Drops burst onto the cycling scene in 2016, armed with a freshly-striped kit and a determination to create a prosperous cycling environment for their riders. The creation of Bob and Tom Varney has grown from strength to strength, colouring the road with their fighting spirit.
A standout moment in their inaugural season was Drops’ domination of the Lincoln Grand Prix. Alice Barnes, Rebecca Durrell and Laura Massey secured a 1-2-3 victory. Not content with just the podium lockout, Durrell also won the Michaelgate trophy. Ellie Dickinson claimed victory in the National Junior Road Race Championships with her 8th place finish on the Lincoln circuit.
The squad have since triumphed in the face of adversity, navigating a lack of sponsorship through crowdfunding, tenacious attitudes and a passion to thrive in this sport. They never give up without a fight. These sentiments were echoed by Drops’ Anna Christian.
“We definitely punch above our weight when it comes to the budget of the team and the backing of the team.”
After their recent training camp, the 24-year-old discussed how the appeal of Drops truly allowed her to enjoy herself again.
“With my previous team, I wasn’t really getting a look in when it came to racing and development. So 2016, Drops kind of came on the scene out of nowhere really and they just looked like they had such a nice set up and a really good race programme. I think for me, I got to a point where I wasn’t really racing much and I didn’t have my own goals or targets, so I kind of lost the love for it a little bit. But Drops just looked like they loved racing their bikes and they loved what they were doing… bike racing was fun again.”
2020 marks Anna’s fourth season under the guidance of Bob Varney. In that time, she’s time trialled her way to an U23 national victory on home soil, and scaled tough climbs abroad. Her most recent results include 3rd in both the 2018 Ladies Tour of Norway and 2019 Tour of California Queen of the Mountains classifications.
Throughout the interview, she expressed that while herself and Drops have developed over the years, introducing new riders to the team gives them an opportunity to grow even further.
“When you look at the first year, Drops got some results that they probably never expected to go in and get because they were still learning how it was and building on that. But then we’ve come out with World Tour podiums and quite a few UCI podiums and I definitely think we’ve developed. I think we’re even still developing and this year, it’s a really good group of girls. We have a lot of experience.”
One of the advantages of being a cyclist is the ability to participate in a wide variety of races across the globe, from the Tour of California to La Flèche Wallonne Féminine in Belgium. But which one has been Anna’s favourite?
“I’ve got quite a few. I’ve had some really good races yet not had the results, but it’s been a really good time because the girls on the team are a really close group. I guess my favourite race… I’m going to say Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2017, or maybe the Tour de Yorkshire in 2017 too because I was at the front end of the race there. I was just really stuck into it. I remember it was really fun to get proper stuck in and be at the front in the final. To actually see how it gets played out and how it’s going to be won. It’s a race of attrition as well. The last man standing really. It’s just a hard day out on the bike. I was really happy that I made the selection. But yeah, I like those races. In the Tour de Yorkshire, Tom [Varney] was the DS and I had an attack in the final. He was loving it.”
When the season winds down towards the end of the year, riders start to head back home – some fortunate with hotter weather, others not so lucky. Anna alternated between the Isle of Man and New Zealand in preparation for 2020.
“I actually spent the first half of the winter at home in the Isle of Man training. I really like the training here because I tend to do base miles. The weather wasn’t too bad at home. It’s a really good group to train with on the Isle of Man. Every day there’s people to go and ride with and they’re all really good riders. It was really nice to get out with them because they’re all the same mindset as you, wanting to get the hours in. The miles rolled on really easy. Well… easy? Probably not. It didn’t feel easy! But the time went okay. That was really nice just to get into a routine again on the roads, and then I went to New Zealand for six weeks because my boyfriend is from there. I think the biggest thing about that was just having consistent weather every day. You can just go out and ride every day, you don’t have to think about ‘shall I leave training until later on or am I going to have to go on the turbo?’”
As the 2020 season heats up, Drops are sending riders to begin their Spring Classics campaign. A tough and tiring Omloop Het Nieuwsblad recently saw Sara Penton finish 35th. Towards the end of the interview, Anna revealed her anticipation for the upcoming season, heightened by the all-for-one mindset the team have adopted.
”All the girls on the team seem like a really motivated group and I think we’ve all gelled really well and I can just tell it’s going to be kind of that all-in-for-one when it comes to racing. I feel like we’re going to go to races and it’s going to be like a hunger for results and yes, I’m really looking forward to just like getting stuck into racing with the girls really and just going all out for each other at races.”