Peloton Watch
  Hannah Barnes returns to Europe for 2016 season with CANYON//SRAM Racing  
  December 2nd 2015  
  Hannah Barnes at the CANYON//SRAM Racing team launch. George Marshall Photography
  Hannah Barnes returns to the European peloton for the 2016 season after spending her first two years in the professional ranks racing mostly in the United States with UnitedHealthcare. Barnes is part of the new CANYON//SRAM Racing team put together by Ronny Lauke following the end of the Velocio-SRAM team.

Prior to turning professional with UnitedHealthcare for the 2014 season Barnes had been a dominant force in Britain riding with smaller domestic teams. A win in the opening stage of the Tour Femenino de San Luis in 2014 allowed Barnes to start her time as a professional with a win. Unfortunately for Barnes she crashed out the following day but the stage win set the tone for successful two years.

Despite a mostly US based programme Barnes lined up on home roads for the inaugural edition of The Women's Tour in 2014 finishing third on the opening stage before finishing eighth overall. A debut at the Giro Rosa happened two months later allowing Barnes to continue her development at the highest level.

2015 started in much the same fashion for Barnes as 2014 had, winning in Argentina but luck was on her side this time as she won the Gran Prix San Luis Femenino as well as two stages and the best young rider classification of the Tour Femenino de San Luis.

For Barnes through the big breakthrough came on home roads at the Aviva Women's Tour, winning the final stage to claim the best young riders jersey as well as fifth overall. Top 10 finishes in both the time trial and road race at the National Championships further confirmed Barnes' development as going from strength to strength.

A broken ankle forced a premature end to her season but one that has allowed Barnes to secure a contract with a top European squad. Barnes has been off the bike for the past three months recovering and it will be another five weeks before she can potentially return to training. Despite the injury set back Barnes still has her eye on selection for the GB team for the Rio Olympic Games.

PelotonWatch: Finished eighth at The Women's Tour in 2014 and two top 5 finishes. What were your ambitions heading in to the race this year?

Hannah Barnes: It was my main target for the first half of my 2015 season. I knew I had the capability to do well from the results I got last year. I wanted to be consistent more than anything. Last year I was very wishy washy, finishing top 5 or just scraping top 50. The last stage was over the Chilterns. I am not very confident with my climbing abilities so I didn't really have any GC ambitions as such. I was mainly focusing on the individual stages and trying to improve on last years result.

PW: Won the final stage of The Women's Tour this year. What did it mean to win on home soil?

HB: I felt a sense of relief really. As the race went on I realised how much I wanted to get a stage win. I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I had seen the last 20km of the stage the evening before and knew that if I was able to get over the climbs in the front group I had a good chance it suited me well.

PW: Also finished fifth overall and best young rider in a world class field. How much confidence are you able to take from the stage win and overall result?

HB: I took a lot of confidence from it. The racing in America is different to racing in Europe - wider roads and a smaller peloton. I had set targets for the race but I honestly had no idea how I was going to do racing against a higher calibre of peloton compared to what I was used to. It was after The Women's Tour that I realised I wanted to come back to Europe and race here full time.

PW: In 2014 you moved to America and spent two years with UnitedHealthcare. What has the experience of the past two years been like and how did you find your time with the team?

HB: It was on UHC where I started my dream job. At the start I was very hesitant. The prospect of moving to America was pretty daunting. Turns out I had nothing to worry about and I loved it.

It has been an amazing two years racing in America. I learnt a lot from my teammates that have been racing for a while already and also getting advice from the guys team too. There is a lot of travelling in America, but that's what makes it fun. Seeing some amazing places and being able to explore a lot of them, because nine times out of ten you are there for a while, either to fight jet lag or acclimatise. The American's know how to put on a race too. Doing a nighttime crit in America is almost like racing through a nightclub. The Tulsa Tough was like nothing I had ever experienced.

PW: After two years in United States after two years did you feel it was time to move back to Europe?

HB: The Women's Tour is when I thought that maybe I was ready for the 'next step' let's say and come back to Europe. I didn't take the conventional way into the professional ranks but I think I have shown that it can be a successful way. I did Europe in 2012 and truthfully I hated 80% of it. I was struggling to finish a race and my morale was rock bottom so to go to America, gain confidence and experience was the best thing for me. I am very motivated and feel ready to be back in Europe and really can't wait.

PW: Signed with the CANYON//SRAM Racing team for 2016. How did the contract come about and what made you ultimately sign with them?

HB: Ronny and myself spoke on the phone in July about the plans for the team for 2016. It sounded really exciting and I wanted to be part of it. We stayed in conversation while the final pieces of jigsaw were being put into place. The partners and sponsors the team have are amazing. The bikes, group set, and clothing we are being looked after by the best in the business.

PW: Difficult decision to make leaving UnitedHealthcare?

HB: It was a really hard decision to leave UnitedHealthcare. I have had a great two years in America. They had a lot of belief and faith in me, which has really made me believe in myself too.

PW: Do you think having spent your first two years as a professional gaining experience in the US has helped you develop and will leave you better positioned as you head back to race in Europe?

HB: I do. I think it was the perfect amount of progression from racing in the UK before going to Europe. They have a really good racing calendar in America. Lots of different types of races; stage races, criteriums, one day so you have lots of different races to gain experience from. I hadn't raced as part of a team much before UHC so having a team plan before each race and everyone having a role has been really useful.

PW: Broke your ankle missing the final part of the season. How has the recovery gone?

HB: The recovery has been long. The bone I broke (Talus) is a very complicated bone. It's the main anklebone, not blood flow to it, it's weight bearing and also has the three ankle joints attached to it so it can't be rushed. It's been a hard three months and unfortunately I have another five weeks until I have my next CT scan where hopefully I will get the all clear to start pedalling.

PW: Looking back on your season happy with how it went?

HB: I am happy with how it went. The main highlight of the year was winning the last stage of The Women's Tour. That race was my main goal. Finishing my season early because of injury was really disappointing. I really wanted to go to the World Championships in Richmond. It almost felt like a home race after living in America for the last two years.

PW: What are your goals for 2016? Olympic Year is selection for Rio something you are targeting?

HB: It's the Olympic year so my main focus is to make the GB team. It has always been a dream of mine to represent my country at the Olympic Games. I am motivated to be ready and be the best support I can be if the opportunity arises. I was looking forward to doing some classics. I don't yet know how my recovery will go and how quickly I will be back to race fitness so we will see.
 © 2016