Road to Rio: Elinor Barker

Elinor Barker on the far right. Image credit Nicola CC BY-SA 4.0

In this series of articles, we hope to give you a little more of an insight into our Olympic hopefuls. First up is Elinor Barker, who progressed through the British Cycling academy system to become World Junior Time Trial Champion in 2012. This success came just 45 days after Laura Trott, now Elinor’s team mate at Matrix p/b Corley Cycles, won Gold at the London Olympics, alongside two riders who rode for Matrix Fitness at the time, Dani King and Jo Rowsell.

All athletes dream of scoring big victories at the very top level of their sport, of course, but everyone has to start somewhere. Elinor told us about the time she was first bitten by the racing bug: “My first race was a Welsh cyclocross league race in a park near my house. I borrowed my big brother’s bike which weighed about the same as our family car. I walked most of it and finished last. I don’t think anybody expected me to make a career out of cycling at that point!“

Yet she did, and by 2008 Elinor started to rack up respectable results; then, a year or two later with a little more experience to go along with what was already very obviously a large portion of natural talent, she began to win – a lot. In fact, she’d reached massive highs in cycling long before her first rainbow jersey, with especially notable highlights including taking a silver medal as a first year junior in the Junior Time Trial event at the 2011 World Championships in Copenhagen, where she finished less than two seconds behind winner Jessica Allen of Australia (the following year, when the event was held in the Netherlands and Elinor won, she beat the second-placed rider by almost 36 seconds).

Having also by this time proved herself to be a very handy track rider, it wouldn’t be too long until she would get her next World Title as part of the Great Britain team pursuit squad – her progression to the Elite team being perhaps inevitable after she’d been a valued member of the European Championships Junior team in 2012, where she took gold alongside Amy Roberts and Lucy Garner. At those same Championships, she earned another gold by winning the Junior Individual Pursuit

With the Olympics still five months away, teams are still at the shortlist stage with the places not yet allocated.

As this is Elinor’s first potential appearance at the Games, she’s focusing on making sure one of those places will be given to her. Fortunately, she has the wisdom of team mates Lora Turnham and Laura Trott, both of whom were at the 2012 Games in London, and all the other old hands on the Olympic Development Programme to draw upon: “Being around Olympic champions/medalists and Olympians is hugely helpful. Listening to them reminisce about London and Beijing at the dinner table is inspiring and hopefully I’ll be able to be a part of the conversation one day. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by so many inspiring people all the time. I train with the best people in the world at what we do which is a very privileged position to be in, but ultimately I think you need to have a natural desire to push yourself to succeed. It has to come from you (cheesy as it may sound!).“

Elinor recently took a bronze medal at the 2016 World Track Championships in London, posting a new national record time in the process. With media focus on the riders at an all time high, in between races the cameras were often turned towards the riders preparing for their events. Elinor was rarely seen without her headphones – what music does she use to “get in the zone?”: “The last track I listened to before the Worlds, and before most races, is “Take It Back” by Ed Sheeran. It’s got quite punchy lyrics and is very fast flowing, trying to sing along to it in my head distracts me from any pre-races nerve or doubts I might have.“

We’ll have more questions for Elinor next month, and further interviews with Trott and Paralympian duo Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall, in the coming weeks; for now, we’ll leave you with a few quick-fire questions and answers…

Twitter or Facebook:                         Twitter.

Sugar or Salt Popcorn                      Sugar popcorn.

Jam or Nutella                                    Nutella.

Stranded on a desert island and you can have one item, what would it be? Tanning oil. Might as well benefit from the situation!

Matrix p/b Corley Cycles and the Olympic hopefuls would like to give fans the chance to ask questions for the next round of interviews. Please send your suggestions to us via our social media channels.

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