Great Britain’s Elinor Barker expects competition in the team pursuit to be harder than ever at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Paris on 18-22 February.
With key rivals closing the gap on a near-invincible British squad, Barker believes that realising the ambition of a fifth straight world title will be a challenge for the quintet.
Barker has been a constant presence in the team pursuit for over two years, having never missed a world championships or world cup ride since her Great Britain debut in late 2012.
"The Aussies have just set their national record a week or so ago which is pretty quick so we're definitely expecting the gap to close between us and the other nations now," said Barker, referring to the 4:20.999 benchmark set by Amy Cure, Melissa Hoskins, Annette Edmondson and Ashlee Ankudinoff at the Australian championships in Melbourne in January.
Barker is one of five endurance women selected for the championships at the National Velodrome Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, joined by Kate Archibald, Ciara Horne, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott.
The 20-year-old has quietly become a linchpin in the squad since she first rode for the senior Great Britain team at round two of the 2012/13 world cup in Glasgow. Personnel have come and gone, regulations have changed but Barker has never missed, or lost, a race with Great Britain at world level.
"It's been quite a privilege actually to be in every single ride," Barker admitted.
"I was kind of scared to acknowledge it because I thought maybe I'd jinx it a little bit.
"Ever since being a junior I've never actually sat out of a team pursuit so I'm terrified for the day it does actually happen!"
Barker and her teammates’ pursuit of the ultimate ride has led to some ragged (but still winning) performances, an apparent lack of finesse that Barker attributes to riding close to the limit.
"We tend to push ourselves to the limit, which is why sometimes it gets a little bit ragged and it doesn't really look quite perfect,” said the Cardiff-born rider who shot to prominence in 2012, winning the junior world time trial title while balancing her A-level commitments.
"Even though we are a team, we're a team of individuals,” she said, “So everyone's got their own level which is why occasionally it does fall apart a little bit."
A brace of wins at the Mexico and London rounds of the 2014/15 UCI Track Cycling World Cup have shown that Barker and the team remain the dominant force in women’s team pursuiting, but with the competition intensifying ahead of Paris, 2015 may produce the closest women’s team pursuit in years.
The 2015 UCI Track Cycling World Championships take place from 18-22 February. Follow British Cycling for live reporting throughout the event.
For more information on the Great Britain squad for the world championships read our 2015 track cycling world championships guide.