So there I was in Berlin and it’s the ladies’ Six Day – well, three days, actually – and I hear one of the lasses waiting to go to the line speaking in a good Lancashire accent. Check the numbers, #7: Hannah Walker, GB.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of our hard-core readers Viktor, Ivan and Dave , I thought we’d best have a chat with her.
No British Cycling chaperones for the 20 year-old from Manchester; in Berlin under her own steam with no mechanic or coach – you have to respect that.
How did you get into cycling, Hannah?
“I was originally a runner then I had an injury and thought I’d try cycling.
“I went to a ‘taster’ session at the Manchester velodrome and everything lead on from there – time trials, road, track…
Are you with the Academy?
“No, but I have had help from the Dave Rayner Fund – I work in a bike shop and a pub to make money.
“I’m not really on the British Cycling radar – I’m with Stephen Wyman’s Matrix Fitness Racing Academy.
What are your palmares?
“I’ve been National Derny Champion twice and National Madison Champion with Hannah Barnes.”
How did you get the ride in Berlin?
“After I won the Derny championship last year, my Derny pilot and coach, Peter Bauerlein organised the ride for me – in Bremen and here in Berlin.
“And they invited me back, this year.
How do your parents feel about your cycling?
“They’re really supportive, as long as they see that I’m happy with what I’m doing.
“They come to all the races I ride at home; and my dad actually took me to Belgium to ride some kermises.
What do you think of the ‘Berlin Experience.’
“Amazing, the atmosphere with the big crowd and being among the some of the best riders in the world – it’s brilliant.”
How does it compare to a Revolution at Manchester?
“Well, they have to cram so much into three or four hours…”
How are you doing here?
“I’m around ninth or tenth overall, the standard is very high.
“You have Charlotte Becker riding here, for example, she’s World Team Time Trial Champion.
“But it’s not just about the racing; you meet people and make great connections for the future.”
And you’ve no back-up?
“No, I’m just here myself.
“I look after the bike and ask one of the mechanics if they’ll top my tyres up when they need it.”
What’s next on the agenda?
“I fly home tonight then tomorrow I’m off to Tenerife to train with two team mates for a week.
“I have more warm weather training in Mallorca at the end of February and then we have a team training camp in the south of France.
“We have a good programme this year, including the Tour of Brittany – which is on a lot of the parcours the men’s race covers, but later in the season.
“There’s also the Valkenburg Classic – that’s really hard, on the same roads as the Amstel Gold.
“We were racing against Marianne Vos in that, last year.”
Which is your favourite, road or track?
“I love both, they’re so different – the track is so fast but the road is much more unpredictable.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the weather or around the next corner.
“And riding the Tour Series criteriums has been a great experience, they’re held one hour before the men’s races so the crowd is there and the atmosphere is good.”
Who do you admire most?
“Marianne Vos, obviously, she’s amazing – despite her strength there’s so little of her!
“And Rob Hayles, I know Rob really well – I sometimes baby-sit for him.
“He’s been World Champion twice, so it’s great to be friends with and get advice from someone at that level.”
What are your goals?
“I’d love to ride the Worlds and Olympics, ultimately.
“This year, I want to have a good national road race and on the track do as well as I can in the scratch, points and pursuit.”
Nicole Cooke has been a tad outspoken, recently.
“I admire her for what she’s achieved and she’s right when she says that it’s not fair what she earned as world and Olympic champion, when you compare it to the men.”
And which of the men in the Six Day has the best legs?
“Kenny De Ketele!”