In interview with former British Road Race Champion, Hannah Barnes

Monday the 12th of July marked the return of the Zwift Academy, lauching from Rapha’s flagship store on Brewer Street, London. On display was not only some of the finest clothing Rapha had to offer but also some of the best riders in the female pro peloton, former British Road Race Champion Hannah Barnes and 2016 ZWIFT Academy Winner Leah Thorvilson – try getting that right after a few complimentary drinks.

The ZWIFT academy was spoke about at length and you can read about that by clicking here. For all of you who didn’t click on, here’s what Hanna

h and I spoke about.

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  • Improving women’s cycling

Me: It’s no secret that the men’s tours have waaayyyyy more coverage than any women’s race. Be it a road race or a time trial the men get the lions share when it comes to TV coverage.

I asked Hannah what can be done to increase the popularity of women’s racing, should women’s racing try and break off and have its own deprecate races or try and tag on to the men’s races to try and boost coverage and make it cheaper for broadcasters.

Leah and Hannah
Hannah with Leah Thorvilson
Hannah: “It’s hard because there’s fans already out there watching men’s races and it’s really hard to compete. It was at Liege we were racing and at the finish line they were showing the finish to last years men’s race. I’m thinking ‘Ah, that would have been such a good opportunity to see our race broadcasted.’ So I think it’s better if we’re completely out there on our own. The women’s tour which has just finished – a five day race just for us. To see all the fans and crowds and t

he TV all there to see us race. I think that’s really encouraging for our sport.”

And I’m inclined to agree, if you’re going to make a stamp for your sport and try and showcase it the best. I understand the temptation to go before a men’s race where the cameras will already be and to break away from that is a complete risk because if it fails, there’s lots on the line. In order to grow as a sport there needs to be more women’s races and tours of their own. Not be at races where they’re showing something else at the finish line…

  • The British Road Race Jersey

Me: Did you feel added pressure putting on the British Road Race Champion Jersey?

Hannah: “I wouldn’t say added pressure, but it certainly motivates me. When I’m out training I’ll see a reflection in a window or I’ll look down and see my white sleeves. I’ll honour it and I’m proud to wear it, I feel pressure when I’m racing anyway so it’s actually quite a treat to wear it.”

  • The future for Hannah Barnes

Me: Where do you see yourself in two years time?

Hannah: “Oh I dunno, finishing the women’s tour race on the podium is something I’m quite proud of. I’ve got a great team supporting me, t

hey have a lot of confidence in me which is really encouraging because I’ve always lacked in confidence in my abilities. To have them supporting them supporting me and really wanting me to push and improve is great. I’m in a really good environment to do just that.”

A true political question dodge here by Hannah, she’s barely going to give away her long term goals though is she! She’s 24, current Road Race champion and fresh off the podium from the women’s tour. She’s doing alright, I’d say.

  • The future of Women’s Cycling

Me: Where would you like to see women’s cycling in the next few years?

Hannah: “Coverage, coverage, coverage. A lot of people say wages and money, for me, I don’t do it for the money I do it for the coverage. For me my mum and dad and family can’t watch me race like they used to be able to when I was a junior. I’m racing all around the world. Racing at the Women’s tour was great because they were there to watch me and I would just be able to love it if they were able to watch the race if they’re not able to be there in real life.”

I have to say I completely agree, more coverage is only a better thing for the sport, racing is racing and great races are great races. Why doesn’t women’s races get the same coverage as the mens? Which lead me to this question.

Me: Are the organisers doing enough?

Hannah: “Yeah, I guess so, I mean they’re putting on La Course, I think they’re trying new things. You only have to look at the Hammer Series which is what I think is one of the best few days of racing I’ve ever seen.

 

  • Advice for beginners

Me: I had to ask Hannah what her advice would be for old and young in getting in to cycling. As a sport and also a pastime.

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Hannah sharing a joke about the first time Leah got on a time trial bike and asked where the brakes were.
Hannah: “Ride in a group, if you’re riding on your own and struggling, it can be really hard to keep yourself going. It’s hard because it’s a really expensive sport, I think that if you have really nice kit it helps you feel good and if you have a nice bike and it rides good. There’s all those combination that helps you feel better. If you have a bike which doesn’t feel nice and it’s set up wrong for you then it’s going to give you all sorts of aches and pains and you’re not going to want to go and get out on it.

For me, bike fits are really important. There’s a lot of people you can see who have just bought a bike and got on it, not thought about saddle height or handle bars or anything. That can give you all sorts of back ache, if something is painful to do then you’re not going to do it.”

  • Mixed cycling events at the olympics

Me: I don’t know whether you’ve heard but at Tokyo 2020 there will be mixed events, with men and women competing along side each other in athletics, swimming, table tennis and triathlon. I put it to Hannah about a mixed track team maybe.

Hannah: “I don’t know if it would be such a great thing, living with a professional male cyclist (Team Sky star of the future, Tao Geoghegan Hart) we train together sometimes but our abilities are massive. There’s not many sports where there is such a big gap, as in cycling. I don’t know how it would work to have a mixed event.Hannah-Barnes-Canyon-SRAM-2016-salute-sprint-pic-Allan-McKenzie-SWpix.com_

I’ve always wanted to do a mixed madison, that could be fun… There’s no way there could be a road race. I mean I could beat Tao in a sprint… but not after 200km of racing.”

