Twelve months ago, Elinor Barker was preparing to sit her AS Level exams, with a junior world silver medal hanging proudly at home in Cardiff. Today, she is coming to the end of her A Levels, and her silver is joined by a number of gold medals nestled against two stripey jumpers.
“I like to always have a goal to work towards; otherwise you’re just riding your bike aimlessly. As soon as you’ve achieved one, [I think] what are you now working toward? You’ve got to come up with a new goal that you can motivate yourself to.”
Elinor Barker in Minsk, Belarus after her medal winning ride with Laura Trott and Dani King
Barker, 18, and a former Maindy Flyers member, has had a remarkable journey from junior to senior cyclist. As a junior, she won national, European and World titles both on the track and road, bowing out as Junior World Time Trial Champion in September 2012. This was just weeks before her first senior UCI Track Cycling World Cup with the Welsh Cycling track trade team, Team USN showing her determination and strong work ethic.
“As a junior, my whole ambition was to become world time trial champion and I did that and then it was straight onto the track, so there was no time to sit and think ‘I did this for me and I feel good, I can have a break now’. Instead it’s ‘what’s next? Let’s move on and smash that.’ I really like that way of thinking.
The experiences I had as a junior were amazing; I had a lot of experience of losing, or coming second in my first year and getting so close. I had to really work at it and win as much as I could in the second year. At the time it really was my whole world.
Being on the British Cycling Olympic Development Programme as a junior really helped my performance. Going to things like the Junior European Track Championships, which is tied with the Under 23 competition, was a great experience as you see how the older athletes prepare and perform. It was a great opportunity to learn from all the other riders and coaching team.”
"I wasn’t prepared to return to Wales with such a prestigious title! I wanted to ride a really good team pursuit, which is all I was thinking about."
Elinor Barker on her first senior World Championship title
But as she graduated from ODP, her transition to senior cyclist was phenomenal. Barker won her first senior medal, silver, in the team pursuit in round one of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Cali alongside Ciara Horne and Amy Roberts as part of Team USN. She was called up to join Laura Trott and Dani King in Glasgow, where she stepped up and claimed gold. Barker then returned to Team USN in January and completed the set with a team pursuit bronze in Aguascalientes.
“Winning the world team pursuit title in Minsk, Belarus is definitely my greatest career achievement so far. It just blows everything else out of the water. I wasn’t prepared to return to Wales with such a prestigious title! I was concentrating on the process of the event. I wanted to ride a really good team pursuit, which is all I was thinking about.
Laura and Dani aren’t much older than me. I’ve just grown up seeing them win – that was their third gold. Before the world championships I’d raced with them, that has more of an impact on you, you feel like you have some of that success yourself. I guess that’s why it felt natural to win [the track worlds] just through watching and learning from others.”
But, as ever, there is no time for Barker to sit and reflect on what she has achieved she’s already set her next goals. Learning to drive, passing her A Levels and a few European road races are on the cards for the next few months. She has admitted a place at the team time trial in the UCI Road World Championships in September would be amazing, but there is a lot of competition within her own team, Wiggle Honda, before she is considered.
“It is really close to the start of the 2013/2014 winter track season so not sure if it will be realistic. There are also a lot of good international riders in my road team, such as Emily Collins from New Zealand and Georgia Bronzini from Italy, so there will be a lot of competition before the competition itself!”
Collecting her first senior world championship title in Minsk
Darren Tudor, Head Coach at Welsh Cycling is confident Elinor still has a lot to give and achieve in her cycling career, and for Wales she will be targeting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014:
“At the Commonwealth Games a goal for Elinor will be the Individual Time Trial. It is an event she exceeded in as a junior cyclist, but in preparation for the step up to Commonwealth level we will need to build on her performances as a junior. She will need to increase the length of her time trial efforts, and do a lot of work on the road to develop more capacity.
Alongside this, Elinor will also need to gain more experience on the track and develop her knowledge and experience of other track events in readiness for the Commonwealth Games. She had a fantastic winter 2012/2013 with Team USN and stepped up in the team pursuit with Great Britain, so we will go from there.”
Elinor Barker’s first senior road event of the 2013 season will be at EPZ Omloop van Borsele with Wiggle Honda in April. Barker claimed victory in the junior women’s Omloop van Borsele in 2012 with Team Wales.