World junior time-trial champion Elinor Barker is targeting more success in 2013 and a ‘dream’ spot in the Great Britain women’s team pursuit set-up.
The 18-year-old from Cardiff rose to prominence in 2012 with a succession of notable performances, none more so than a world championship winning display in Limburg last September as she became the first British rider to win the junior time-trial title since Nicole Cooke in 2001.
Shortly after she made the step up to British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme and was then named in Great Britain’s squad for the UCI Glasgow Track World Cup round in November, where she was equal to the challenge to take gold alongside Olympic champions Laura Trott and Dani King.
A trip to Aguascalientes, Mexico with Welsh Cycling trade squad Team USN will complete a full programme of track world cups for Barker, who won silver in the team pursuit with Amy Roberts and Ciara Horne in the Cali, Colombia round last September. The exposure to elite international track cycling is something which Barker believes is playing a big factor in her development.
In particular, she points to riding alongside Trott and King in the duo’s first competitive team pursuit ride since London gold and a sixth successive world record.
“They’ve been massive,” Barker said of the world cup series. “I think at Glasgow I learned more in that two weeks that I spent with the team than I have since I started cycling, it was unbelievable. Who better to learn form than those girls? It was amazing.”
Understandably there was no seventh consecutive world record but Barker demonstrated her capability en route to victory, leading Great Britain performance director Dave Brailsford to describe her display as ‘one of the best debuts I’ve seen in the senior ranks’.
“Once the race was over it was a major confidence boost,” Barker explained. “Beforehand I was so nervous, understandably. It was a lot to ask straight away and I think everyone knew that and I was really welcomed into the team which was nice. They were really nice girls so they helped me with it a lot.”
“I’ve got a quite a big goal coming up in the next few months on the track. I’ve got some big goals coming up quite early which is really exciting me."
The weekend at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in front of a partisan crowd only intensified the Welshwoman’s desire to compete at the highest level. February’s UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Belarus, Minsk could provide such an opportunity to continue her rise in an event which yielded European junior silver and world junior bronze medals in 2012.
Cycling’s governing body the UCI is also expected to expand the women’s event to four riders covering 4km, on par with the men’s discipline and creating an additional opening for those striving for a place in the team.
“That’s definitely a dream,” Barker said of earning a Great Britain team pursuit place. “I absolutely love team pursuit, everything about it appeals to me. The fact that it’s going up to four riders is definitely going to help me to try and get into the squad especially as we have the strongest squad in the world so it’s going to be the hardest to get into.
“I’ve got a quite a big goal coming up in the next few months on the track. I’ve got some big goals coming up quite early which is really exciting me and motivating me and then just through the season.
“I am on the Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling Team now so I am trying to gain a lot of experience because I have such a great team I am going to be a part of I am going to learn an amazing amount from them.”
Having exhibited her ability on both road and track, the decision as to which she prefers is one she admits can alter seasonally. “It’s hard to say really, I change my mind all the time. It depends whatever I’m doing.
“At the moment I’d say track all the way but if you asked me in September what I like more I’d say ‘I don’t want to go on the track I love the road!” Barker joked. “I’m in a nice position really, I’m enjoying it all. I’m not putting into myself into one spot which I have to do well in.”
Before then the focus in on Team USN and a strong denouement to her debut world cup campaign, in which she has competed in the team pursuit and omnium in her first season since leaving the junior ranks. Barker is adamant she has much to learn but is convinced that, given time, senior racing is more matched to her strengths.
“I think racing on the track doesn’t suit me as much at the moment,” Barker conceded. “But I think it will do eventually because at junior the tendency is to sort of watch each other all the time and have a sprint.
“But women’s racing is so much more aggressive which is the kind of racing I love but I guess I’m not up to that standard yet in the bunch races. I think eventually it’s definitely going to be on my side, those tactics.”
A virus over the Christmas period sidelined Barker, hampering preparations for Mexico’s meeting which begins on Thursday 17 January. She is currently playing catch up to teammates Amy Roberts – who, like Barker, is part of the British Cycling Olympic Academy - and Ciara Horne.
The longer term objective of Team USN isn’t lost on Barker as its staff aim to develop Wales’ rising stars under the leadership of head coach Darren Tudor with the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games a key goal. “We were supposed to have a camp for about three or four days but I was ill over Christmas,” Barker said.
“I had a bit of a virus. I had about 10 days off but I feel I have come back to it a lot better than I thought I would. I don’t feel as strong as I did before I was ill. I’m managing to keep up with the girls but they’re on such strong form at the moment that it makes it quite hard.”
Of the Commonwealth Games, which start in July 2014, Barker added: “It’s sort of the back of my mind really. There is definitely going to be a lot of pride knowing that you’re doing it for Wales.
“I do train in Wales all the time at the track with Welsh Cycling and they’ve done such a great job, there is massive development now so there is going to be a big push going into Glasgow.”