection.

Even with a busy week of three races in her sights at the Yorkshire worlds, the 32.5km women’s time-trial from Ripon to Harrogate on Tuesday, September 24 is one that has been 
circled on her calendar for months.

“I’m doing a recon the day before the Tour de Yorkshire (starts May 2),” says Barnes.

“I know the run-in to Harrogate and how tough that’s going to be, but it’s going to be a great time-trial course.

“I love the time-trial because there’s nowhere to hide. Whoever is the strongest on the day is the winner.”

What does Barnes learn from reconnoitring these routes?

“You get a feel for it. You see the sections where you can lose time and where you can gain time,” she says.

“The day before the Tour de Yorkshire won’t be the last time I ride it. Hopefully it’s the first of many.

“It’s good to have the files from the rides you’ve done.

“One of the skills of a good time-triallist is being able to memorise the route and visualise it. It’s like a downhill skier. They stand in the gate and know what’s coming up.

“I think we’ll see a few teams in the lead-up to the Tour de Yorkshire, and in the few days after it, having a look at the world championship routes.

“For the coaches as well it’s important for selection. It’s vital to see the routes in person instead of hearsay and looking at a profile.”