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Hannah Barnes excited by Cyclopark stage in OVO Energy Women's Tour

Kent-born cyclist Hannah Barnes is looking forward to a different challenge when the Cyclopark hosts stage two of the OVO Energy Women's Tour.

The world's top female cyclists will be in the county on Tuesday, including Barnes, a former stage winner and British champion.

At 62.5km, the Cyclopark is by far the shortest of the six stages in this year's line-up which covers a total of 790km and more than 8,400m of ascent.

Hannah Barnes, left, is a former stage winner in the Women's Tour Picture: SWPix.com
Hannah Barnes, left, is a former stage winner in the Women's Tour Picture: SWPix.com

It's unique as the only race track on the schedule, with cyclists battling it out over 25 laps.

Barnes, who was born in Pembury, near Tunbridge Wells, has lived in Spain for almost five years.

But the 26-year-old regularly returns to Kent to visit family and is excited to compete here.

She said: "I think it's quite unusual for any women's race to be held at a closed circuit like that.

"It will be like going back to being a youth rider.

"It's very, very different to any of the other stages, which is good, and it's also good for spectators.

"It's a very short stage, just 62.5km, so that will be interesting.

"There's a lot of sprinters who will be hoping it comes down to a sprint and there are other teams who will want to make it aggressive and get up the road.

Hannah Barnes is looking forward to racing at the Cyclopark Picture: SWPix.com
Hannah Barnes is looking forward to racing at the Cyclopark Picture: SWPix.com

"I'm really looking forward to it because in Britain I think you grow up doing those kind of races on those kind of circuits but it's quite different for the Europeans and everyone else.

"The women's tour is notorious for doing stages that are longer than most races we do.

"I think that's why they've put the Cyclopark in there because there's a UCI rule where there's a maximum number of kilometres you can do over the six days, so with the shorter stage they're able to flip it and make the other days longer.

"For us, the excitement comes from the shorter stages because we can be aggressive and it's not seven hours, it's four hours of racing so we can really go out there and racing starts from the start.

"It's good to have the longer days but everyone kind of holds back a little bit in the first 40km until the racing really starts."

Barnes, who races for the Canyon-SRAM team, won the Hemel Hempstead stage four years ago and finished overall third in the Tour in 2017.

She faces competition from the likes of London 2012 gold medallist Marianne Vos and Rio Olympic champion Elinor Barker but will give everything.

Barnes, who's targeting a place in next year's Toyko Games, said: "I've been feeling good and I always look forward to this race.

Kent-born cyclist Hannah Barnes Picture: SWPix.com
Kent-born cyclist Hannah Barnes Picture: SWPix.com

"I've been third overall in 2017 so I'd quite like to better that if I can.

"The competition's huge.

"It's probably the most important race of the season for a lot of teams, sponsors and riders.

"The whole race is televised, which is great, and the media behind it is huge, so a lot of teams send their best riders and those riders want to be there."

There's free entry to the race which starts at 1.30pm.

As parking is limited at the Cyclopark, spectators are encouraged to use a park and ride scheme running from Bluewater and Ebbsfleet International.

Park and ride bookings can be made via the seetickets website.

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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