Cycling Weekly is counting down the top 30 British Riders of the Year thoughout December.
NUMBER 8: HANNAH BARNES
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The list of towns where Hannah Barnes has won this season reads like the touring schedule for a hard-working rock band. The 20-year-old MG Maxifuel rider has won in Perthshire, Colchester, London, York, and plenty of places in between.
A prolific season at home has earned her a big move to the American UnitedHealthcare team, which will be managed by former Commonwealth Games medallist Rachel Heal for the 2014 season.
But perhaps the most high-profile moment of her entire season came at the IG London Nocturne in June.
It was a very close finish between Barnes and Olympic champion Laura Trott, with victory going to the higher profile Wiggle rider. Days later, questions were raised as online footage suggested Barnes had crossed the line first.
Cycling Weekly asked the organisers to provide us with the photo finish. They declined, but the following day put out a press release saying that, though Barnes had crossed the line first, she had been demoted for ‘dangerous riding’. Officials justified the decision by saying Barnes had raised her arms in celebration when too near to lapped riders.
The situation smacked of a fixed result and thankfully common sense eventually prevailed with the result reversed and Barnes’s 100 per cent record in the London Nocturne – which stretches back to 2010 – preserved.
Her bike-handling skills, toughness, determination and speed are obvious. With 17 victories this season, including a near complete domination of the Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix series, in which she won in Colchester, Redditch and Woking (where she won despite crashing and splitting her chin open) and was second in Stoke. Not surprisingly, that level of consistency gave her the overall title as well – while UK national newspaper the Telegraph called her “the fastest cyclist you’ve probably never heard of”.
Rochelle Gilmore, the Australian who runs the Wiggle-Honda team, said her decision not to take Barnes on for the 2013 season was because she felt it was too early. However, by the end of the season, Gilmore was describing Barnes as “one of the best criterium riders in the world,” an assessment with which it’s hard to argue.
The fact that Barnes has had to fit her cycling around a job working 40 hours a week as a waitress in a country house hotel near her home makes her achievements all the more remarkable. With the move to UnitedHealthcare, high hopes abound that she will be able to dedicate all her time to cycling and her recovery. If so, it will be interesting to see how far she can progress in the next couple of seasons.
Moving to a bigger team will allow Barnes to tackle greater challenges; she has little left to prove on the British criterium series. Having won the Johnson Health Tech series and the national women’s circuit race series, she was also crowned the national circuit race champion in York, regaining the title she won in 2010 and 2011.
British Riders of the Year 2013: Related links