We’re halfway there now. We’re halfway there, and we’re getting closer.
It’s been a tricky season, with one thing and another. There’s been doubt and there’s been disappointment, and if you can hang on for a little while longer, at some point we might be able to tell you exactly, at times, how fucking shit it all got.
But that’s for another day, because come August, there’s Hannah, crossing the line at the Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Maniago, and damn it all if she hasn’t, in both the time trial and the road race, gone and finished fourth.
Now fourth is, of course, quite definitively better than fifth. But it’d come with a caveat if you wanted it to, because you can put together all the race plans you like, but if any of them involve one of your competitors falling down a ravine halfway through the time trial (it was Monica Sereda, and don’t worry, she’s fine), then you’re a very odd type of racer.
But that would be to miss the point, because this, for Hannah, was spectacular.
It’s the first competition she’s been to with British Cycling since Rio, and it feels brilliant from the off. She’s straight back into the fold, she’s rooming with Karen Darke like she always did, it’s just like the good old days.
They’re all out in Maniago for a week and a half before the racing starts, and it’s eat, train, sleep, eat, train, sleep, along with a rest day on which fellow GB triker Craig Collis-McCann takes Hannah round the course with him and tells her how he’d do all the corners.
On time trial race day itself, Hannah misses the drama – she’s been sent out first, up the hill through the village, twisting down, across the bridge over the ravine, up, down again and back through to Maniago, while it all goes off in her tail-lights. She’s strong up the hill, and careful on the descent, and Carol Cooke and Jill Walsh and Jana Majunke do it quicker, but not by all that much.
On, then, to the day after, and a road race in the sort of conditions which make you wonder whether your heat training was quite enough. And when you learn another thing, which is that the support approach that makes sense for most people in hot weather – stand by the side of the road and chuck some water as your rider zips past – doesn’t work so well with you and your CP and your startle reflex, which means that when the cold water hits you your muscles freeze, your head snaps back and just for a few moments, you stop pedalling.
But on she goes, and for a lap and three-quarters of the two lap course, she’s right up there. And then Jill attacks, and Carol goes with her, and Jana manages to nip in front of Hannah too, and that might have been ok except that Hannah gets stuck with a group of MT1s – the more severely disabled men – who’d been sent out at the same time as the WT2s because they would be going at a similar sort of pace.
You’re allowed to work with the men in those circumstances – you don’t have to run a completely separate race – except that none of them are in the mood to help Hannah out. So it ends up with her dragging the lot of them round the rest of the course trying to chase Jana, until with about 500 metres to go they all skirt straight round her and sprint for the line. Which is a particular shame today, given that they catch Jana too.
A tiny bit more strength.
An ounce of hill training.
A friend in the pack.
That’s how close we are now.