The 19-year-old Homerton College cyclist joined forces with Phoebe Barker to earn a gold medal in the team event at the British Universities & Colleges Sport Hill Climb Championships.
The individual medals for Phoebe, who earned the silver medal, and Sannah, who took the bronze, ensured Cambridge clinched victory in the team event at the championships.
“I’ve always been a hill climber in races, but being a hill climb specialist is different because hill climbing is a discipline on its own — it is just the start to end of the hill and you get timed,” explains Sannah, who is a first-year chemical engineering student via natural sciences.
“I don’t really practise that a lot, but I like a hilly race so I thought it would suit me well. Also, because Cambridge is very flat, I hadn’t ridden up a hill in about four to five weeks, so I was a bit worried, but it went a lot better than I thought.”
The medal haul was an impressive feat and adds to the list of accolades won by Sannah, who first started cycling when she was nine.
“I have an older brother who also races at a national level and when we were very young there was a kids’ cycling club near where we lived,” she explains.
“It was run by a family friend and we both went there. We are both very competitive by nature. All the other kids just went there as something to do on a Saturday, but we would take it very seriously and then we started moving up to regional then national races.”
In just her second hill climb race, Sannah took part in the national championships and was crowned junior national hill climb champion on Winnats Pass in the Peak District but is noticing the positive gains from being part of the UCAPP scheme, which has been made possible by a gift from Mark Hanson.
“I’ve found it has made a really big difference already,” says Sannah.
“The main two things are the strength sessions that I have in the gym, which really help me. I was doing gym sessions before, but I didn’t really know what I was doing.
“I have a coach for cycling, but he sets me only cycling sessions, he is not really a strength coach, so he doesn’t know how to set me strength sessions.
“Having Tristan (Coles, University of Cambridge Sport fitness, strength & conditioning manager) and Josh (Gooden, University of Cambridge Sport fitness coach) in the gym to assist has been really helpful, besides building strength on the bike generally.
“I’m able to talk with the nutritionist and I’ve found that has really helped, specifically with fuelling for training then, eventually, for racing later in the year.”
One of the areas that Sannah would like to see is more access for women in cycling.
There is a drop-off in girls competing once they reach their late teens, and Sannah says that only around two of the competitors that she faced as a nine-year-old are still involved in the sport now.
“I’m definitely quite focused on that because cycling very specifically is a very male-dominated sport,” she explains.
“My brother can barely get into his nationals because there are so many men that want to do it, in the women’s you barely get a full field even in the biggest races.
“There has actually been a decline in the number of races for women, which is not really helping the situation because women want to do as many races as we can but there are none available for us to do. There is quite a big barrier for women in cycling because there is just not that much support with it.”