Olympics at the forefront of Elinor Barker’s mind
Elinor Barker has her sights set firmly on next year’s Olympic Games as she gears up for the coming track season.
The 2016 Olympic team pursuit champion has spent much of the year racing on the road with Drops, but after her season was ended by a broken collarbone suffered at RideLondon in early August, all attention now turns to the velodrome less than 12 months out from Tokyo.
“I’ve raced a lot on the road this year but I won’t be doing that at all next year,” Barker told the PA news agency.
“It will be entirely track-focused and even more so on the team pursuit because that’s what’s so important. It takes over and everything else gets put to one side until the Olympics is over.”
Great Britain are well known for their ability to peak in an Olympic year even if results have not been as strong during the rest of the four-year cycle.
They will need to do that again after their team pursuit squad was beaten by Australia at the World Championships in Pruszkow earlier this year, the third year in a row the reigning Olympic champions have lost to the rainbow stripes.
But with Laura Kenny back and younger riders coming through, Barker believes the program has never had more strength in depth on the endurance side.
“Nothing is settled at all,” the 24-year-old said. “There are eight of us going for the four team pursuit spots and once that’s decided everything else will be decided in terms of the Madison and omnium places. It’s all to play for.
“There is quite a lot of pressure and that comes through in everyday training. Everything we do, not just the races, matter. It’s every day in training. It’s all analysed.
“It can be a lot of pressure but it’s no different to anything else we do. I always want to turn up to training and do my best.”
Barker’s ability to do that suffered a setback with the crash at RideLondon. The Drops rider was caught in the huge incident in the final metres which saw Kirsten Wild relegated from race victory.
Barker suffered a concussion as well as the classic cycling injury of a collarbone – remarkably for the first time in her career.
“I think I was jinxed because somebody asked me the week before I did it if I’d ever broken my collarbone and I said, ‘No, I’ve been really lucky’,” she said. “So obviously that’s when it happens.”
Barker has been back on her bike for a couple of weeks, but missed one session at the velodrome entirely and was limited in two more before being able to play a full role.
She now hopes to reach top form in time to compete at the European Championships in Apeldoorn in mid-October, and has signed up to compete alongside Katie Archibald at the Phynova Six Day London from October 22-27 before the World Cup leg in Glasgow in November.
“I love Six Day,” Barker said. “I think it’s really useful for us as bike riders, looking to keep a bit of race practice but maybe not at the level of a World Cup or a World Championships.
“It’s a little bit less pressure which means you get to try things that you might not want to do in bigger races, but still the standard is pretty high.
“It’s not a friendly meet, it’s pretty serious bike racing and also the atmosphere is unparalleled, it’s a very spectator-friendly atmosphere which makes it really enjoyable as well.”