Racing Back from a World of Hurt
By Adam Jackson
On a racing jersey swamped by sponsors names and advertisements, it’s the sleeve that surprisingly stands out when Tracey Hannah speeds past.
It’s free of endorsements, simply emblazed with the Southern Cross, the reward for being the Australian Champion.
“To represent my country and to represent Australia on the world circuit, that’s amazing, I’d never want to give that up,” Tracey says proudly.
The Cairns rider is a dominant force in the high speed world of downhill mountain bike racing, reaching speeds of 60 kilometres per hour while weaving through trees, creeks, rocks and everything else in between.
“I guess it probably looks super-fast and crazy but when you’re on the bike you’re in full control and know exactly what you’re doing.”
But it doesn’t always go to plan.
Two years ago in France, Tracey’s career appeared over after a sickening crash left her nursing a broken leg, broken collarbone and bruised lung.
“I spent the first week in intensive care, my heart rate wouldn’t go down, I didn’t have good iron levels so I couldn’t sit up, I was just sleeping most of the time and in a lot of pain. I still have the rod in my leg so it’s something that stays with me now and probably stays with me forever.”
Despite spending three weeks in hospital, the thought of calling it quits never crossed her mind.
“At that stage I couldn’t even walk anymore, so I thought if I can walk, then I can ride, then if I can ride, then I can race, so it didn’t make sense for me to just stop at one.”
The 25-year-old attempted a comeback at the National Championships, just six months after snapping her femur.
“That was do or die, if I couldn’t do that race the first race back how was I going to get to the level I was at. I was really scared about racing and I didn’t want to with the weather.”
A rain soaked Canberra course made riding extremely difficult.
But Tracey excelled, completing her shock return by winning the National Title by less than a second.
Big brother Mick also won the elite men’s event.
“It’s amazing to be able to ride with my sister and to be at such a high level together as well. I get a lot of inspiration from Tracey, seeing her go through some really hard things and then coming back, “ Mick adds.
Mick backed up his national title success by finishing second at the 2013 World Championships in South Africa.
His silver, brightened by his sister’s bronze.
“It’s amazing to be on the podium together, mix those two colours together and it’s practically gold isn’t it?”
The super siblings have joined forces to race professionally on the international circuit with Team Hutchinson UR.
This year they’re scheduled to race in 10 different countries.
“This was our off season and we’re leaving in two weeks to be in Europe for five months and we only just got home a week ago, but it’s ok, we do have the best job in the world.”
The Hannahs’ long term goal is to win the elite men’s and women’s World Championship titles when the event is staged in their hometown of Cairns in 2017.
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t win that, that’s like not an option,” Tracey says with a smile.
Round 3 of the 2014 Mountain Bike world Cup series will be raced in Scotland on June 7.