Hey! I'm Attaquer Ambassador Hannah Raymond...
I am an American C5 Para-cyclist living and training in Italy. I love anything with two wheels and ride road, track, fixed and MTB, but my competitive focus is on road and TT in preparation for the 2020 Paralympic Games.
I grew up in Colorado, however I didn’t really even think about bikes at all in my 20 years there. It took a move across the country to NYC to find my love of cycling. There I bought my first bike, a single speed for commuting, which quickly became riding fixed gear and racing traffic.
I love riding in NYC. The city has a flow. You can move through it, creating lines, existing between the traffic, the risk heightening your senses. Making playlists and racing through the city became my meditation and I would hunt QOMS around the city as my daily challenge. After a few years of this, in 2015 a friend invited me to go with him to the Red Hook Crit in London. I had never been to a bike race or even thought about bike racing but, what the hell, let’s go for it! I thrive on experiences and believe the valuable things in life are the adventures you take with no regrets.
I raced and finished 19th and was immediately hooked. I wanted more but was really only interested in racing fixed. I didn’t have a road bike and at the time all the racing was in Europe. In 2016 I raced three more times, in Brooklyn, London and Milan and finally got my first road bike! I met my now fiancé at RHC Brooklyn that same year and after the race in Milan I changed my flight home and stayed with him in Northern Italy for another three weeks. Not long after that I moved to Italy.
It was June 2017, as I was just starting to come into my own and really get some experience and confidence racing, I came home from a massage and my right arm went numb. Then my lower back and into my right leg. Then came the loss of vision and confusion. After a few weeks the numbness went away, my vision almost fully returned, but my body was not working. My brain was telling my body to do an action but it was continually ‘buffering’. My arms and legs were shaking. I kept dropping things and had trouble handling a bike, my arms trembling when trying to steer. I went to a neurologist. And another. And another. And another.
My diagnosis was official: Multiple Sclerosis.
I had pain, weakness, fatigue and muscle rigidity. The pain would keep me from sleeping. I would wake up and stretch my body from a rigid pretzel and try to sleep through the pain. I thought my race career was over and I was devastated, but after a lot of reflection, I realised that this was not the end, it was the beginning. I began working hard again, building strength and balance to be able to ride with arms and legs that worked differently than before. I made new goals and I pushed myself. I came back stronger, more motivated and hungrier than ever. I started racing again and in 2019 I found para-cycling. A new community full of inspiring stories, and humans. Everyday I am grateful that I can wake up and keep riding. Your mind is a powerful force and I’ve learnt that when you change your perspective, you change reality and can accomplish anything.
I live not too far from some epic Cols in Northern Italy with my fiancé and thought I’d bring you along for a few rides in our gorgeous part of the world, since so few people can travel at the moment. I’ve decided to take you to a couple of the most iconic passes near Bormio, the Gavia and the Stelvio.
Gavia is a super fun climb. It’s 25.4km long from Bormio to the top with an average grade of 5.6%. It starts out pretty easily with a short incline through the town of Teregua, flattening out for a few more kilometres until Santa Catarina. Then the fun really starts. Short switchbacks wind upwards through mountain forests, slowly thinning out and giving way to farms of grazing cows. As you head out of the switchbacks you can see the very steep, straight road ahead in the distance. This is the steepest section of the climb with a 1km average of 10.9% but a maximum of 14%. Thankfully once you pass this, you’re rewarded with an epic view and an easy finish past the alpine lake to the top of Gavia. 10/10 recommend.
From here there are multiple options for descending then climbing Mortirolo. We however headed back the way we came, but not before stopping for snacks and soda with friends from Switzerland we randomly ran into on the climb; Small world!
This one is a straightforward route. Head out of Bormio, following the signs for Stelvio and once you pass Bagni Vecchi you can only end up on Passo Stelvio. The climb is 24.8km from Bormio to the top with an average gradient of 7.4%. The average grade is higher than Gavia but don’t let that put you off, it’s more consistent and I wouldn’t rate it any more difficult. Passo Stelvio is one of the most famous driving roads in world so it’s no surprise that the traffic is usually pretty heavy; lots of cars, lots of motorcycles and lots of cyclists! It’s for good reason though, this is a very cool climb. There are three sets of switchbacks and a few tunnels along the way. After the iconic second set of switchbacks, you climb above the tree line and into my favourite part. The third and steepest set of switchbacks lead to the top, greeting you with huge power lines and vast other-worldly views.
Stelvio is the highest paved road in the Eastern Alps at 2757m and the second highest in the Alps. Luckily being born and raised in Colorado above 1600m, the altitude didn’t affect me as much as most people, a blessing on a climb like this.
The heavy traffic and car fumes are a bummer, but the awesome route and monumental views make it more than worthwhile!