The fireball and the fightback

So after her trike was torched on New Year’s Eve 2016 – sorry, has that not come up? It probably should have come up – anyway, after her trike was torched when it, and the car containing it, were pinched from outside her Glasgow home on New Year’s Eve 2016 and crashed into a petrol station, Hannah was in a bit of a pickle.

It was her racing trike from Rio, after all, specially designed by Nissan for the Paralympics and everything. She didn’t have another racing trike, so it had to be replaced, but a replacement was going to cost £7,500, and Hannah didn’t have £7,500.

Nor, for that matter, did she have the £3,500 or so in running costs that she would need to get through the 2017 racing season. If she’d been kept on by British Cycling post-Rio, that wouldn’t have been an issue, but she hadn’t, so it was.

And then a friend suggested crowdfunding; and within two days of setting up a GoFundMe donations page to ask for money for a new trike, 350-plus people had blown the target away.

One of them was Jill Walsh, a kindly American who also happened to be the double Rio trike silver medallist. Another was Dame Sarah Storey, who was running a crowdfunding project of her own to help fund Storey Racing, a women-only road cycling team set up by her and her husband Barney.

And Hannah and Sarah stayed in touch, and one thing led to another. And Hannah’s been with Team Storey for a year or so now – making her the first trike rider ever to be part of a UCI women’s road team – and if you asked her today, she would put Sarah right up there with the best managers she’s ever had. She’s sorted Hannah out with kit, and found grants, and pushed her media profile, and all in all she’s doing everything she can to keep Hannah going so she can prove herself once more to British Cycling and the world.

One person she doesn’t need to prove herself to, though, is Carol Cooke.

Carol is, pretty unequivocally, the best female triker in the world, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist from the last two Games, and with multiple golds and silvers from the world championships she’s been to since she took up the sport at the start of the decade. She’s not a bad rower, either, finishing less than a second shy of qualification for Beijing 2008 in the LTA mixed coxed four; and before she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1990s, she wasn’t too shabby a swimmer or triathlete.

So she knows what she’s about.

And she knows that trike racing needs young and talented people like Hannah, so when she learned that Hannah wouldn’t be riding for Great Britain in 2017, she said look, I’m going to be at the World Cups and travelling around Europe on my own, why don’t you join me? And when the best trike racer in the world, who also happens to be a good friend now, makes an offer like that, you don’t say no.

So last year, the two of them, the Canadian-born Aussie and the south-of-the-border-dwelling Scot, the veteran and the tyro, tooled around Europe in a Tetrised-up Citroen Berlingo, stopping in at Dortmund and getting training tips from the world’s best male triker, Hans-Peter Durst, along the way.

And Hannah didn’t win a World Cup medal in 2017, but she got a damn sight closer. And she learned more about aero bars (no, not those ones, these ones), and cornering techniques, and how she can’t quite keep up with Carol or Hans-Peter and his wife when it comes to drinking wine at a birthday party.

Will it all help, once the 2018 racing season comes along?

There’s only one place to find out.

[By which I mean here, obvs. I mean, technically, there are a few places to find out, such as the UCI website, but it’s quite hard to track down the results there unless you know where to look, and anyway, you’ll get a bit more colour here, so what I’m really saying is: keep reading this blog, thank you please.]

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