Words by Maria David
The London Bike was the setting for the unveiling of the 2017 Drops Cycling UCI-registered women’s team. With a squad of 15 riders from the UK and Europe, which includes 2016 National Under-23 Road Race Champion Alice Barnes and former National Junior Road Race Champion Abby-Mae Parkinson, Drops Cycling Team are rearing to get their 2017 campaign going.
Led by Bob and Tom Varney, Drops started as a small inexperienced team in 2016 and finished the year just outside the top 20 women’s teams in the world. The year did not pass without celebrations, as Alice Barnes took the National Junior Road Race Championships, and three riders [Alice Barnes, Laura Massey and Abby-Mae Parkinson] represented Team GB at the 2016 World Road Race Championships in Doha. The team are keen to build on their successful inaugural year and aim to finish 2017 as a top 10 women’s team.
Not only does the squad include strong young riders like Anna Christian, formerly of Wiggle High5, and cyclocross specialists Hannah Payton and Annie Simpson, Drops Cycling Team have some new overseas recruits: Former European Under-23 Champion Susanna Zorzi from Italy, and three-time Austrian time trial champion, Martina Ritter, as well as Belgium’s Ann-Sophie Duyck.
We spoke to two of the riders from Drops Cycling Team, Alice Barnes and Laura Massey, about their 2016 season and how they see 2017...
How was 2016 for you?
It was amazing! I got much more than I would have hoped for. We’re really lucky to be in the team we’re in. Bob and Tom put in a lot of hard work into some prestigious races so we were travelling around the world, up against some of the best racers. The whole journey was really good, and then racing for Team GB at the end of the season was the cherry on the top!
What was it like doing your first ever UCI race for Drops Cycling Team?
My first ever race last season was the Pajot Hills Classic, in Belgium which is a couple of days before the Tour of Flanders. I remember feeling so nervous, seeing all the big names. It made me almost wonder if I should really be there.But once the racing started I quickly settled into it, and once you’re racing, you are just racing. It’s like anywhere else.
What was it like competing at the World Road Race Championships?
Having the opportunity to ride in the World Championships at Doha was pretty cool. That happened when I was going through a period of good form, coming off the back of a stage race in the Czech Republic. The 46degC heat in Doha was tough. I had done all the things people said to do, like training in a hot room in your house with all your outdoor clothes on. This helped a bit, but it was still pretty hideous when we actually got out there. It was like riding in an oven! But everyone was in the same boat, and some people handled it better than others. Perhaps Doha wasn’t the greatest course for me, but I was still proud to have been there, and represented my country.
This year you will be working part-time as well as racing. How will you manage that?
Well, last year I took sabbatical leave from my job as a management consultant in order to race all season. I am back at work this year, and have arranged to work part-time. I will, nevertheless be still very focused on everything I do. Within the team I hope to help animate the races, not just be in the races.
How is the season looking?
Things are lookingpretty good, as we’ve got a great racing calendar this year. We’re in some really big World Tour races and we are in a lot of the classics, so it’s really exciting. I’m doing a lot of races I’ve never done before, such as the Tour of Flanders. It’s going to be a bit daunting, but it’ll be an exciting year and I will gain more experience.
Are there any particular riders in the team that mentor or help you?
There isn’t any one racer that mentors me. We’ve got a great bunch of girls in the team – some with more experience, some with less experience, so we all learn from each other, and bounce ideas off each other.
We’ve got three new foreign riders who are all older than me, so I think with their experience I will learn a lot from them this year. It’s good to have stronger girls around me, and it’s also good to help them in their races. I get to learn about being a leader, but also about being a domestique, which is important.
What is the atmosphere like within the team?
It’s great. We have a lot of fun together. I don’t think the team would be Drops without all the banter and the laughs we have, but when we get on the startline it’s serious and we all race to do our best and work really well as a team.
You were previously a mountainbiker. Where does that now fit in?
I only made the switch from mountainbiking to full-time road racer last April. I’ve always done everything – cyclocross, mountainbiking, road, a bit of track, time trialling, etc. Last year was the year I had to choose a focus, so I started to concentrate on the road, stopped mountainbiking, and I’ve never looked back. Obviously I miss mountainbiking, but I get a lot more racing done on the road and I now consider myself as a road racer!
Laura Massey’s first race of the season is the Semana Ciclista Valenciana stage race (8–11 March).
Alice Barnes has competed in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and the Strade Bianche World Women’s Tour races.
Follow theirs and the team’s progress by visiting their website here.
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