World champions Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker believe that the strength in depth within the Great Britain Cycling Team is unsurpassed, ahead of a year which will see them compete as rivals as well as teammates at the HSBC UK | National Track Championships in Manchester.
The Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling pair, both part of Britain’s victorious women’s team pursuit squad at the Rio 2016 Olympics, each claimed their maiden individual world title during 2017, a year in which British female endurance riders continued to excel on the international stage despite the absence of four-time Olympic champion and new mother Laura Kenny.
The duo will both be aiming for selection at this year’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships, but either side of that event will be riding as opponents - at this month’s HSBC UK | National Track Championships, and for Scotland and Wales respectively at April’s Commonwealth Games.
Archibald will defend three titles at the HSBC UK | National Track Championships from January 26-28 while Barker will be looking to even out an odd quirk in her career medal record.
“I’d really like to get a national champion’s jersey this year,” Barker explains. “I’ve actually won more world titles that I have national titles in my career, which I think just shows how tough the competition at national level is.
“I know everybody says it, but that’s because it’s true - there really is so much strength in depth and it’s really tough racing.”
Archibald and Barker will contest the endurance events alongside a host of British team-mates who have stepped up impressively to fill the gap left by Kenny’s maternity leave and the retirement of double Olympic champion Joanna Rowsell Shand.
Since Rio, Emily Kay (22), Emily Nelson (21), Ellie Dickinson (19), Manon Lloyd (21) and Neah Evans (27) have all earned gold medals at world cup level, while Nelson has claimed world championship silver and Dickinson European gold, both in the Madison.
With Archibald and Barker themselves just 23, and the 25-year-old Kenny nearing a return, world omnium champion Archibald believes that the depth of talent in the Great Britain Cycling Team squad is unrivalled, as Tokyo 2020 gets ever nearer.
“I think that, if I was any other nation, I would envy the strength in depth that we have,” she says. “We’re never comfortable – there’s never a time when you think that your spot on the team is safe. We are pushed to the edge of that rivalry, and I think it’s evident in our results that it’s working for us.
“We’ve got two world champions, in myself and Elinor, and have had people on world cup podiums throughout the season. I’m defending three titles at nationals and there are threats from everywhere, which brings pressure and anxiety, but it’s exciting.”
The HSBC UK | National Track Championships take place at the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre, Manchester, between January 26 and 28.