There you go, you heard it here first, Hannah Barnes can out sprint Team Sky rider Tao Geoghegan Hart!

Chatting to Hannah was refreshing, it was great to hear the thoughts of a young aspiring rider, great to hear the insights on the female peloton and where she would like it to go and how she enjoys riding. On top of that though, she’s a nice person, in my professional career I’ve worked and spoken to a lot of celebs who get lost in money and lose that motivation. Ten minutes with Hannah I knew she wasn’t in professional cycling for the money or the fame, that was just a side effect. I could tell that she was in it for the passion of the sport and just doing something which she loved.  Keep up the good work Hannah!

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Zwift academy is a Go! ZWIFT! 

In 2016 ZWIFT led a very successful campaign to find the an emerging star and throwing them in to the pro peloton with a contract with the women’s world tour team, Canyon//SRAM. Guess what? They’re back at it again in 2017 and you can sign up here

DB1X6241For many this is a dream of a life time, the possibility of racing all over the world starting from your very own living room, or spare room, or garage, or just about wherever you could fit a tablet, phone or a laptop and hook it up to your turbo trainer and ZWIFT.

If you’ve not heard of ZWIFT before or familiar with how you can ZWIFT check out my blog here where you can read all about it and also read about the Wahoo KICKR too.

So what’s this all about and how do you win a pro contract? Well, basically, if you’re a woman and think you want to try your hand at being an elite level cyclist on one of the best cycling teams in the women’s pro peloton, you need to sign up to the ZWIFT

academy and get pushing the pedals.

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Winner of the 2016 ZWIFT academy, Leah Thorvilson

At the launch of the event on Monday the 12th of July, Leah Thorvilson, winner of the 2016 GoZwift academy, spoke about how she won and what life was and what life had become. It may surprise you that Leah doesn’t come from a cycling background but a running one. After four surgeries in three years and recurring pains and more injuries, Leah turned to cycling, more specifically ZWIFTing.

What followed was months of reality checks and surprise as she found herself progressing through the rounds and all the way to he final training camp where she won her pro contract. If this shows you anything, if you’re thinking you would never win, a runner who when on her Time Trial bike for the first time didn’t know where the brakes were won and is now about to enter her first National Championships. Still think yo’ve got no chance?

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Proof, I was there.

In 2016 each of the three rounds of competition, a panel of judges narrowed riders down by carefully analyzing data gathered during online rides and workouts. CANYON//SRAM Sports Director Beth Duryea, Professional Pursuit World Champion Mike McCarthy, and TrainSharp Founder Jon Sharples were part of the selection committee who chose twelve semi-finalists before narrowing it down to the final three.

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Discussing plans for next year over a beer.

“Finding talent in cycling is a numbers game, in terms of casting the net wide and drawing performance data back in. That’s what excited us about the Zwift Academy concept. Indoor training provides the accessibility for participants, a safe environment to train and a controlled environment to analyse data, then Zwift adds the social element build a community of riders and spur them on. It doesn’t surprise us that Leah is our winner. We’re looking forward to seeing how she can develop into a bike racer,” commented Jon Sharples, TrainSharp Founder.

“When you see an idea really become something, it’s an amazing feeling,” noted Ronny Lauke, CANYON//SRAM Racing team manager. “We took a chance with the Zwift Academy and we’re very pleased with the potential we saw not only in Leah, but in the other finalists as well. Watching and seeing all these women dedicate themselves to the sport, it makes one wonder how many more are overlooked.”

The 2017 academy is already up and running and you can sign up by clicking here. Who knows you may even end up like 2016 winner Leah.

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Ribble Sportiva – Women’s Road Bike Review

I think we could all agree, the only thing us British people seem to be good at is cycling. Since the Wiggo inspired revolution of 2012, we’ve seen British Cycling grow and grow. Boris Johnson introduced major cycle lanes in to the heart of London and Saqid Kahn looks to extend the cycle route with the new plans of CS11. Each morning I cycle to work, there seems to be more and more cyclists enjoying the commute in to the office.

Over the last 12 months, British Cycling have been able to draw up the following stats:

  • 2,069,200 adults in England now cycling at least once every week
  • 3,628,400 adults in England now cycling at least monthly
  • Over half a million regular cyclists are women, an increase of 2% in the last 12 months.
  • 385,600 young people now ride bikes frequently
  • Frequent cycling among people with an impairment is now at 184,000

Considering such a boom, certainly in the male market, it would be natural that the female market would follow suit. However, it seems to be that, even though there is a large proportion of female riders and enthusiasts, the help, bikes and tech may not be there for women as it is for men.

