Elinor and Megan were first attracted to the sport after seeing cyclists from their local club finish track sessions as the sisters were leaving swimming practice. Their mild interest in cycling quickly blossomed and would lead to international success.
Her talent quickly earned her a place on the Olympic Development Programme although it would be 2013, and the completion of her A-level exams at school in South Wales, before Barker would move to Manchester and a permanent home at the National Cycling Centre.
There were multiple podium places at the junior level of the British National Track Championships in her formative years before huge breakthroughs in 2011 when Barker not only won silver in the individual pursuit at the UEC Junior European Track Championships in Anadia, Portugal but also took silver in the women’s junior time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen.
The following year, while future team mates on the Great Britain Cycling Team were enjoying wide-ranging success at their home Olympic Games, Barker continued to prove she would be in strong contention for inclusion at Rio 2016.
Her gold success in the junior time trial at the UCI Road World Championships, saw Barker cover the 15.6 kilometre course in 22:26.29, beating Denmark’s Cecille Ludvigby over 35 seconds.
As well as that world title on the road, Barker became a double European champion at the UEC Junior European Track Championships in Anadia, in both the individual and team pursuit, where she partnered Lucy Garner and Amy Roberts in final success over Russia.
A month later, in August 2012, in Invercargill, New Zealand, Barker’s first taste of the junior level of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships was productive as she accounted for silvers in the omnium and individual pursuit and a bronze, with Hayley Jones and Roberts, in the team pursuit. It meant that of Great Britain’s total haul of five medals, Barker had accounted for three of them.
Not surprisingly, post-Olympics, Barker’s form earned her selection for her first UCI Track Cycling World Cup meeting, at Cali, Colombia in October where she won silver, riding with Roberts and Ciara Horne for the SWI Welsh Cycling Track Team.
New format, same success
By now, with the women’s team pursuit about to increase from a three to four-rider event at an increased four-kilometre distance, Great Britain Cycling Team coaches had earmarked Barker for inclusion and, at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Glasgow in November 2012, she won gold with Trott and Dani King, just two months past her 18th birthday.
With the women’s team pursuit still a three-rider discipline at the 2013 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk, Belarus, Elinor won her first rainbow track jersey on her debut performance at the elite level, with Trott and King, against old rivals Australia.
By October of that year, at the UEC European Track Championships in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, the team pursuit had expanded to the four-rider format and Barker teamed with old team mates Trott and King, plus newcomer Katie Archibald, to win gold and set a new world record mark of 4:26.453.
With the new event open to repeated world records in its formative months, Barker joined with King, Trott and Joanna Rowsell Shand to break that mark twice more at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Manchester in November and knocked a further three seconds off the record in riding 4:16.552 to beat Canada to the gold medal at the second round of the 2013-14 UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Great Britain’s strength in depth at the new, expanded team pursuit saw them dominate the discipline in its early months. At Cali, Colombia, at the 2014 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Barker, Trott, Roswell, and Archibald beat the Canadians to retain their world title and, later in the year, there was similar success in retaining their European title in the unfamiliar surroundings of Guadeloupe, the French Caribbean island.
In between, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow allowed the Cardiff-born athlete the chance to represent Wales where she won silver in the points race, behind Trott, and bronze in the scratch race.
There were more team pursuit golds, at two UCI Track Cycling World Cup meetings, but by the 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Paris, the gap between the Great Britain women’s team pursuit squad and their rivals had narrowed and they suffered their first defeat at the new format, losing to Australia in the gold medal final.
There was consolation in the 2015 UEC European Track Championships in Grenchen, Switzerland, when the British won another gold but the size of the task Barker and her teammates would face in Rio at the 2016 Olympic Games was apparent in the 2016 UCI World Track Championships in London where the British could only qualify as fifth-fastest after a badly-paced qualifying round although improved performances in the later stages saw the team of Barker, Trott, Horne and Rowsell beat New Zealand in the ride for bronze.
The response from the Great Britain women at the Olympics was suitably impressive with Rowsell Shand, Barker, Archibald and Trott breaking the world record on all three of their rides on the way to recording 4:10.236 in beating the USA by over two seconds in the gold-medal ride.
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, London (UK)||Team pursuit||Bronze|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Hong Kong||Team pursuit||Silver|
|Olympic Games, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||Team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Paris (France)||team pursuit||Silver|
|UEC European Track Championships, Grenchen (Switzerland)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Cali (Colombia)||Bronze|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, London (UK)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Guadalajara (Mexico)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UEC European Track Championships, Guadaloupe||team pursuit||Gold|
|Commonwealth Games, Glasgow (UK)||points race||Silver|
|Commonwealth Games, Glasgow (UK)||scratch race||Bronze|
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Cali (Colombia)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Aguascalientes (Mexico)||team pursuit,||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Aguascalientes (Mexico)||individual pursuit||Silver|
|UCI Track World Cup, Manchester (UK)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UEC European Track Championships, Apeldoorn (Netherlands)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Championships, Minsk (Belarus)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Glasgow (UK)||team pursuit||Gold|
|UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Cali (Colombia)||team pursuit||Silver|
|UCI Road World Championships, Limburg (Netherlands)||time-trial (Junior)||Gold|
|UCI Junior Track World Championships, Invercargill (New Zealand)||omnium||Silver|
|UCI Junior Track World Championships, Invercargill (New Zealand)||individual pursuit||Silver|
|UCI Junior Track World Championships, Invercargill (New Zealand)||team pursuit||Bronze|
|European Junior and U23 Track Championships, Portugal||team pursuit (Junior)||Gold|
|European Junior and U23 Track Championships, Portugal||individual pursuit (Junior)||Gold|
|UCI Road World Championships, Copenhagen (Denmark)||time-trial (Junior)||Silver|