University of Birmingham Sport

hannah payton cycling

Payton Preps for Super Cycling Challenge

Whilst most of the UK are basking in the glorious weather, cyclist Hannah Payton has no time to relax. Having just finished the Women’s Tour of Britain – aka the premier women’s UK race of which she was one of the faces – Hannah has just been selected by her team ‘Trek-Drops’ to race the Giro Rosa, the most prestigious stage race in the Women’s calendar.

As if this wasn’t enough, Hannah is also balancing a dual career, managing her full-time physiotherapy course at UoB along with her cycling. In the lead up to the longest stage race in the Women’s calendar, we have a look at some of the details of these intense races, and get a few words from the woman herself.

The Giro Rosa

2018 will be the 29th running of this iconic race that takes in the some of the most challenging bike racing in the world. Essentially, the Giro is the women’s equivalent of the men’s Grand Tours – the Tour de France, the Giro in Italy, and the Vuelta a Espana in Spain, and is considered the pinnacle of the women’s racing.

To keep it fresh, the race moves around Italy year on year, which provides new challenges to the riders and brings the race to different parts of the country. After a relatively flat edition last year around South West Italy including the Amalfi Coast, this year is a very mountainous one – taking place in the Dolomites in Northern Italy. This will mean that the riders will be thoroughly tested, with the full race being a whopping 964km in 10 days.

The stages include:

  • a team time trial
  • a mountainous individual time trial which climbs 1000m in 15km
  • flat and rolling stages for sprinters
  • big mountain stages, including a mountain top finish on stages 6 and 9

So it’s no picnic!

A bit about Hannah

Having started competitively cycling aged just 12, Hannah is no stranger to racing. A local West Midlander, it seems she grew up with it in her blood; both parents used to compete and her brother has also been National Champion. This is her second professional season, racing on-road for Trek-Drops, and off-road for Team Kinesis. On top of all that, she’s just finished her second year of studying Physiotherapy at UoB! Seeing as she is just about to compete in the most important race in her calendar, we couldn’t wait to grab a few minutes with her to hear a bit about how she’s feeling.


Q: Firstly – congratulations on being selected to race the Giro Rosa! How does it feel to be part of the team?

A: Thank you! It’s something that’s been on my radar for a while and unfortunately it didn’t work out last season so I wanted it more than ever this season. Selections within the team are made as late as possible to make sure the best riders are chosen so it’s a race I’ve been training hard for but with so much uncertainty. I’m really happy to be riding. 2 years ago I said it would be a dream to make the start line, and here I am.

Q: You must be exhausted – the Women’s Tour only finished on the 17th June, you had National Championships at the weekend, you’ve battled with illness, and here you are prepping for the unrelenting pressure of the Giro! How was the Women’s Tour for you? And tell us about the National Road Race Championships?

A: The women’s tour was a big goal, a home world tour race is obviously pretty special. Unfortunately I got food poisoning after stage 2 and had to withdraw. I felt like I needed to show the good form I had worked so hard for so I went all in at the national champs and took a big risk. I was in a 4 man break which got caught with 20km to go, but I was pleased to be up there and I know I’m in a good place to be heading to Italy.

Q: Having had a quick look at the [Giro] route – it looks hilly! Even though you’re no stranger to these, are there any bits of it you’re looking forward to specifically – or any bits you’re dreading?!

A: On stage 9 we hit Monte Zoncolan which is a 10km climb that averages 10%, peaking at 22%. It’s regarded as the toughest climb in Europe so asking whether I’m looking forward to it or dreading it is a tough question! It’s pretty iconic and a climb that a lot of cyclists like to tick off. To be racing up it after 8 days of racing is going to hurt but I’m sure I’ll look back on it with fond memories.

Q: Obviously it is such an amazing achievement to be racing in the Giro – as you regularly race some of the top cyclists in the world on the world tour but this being your first time lining up in Italy for the Giro, what do you think is the main thing you’ll take away from the experience?

A: I always said one of my big aims in my cycling career was to make the start line of the Giro. When I achieve one of my aims, I always want more. I’ve never raced for longer than 7 days so one of the biggest challenges for me is going to be the extra 3 days, as well as battling the heat. This year I want to do my job well for the team. I’m going as a domestique so my job will be to keep the team hydrated and fed, pull turns if the peloton splits and protect our team leader from the wind. In the future I want to make my own mark on the race.

women's tourQ: I guess you’re not really thinking about this at the moment – but honestly, how do you manage to balance being a professional athlete and a full-time student?!

A: It’s the hardest thing I’ve done. Finding the balance is what I find most difficult. My degree is important to me, but I’m doing it at a time where my dreams on a bike need chasing and I know they can only be chased now. I enjoy studying alongside being an athlete because I like being challenged and when cycling isn’t all sunshine and roses, I like to have another focus. When I was a full time athlete prior to starting my Physio degree, I needed something to mentally stimulate me and stop my whole life being about bikes. I potentially took that to the extreme, but although at times it seems too hard, I know it’s what makes me a happier athlete and I know that when my cycling career is done, I want to be a physiotherapist. The support I receive from the Physiotherapy department, the scholarships team and the amazing facilities that I have the use of make it all possible.


We also managed to grab a few words with Ollie, our Head of Sport Physiology who has been working closely with Hannah in the lead up to the Giro about how they’ve been prepping:

Helping prepare Hannah for the Giro has been a complex one. The nature of the Giro means that we have had to target something that we knew was an uncertainty, while in the meantime, performing well in other races in order to be considered for selection for the Giro. On a practical level it’s been complex because the road season has been a busy racing schedule for Hannah, particularly since the stage racing has commenced. We have had to be specific and realistic with the training we could get done between big stage races while Hannah has also had an intensive academic schedule. We therefore focused on developing key areas before the stage races started. Once the stage race season got underway, it was then a case of balancing what we could do between the races. A balance of recovery, getting some training in and being fresh, going into the next race. It has been a real team effort from all involved. One thing that makes it all easier though is that Hannah applies herself extremely well. Hannah is a very determined individual who puts everything into her training, racing and academics. Hannah is motivated to see what her true potential is, that and the fire in her belly will be the defining factors of her success.’

It’s been an absolute pleasure to catch up with Hannah and Ollie, and we at UBSport wish Hannah all the best for the Giro between 6 – 15th July! You can follow Hannah’s progress by checking out her Twitter, Trek-Drops and of course, Giro Rosa.

04.07.18

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