Anyone with a family of keen cyclists, is going to know their way around a bike from a young age. In Hannah Payton that’s exactly what the world got and as a young rider she has plenty of time to get even better both on and off the road.
From Stourbridge, West Midlands, Hannah’s family rarely took a break from cycling. Most of the family holidays usually involved travelling Europe by bike, more often than not, cycle camping.
“I spent a lot of time in a seat on the back of my parents bikes until I was able to ride the back of a tandem. My parents introduced me to Cyclo-cross which is where my initial love of the sport grew and I started to race when I was about eight. My brother and Dad also race cross so I have always had them to train alongside. My first club was Stourbridge CC, I am still a member there and do a lot of my training with them.
“Once I finished my A levels I decided to race full time, initially intending to focus on cyclo-cross. I spent two winters in Belgium and two summers racing on the road as part of my cross season preparation.”
Hannah was known to Drops before the start of season having raced for their co-sponsored team the year before.
“I raced for Corley Cycles Drops last summer alongside Abi [van Twisk] and Becky [Womersley], she says.
“It was there that we met Bob and he took us to a few international races towards the end of the season. I remember him mentioning his intentions for 2016 on one of our many long drives together but I don’t think any of us anticipated what Drops would become.
As someone that is racing across multiple disciplines, it can often be difficult assess yourself as a rider. But the experience Hannah has means she knows exactly the sort of cyclist she is and she explains where her skills lie on the road with her fellow Drops riders.
“Stage racing has become my strength. I’m a pretty consistent rider and having the opportunity to compete in so many races has allowed me to discover this. My strongest races have been in the mountains. I love long climbs and I love descending so I’m grateful for the opportunity to prove myself abroad as it’s difficult for me to show those strengths in the UK.
“The time I spent in Belgium racing cross was very different to the time I have spent on the road with Drops. Road racing has so much more of a team dynamic and I love riding for other people and being a part of the team’s successes.
Hannah has excelled during the 2016 calendar and it’s clear she’s enjoying her racing – following a busy season for Drops, she discusses the intricate act of balancing both road and cross as she prepares for a winter period in the mud.
“I’ve raced in nine countries this season and have seen some wonderful parts of the world. The coming cross season is a bit unknown for me,” she admits.
“If I was focusing solely on the 2016/17 cross season I wouldn’t have raced as much as I have done on the road. But I loved the stage racing I did in the Basque Country, Luxembourg and California at the beginning of the season and I guess my priorities switched a little - I wanted a proper full programme of road racing and Bob gave me just that. I have competed in eight stage races this season which has defiantly enabled me to learn a lot.
“Now that the road season has finished, I will have a few weeks off and will be back in the cross season ready for the first National Trophy in October. My preparation will be different to that of other pro cross riders but I hope to still have some good results. There’s a few added pressures when I’m racing cross because that is where I have had most of my success and that is where expectation still lies. It is difficult to compete in both disciplines at the top level but there are various professionals that do it successfully and that is what I aspire to do.”
As the road season comes to an end, Hannah has time to reflect on what she’s enjoyed enjoyed most about pulling on the Drops jersey this year.
“The whole image of Drops really stands out and I’ve been proud and extremely lucky to have raced as part of this team. The race calendar has exceeded all of our expectations and racing the best in the world has made my strengths and weaknesses much more apparent.
“I’ve loved the team atmosphere and being surrounded by such a supportive group of people that are so positive and fun to be around has definitely made us race better.
“The team dynamic of Drops is very special. We all get on so well together, riders and staff. I have never been part of a team like this before. We have so much fun on and off the bike and all work so well together as a team - everyone is willing to commit and sacrifice and I think that’s why we have achieved so much. My team mates have become my best friends.”