My wife – she wouldn’t of even cared for a bike race or event before she met me, in the years I’ve been with her, she has now; been to see three stages of the Tour de France, watch Wiggo go around a track for an hour and attends regular spin classes to keep fit. I know I’ve done a wonderful job. On the sofa the other night though I caught something in her eye, it was a reflection on from the iPad… She was looking at bikes and she admitted it. She wanted to take on the open road, feel the wind through her helmet on the country lanes and experience cycling on the roads. I was made up. Obviously, I started with all the questions to which I got a blank expression, talking about groupsets got me no where and when I mentioned the length of the handlebar stem I got a roll of the eyes as if I was putting in some sort of sorry cycling innuendo.

So it was a bit of a challenge as to which manufacturer to choose. However, the guys over at Ribble stepped up to the plate. They got in touch, as they too are keen to get involved with the cycling boom. One of the biggest online bike dealers in the UK, Ribble specialises in using quality, thoroughly road-tested frames from the far east as the basis of their customer-specced bike packages. They offer exceptional value, with fully built carbon bikes available for under £800. As an entry level bike, they offered up the Ribble Spotiva, an introduction to the Sportive range of Ribble bikes. With a 7005 frame, an aluminium alloy with amazing strength to weight ratio. It’s the same alloy used on the men’s frame, the only difference is this is set up for female geometry. Meaning it has a lower stand over height and a shorter top tube.

The handle bars are slightlu pointing backwars, but that is what my wife finds comfortable

The guys at Ribble were really good, what they didn’t know, you don’t need to know. They chatted my wife through all the selection options and even the length of her pedal arm. Of course when someone else starts talking to you about it, it’s then interesting isn’t it?! I could have sworn I’ve bored her to tears over cycling subjects for years…

Pedal stem chosen and handle bar tape changed to Celeste colour, the bike arrived in super quick time.

After ordering, my wife is a lover of reviews so we both did some digging to see if this outlay really meant this was the bike for her. However, the only review we could find of the bike was in The Good Housekeeping Institute. I find this slightly off, so here we go, here’s my attempt!

The bike arrived in almost one piece, all it needed was the handlebars fitting on, the saddle height adjusted and the pedals screwing on. All of which we did together, not even an issue – we were ready to ride.

While she uses SPD cleats in her spin class and is used to them, using them out on the road is another thing! They’re really good pedals to get used to a new bike and also riding on the road in cleats in. I picked them up on Wiggle for £28.99. With a couple of up charges – Tiagra Groupset, R501 wheels, Continental Ultra Sport tyres, a white handlebar steam and the all important Celeste handlebar tape – the total cost of the bike: £678.89

Even a bike which was ordered online and got delivered in a box to me, the gears didn’t need and fiddling with, changing down and through them wasn’t an issue, each gear changed was met with a satisfying ‘thunk’ in to gear.


First off, the transition from spin class to road brings in different factors; road surface, wind, weather conditions and other road users. The perfect place for us to start the full test and transition was down at the Olympic Velodrome where they have an outdoor mile long circuit, for cyclists only. For £6 you can cycle around pretty much all day, there’s toilet and water facilities on a circuit which has everything but a mega long climb (it is only a mile after all) but it does have a couple of short upward kicks.

Back to the bike – well, in short, it performs fantastically. Not only does it have fantastic weight for it’s price but upgraded the Groupset from the 105 to Tiagra gives miles better performance for only £39.99 on Ribble, it’s well worth it.


For a first time rider who is wanting to tackle road cycling head on I think its a great introductory bike. The balance of the bike is something which is very noticeable, it really gives you the confidence to ride the bike.

Gone are the days of a women’s bike just having a Top Tube which is easier to step over, Ribble have changed the geometry slightly so rather than just shifting the saddle forwards and fitting a much shorter stem, all of which could make for a twitchy, uncomfortable ride. Ribble have made the overall reach so that handling is not compromised. This is super noticeable because on the mile long circuit there are some tight twisty bits which the Sportiva glides through, with ease. Theres no mid corner twitch or worry, you can really get in to the corner at speed with confidence. To this improved handling setup the addition of a carbon front fork and you have a smoother ride that (slightly) reduces bumps and stones which may make you worry on the corners.

On this short and punchy circuit the bike performed admirably, it seemed to eat up the sprint, feeling stiff and ridged and that every pedal stoke had a purpose, to put as much power through the chain as possible. Flat out sprints were strong and sharp rising out the saddle to hammer down the power isn’t an issue and neither is negating a small bump in the road, up and out the saddle the pedals feel light enough underneath you to tap through your cadence with confidence of tackling the climb.

To a slightly longer ride – as the frame shares its build with the mens 7005 Sportive, you get the same sort of no messing from this frame. It’s great for a Sportive or leisure ride. Longer days in the saddle are comfortable and I’m pleased to say that uphill climbs are almost a joy. Almost. Having the bladed forked Shimano R501 wheels also helped here, while they’re not super light and the raciest of wheels, they are solid and they bring the weight down a bit. They’re durable and replacement spoke are easy enough to come by, they’re a welcome addition.

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To sum up, its a great first time bike, it brings together many elements; looks, durability, set up and low weight. it’s perfect for an entry level bike which will help you to decide whether you want to start taking things a little more seriously in a year or so. Easily enough to add stuff on to like better wheels, pedals or even electronic gears, we couldn’t be happier with it. Well done Ribble!

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