Olympic and world champion Elinor Barker believes that the dealing with the double-edged sword of the intense focus required in an Olympic year will be crucial to Great Britain defending their women’s team pursuit title in Tokyo.
Barker was part of the quartet – along with Laura Kenny, Joanna Rowsell Shand and Katie Archibald – which won the event in Rio, and she remains a key element of the women’s endurance squad which is targeting more success in Japan next summer.
Now 25, Barker is looking ahead to a potential second Olympic Games with the knowledge that the next few months will bring an intensity and an excitement unparalleled elsewhere in the cycle, and has this week been named in the team which will take to the track at the forthcoming Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Glasgow.
She says: “I like that everything gets more focused; you can feel that everything is ramping up, and everyone is kind of on a countdown.
“Whereas in most years we’ll have track and road, and if one thing isn’t going so well you know there’s another race coming up, next year there is one very important race. There’s not a lot to take your mind off it, so what’s stressful is also what makes it special, and you kind of have to take both together.
“We know that we could do exactly what we’ve done previously and record exactly the same time, but that wouldn’t necessarily represent the same medal, so we have to up our game. We want to keep stepping up, going up a level and getting faster, so we can’t just do what we’ve done before and assume it’ll work again.”
Over the coming months Barker and her team-mates will test themselves against the best in the world in the world cup series, the second round of which is in Glasgow.
Barker is in contention to contest the scratch race, the event in which she won the second individual world title of her career in Poland earlier this year. If she does ride in the rainbow bands in front of the Glasgow crowd, that will represent something of a full circle for the Welsh rider.
She explains: “I have a particular affinity with Glasgow, because that’s where I competed at my first ever world cup (in 2012). I was 18 and still in school, and I got the opportunity to race the first team pursuit after the London Olympics, which was mad – probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever experienced.
“I’d gone straight from doing junior races in front of 12 people – three of whom are your family – to suddenly having an entire stadium of people who all know your name and are all behind you. It was quite a surreal start to my career, so going back to Glasgow is quite special to me.
“All being well, fingers crossed, this time in Glasgow I’ll be racing in front of a home crowd in a world champion’s skinsuit, and that’s kind of as good as it gets, really.”