Elinor Barker Exclusive Interview
My Journey into Cycling
“It was almost like it was on my to-do list, but I never got around to quitting cycling, deep down I enjoyed it so much that it was worth being a bit embarrassed by it when I went to school,”
– Elinor Barker.
An elite Welsh athlete
2020 will be the year known as the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will also be the year that everybody jumped on zoom for interviews. And with a good old fashioned face-to-face chat out of the question, we sat down with Elinor Barker to kick-off a series of articles with our elite Welsh athletes about how they discovered cycling.
We’ll come back to Elinor’s point about feeling ‘embarrassed’ of her choice of sport in her formative years – but if you look at Elinor’s current palmares – embarrassment doesn’t even come into the equation.
A talented track rider
Her development at Maindy Flyers and then onto the Welsh and British Cycling programmes has propelled the 26-year-old firmly into one of Britain’s much-loved and talented track riders. An Olympic, World & Commonwealth Champion along with countless gold medals at European Championships shows the route to the top of track cycling is achievable.
The obvious question to start with was how did Elinor discover cycling?
“My earliest cycling memory is learning to ride a bike on the street outside my parents’ house on an old hand-me-down bike which had been used by all my older siblings – I absolutely loved it,” Elinor said.
Where it all began
For those in the cycling community in Wales and those further afield, the name Maindy Flyers will ring a bell. But for others who may not know, Maindy is a club in the heart of Cardiff who can call the likes of Elinor, her sister Megan Barker, Geraint Thomas, Owain Doull and more, successful alumni.
The club continues to develop and coach young, aspiring bike riders. Maindy was where Elinor started at 10-years-old. “I think Maindy was a huge factor, and I think if it wasn’t for Maindy I wouldn’t have made that jump at all,” explained Barker. “I was a sporty kid, while we did ride our bikes quite a lot, we did do quite a lot of other sports. So, I think if it hadn’t been for having the facility and the community, I found at Maindy, which I stumbled on I don’t think I would have taken cycling up at all.”
There are over 150 cycling clubs and groups affiliated with Welsh Cycling, and the first session for any young rider would provide those butterflies in the stomach. Meeting new people, learning the skills required to ride in a group – it’s all daunting stuff.
For, Elinor her recollection of her first session with Maindy was pretty much a one-to-one coaching session. “The first session there was just literally me and my little sister as everyone was racing at nationals, so we basically got a 1 on 1 coaching session!”
“We learned a lot and we were able to make a lot of mistakes without embarrassing ourselves in front of a lot of people,” Elinor continued. Learning to ride in a group is a rite of passage for any young aspiring rider – for Elinor coming into the sport fresh, this was a new experience.