Last season's Women's Tour was a breakthrough race for the young Hannah Barnes with a victory on the final stage, a top-five finish and the youth classification. Things are a little different this time out as she plays the team role for her new Canyon-SRAM squad while she continues her recovery from a broken ankle over the winter.
"I wasn't coming into this race with any ambitions. I just wanted to help the team. I've just been doing that and trying to do what I can," a dirt-spattered Barnes told Cyclingnews after a tough, rain-soaked stage 2 of the Women's Tour.
Barnes was one of the riders that missed the cut when the peloton split into several groups ahead of the final climb of the day. The British rider came across the finish line 1:42 behind the winner Amy Pieters (Wiggle-High5). Despite this, she was still able to play a part in the team performance and use her knowledge of the latter stages to guide them to the finish.
"The profile was pretty tough, and I'd ridden the second half before so I knew what it was like so I could talk on the radio and let everyone know what was coming up. It was good," Barnes explained. "I think everyone knew that these next three days are going to be really hard so everybody wanted to stay there… These next few days are definitely GC days."
Barnes' teammate, and last year's champion, Lisa Brennauer, missed out by half a wheel in the sprint to the line but thanks to the bonus seconds that she earned for her second place she climbed the standings. Brennauer is now fourth overall, just 11 seconds down on the race leader Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv).
Barnes joined the Canyon-SRAM set-up that came from the ashes of the Velocio-SRAM squad over the winter, following two years with UnitedHealthcare. Before her contract with the team was announced, Barnes suffered a serious crash in August of last year that left her with a broken ankle and forced her to miss the World Championships.
It would be a long time before she could get back on the bike, and her season only started in the middle of April at the Salverde Omloop van de IJsseldelta. It has been a struggle to get back to racing speed, but she believes that she's on the right track.
"My fitness was very low, and obviously my muscle mass was low. I'm still seeing improvements. I think it has been mentally quite tough on me with the recovery, and the last two months have been pretty full on," Barnes said. "I wasn't able to do the spring which was a shame so it's good to be back. It's a different team, and I've got a different role so yes it's good.
"Hopefully, there is more to come, and I'm looking forward to the second half of the season and progressing a bit more."
Barnes remained coy on what her goals will be going into the second half of this season but did admit that she has her eyes on a good result at the British national championships next weekend. After the Nationals, she will enjoy a deserved rest to give her mind, if not her body, some time to recuperate from the past months.
"I'm just going to try and keep progressing and keep using each race as a marker," Barnes told Cyclingnews. "I've set some different goals, the Nationals are next week and hopefully I can have some form coming out of this. We'll see."
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