Most families would be pleased to have one daughter represent their country in a sport, so when two sisters represent their country in the same sport though in different disciplines, then it makes for a very interesting and unique story. “Dad always wanted us to do something sporty rather than sit on the road,” Alice said, explaining how it all started for them - although they have ended up in similar but different places.
Hannah is a road racer racing for UHC pro-cycling. This sees her compete in races that vary in terrain, last around three hours and cover 120-130 km. But this is a team race and a team sport where strategy and the support of your teammates is crucial.
Alice is a mountain biker with a very different discipline to contend with. A mass start of individual riders sees them race a course of 4-7 laps with each lap being roughly 5-6km and lasting around 1.15-1.45 hours; this is a flat-out race over terrain.
Cycling is in their blood for sure - both Hannah and Alice have been on bikes from an early age. As Hannah commented, “...my first memory was probably on a bike.” They both have very good and fond memories of their first racing club every Wednesday night with Team Keyne. Very quickly it becomes obvious that the glue and the momentum is family and in particular their parents. I spent the day with Hannah and Alice doing a location photo shoot as well as the interview and just listening to them talk about their lives and upbringing and where they are at now, it was so clear that the support and love was/is crucial.
So often family and supportive parents are overlooked but the Barnes sisters both together and individually are very aware and grateful for what their parents have done for them. They spoke of the long journeys to get to events only to turn around and drive back straight afterwards without complaint. The significant amount of money spent on kit for them, the overnight stays, weekends given up and then straight back to work on Monday with no time for themselves. As Hannah said, “...they have been so supportive, we couldn’t do it without them”. Although now that both girls are away competing and no longer need their parents to ferry them around and pay for everything they both agree that their parents aren’t sure what to do with all this spare time. As Alice said, “... they have so much time for themselves now they are bored!” and both sisters laugh.
There is genuine affection for their parents as they talk. They may not need lifts but Hannah and Alice keep in contact every day thanks to technology, chatting on the phone if possible. Likewise both Hannah and Alice keep in contact with each other as they travel the world competing. “We chat loads,” says Alice. However the interesting thing when I ask about sisterly rivalry is that they both agree it’s good that they do different things. As Alice explained, “...we have always been close but I think it’s a good thing that we don’t race against each other.” So in the same way that there is a bond and appreciation of their parents you feel they have the same appreciation of each other. They are close, they are sisters, they are athletes, but they are also friends.
Quiet, unassuming and very humble: Alice and Hannah are a pair of sisters who have their feet firmly on the ground - well, on pedals - and will continue to grow in stature and success because of it.
It’s the sacrifice of parents around the world like this that enable girls around the world to pursue their dreams and to be enabled to achieve greatness. So to Mr and Mrs Barnes and all the parents around the world, thank you for being our unsung heroes this issue!