Hannah Barnes (Canyon//SRAM) stood atop of the podium at the National Road Race Championships today – a huge achievement in itself but an even greater one when considered alongside the fact she spent five months off-the-bike over winter.
Barnes was the fastest rider in a sprint for the line after a 66-mile-road race in Stockton-on-Tees, after returning to racing in April following a crash in August where she broke an important supporting bone in her ankle. Hannah claimed the win by less than a bike length from her sister, Alice Barnes (Drops Cycling) who gained the Under 23 British Road Race Champion jersey for a second year.
In third was Lucy Garner (Wiggle High5) with team mate Dani King fourth and Jen George (Drops) fifth. Defending champion, Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) wasn’t able to race, following illness after the Aviva Women’s Tour.
The race saw multiple attempts to break – the most dangerous being a 1 minute 20 lead built up by Dame Sarah Storey – who is clearly on flying form ahead of the Paralympic Games and caused enough worry among the riders for a frantic chase to begin with two of six laps to go.
Nikki Harris and Dani King lead the charge, and once Storey was caught the field splintered to reveal a lead group of 13 consisting of Nikki Harris, Hannah Barnes, Jennifer George, Lucy Shaw, Neah Evans, Molly Weaver, Claire Rose, Annasley Park, Lucy Garner and Dani King and Storey.
The elite lead group managed to gain almost a minute over the rest of the peloton. However, as the finish drew closer, the pack began to draw the leading riders in. Completing the final long lap, the race returned to Stockton for three fast laps of a tight four mile circuit.
Coming into the finish, Barnes (Hannah) sprinted to the line, emerging from just behind Banes (Alice). The elder sister, now National Champion, told British Cycling after the race: "It feels really great. It was a really big aim for me this year. I think having the winter off, it was a realistic aim for me to focus on this race. [With Lizzie Armitstead not competing] it left the race pretty wide open. I'm really pleased to have the race win and how I could finish it off.
She added: "It's quite a fine line between being patient and making sure you go with the right moves. Thankfully it was a pretty small group that we got away so it was easiest to mark and go with the moves. Coming into the circuits it was pretty active and I had to make sure I was with everyone that went.
"I didn't expect Alice to be so close to me really, I haven't raced with Alice in a long time so it was really nice to have her there. For her to have the under-23 jersey as well, we have a very happy mum and dad!"
Barnes was also fifth in the National Time Trial during the week, with first place going to Hayley Simmonds. Simmonds was of course ecstatic with the win, but her celebrations were cut short when she discovered she'd not made Olympic selection via Twitter announcements from British Cycling - despite receiving selection emails just a week prior and no information to the contrary before the public unveiling of the team names.