Elinor Barker handled the pressure to deliver Great Britain two World Championship gold medals last week in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. She took the junior time trial title herself and then led Lucy Garner to another in the junior road race.
“Pressure? For sure. Oh god, yeah” she told Cycling Weekly. “We were so nervous, but you had to say that everyone was more scared of us than we are of them. We came into the race with two world champs and come out of it with two world champs.”
The 18-year-old led the bunch kick to deliver Garner to a second consecutive gold medal in the road race on Friday. She became only the second junior gold medallist, matching Nicole Cooke’s back-to-back feat in 2000 and 2001.
Three days earlier, Barker captured her first Worlds gold medal in the time trial. She upped her performance from 2011 in Copenhagen, when she placed second. The gold medal came just one month after she won two silver medals and one bronze in the track world championships.
“It was a full on commitment [by Barker] and a brilliant lead-out,” British Cycling’s performance director, David Brailsford told Cycling Weekly. “A stunning sprint. It was not even close.”
Barker nearly lost her chance to lead-out due to a crash. She was positioned poorly in the first part of the 80.5-kilometre race and found herself swamped. She suffered scrapes to her left leg.
The final kilometres were just as dangerous. As with the elite men’s race on Sunday, with Italy racing to the front for control, the juniors fought for position leading to the Cauberg.
“It was just everyone risking their lives going down the descent and trying to get to the front, attack after attack. [Jessie Walker] got to the front, [followed] all the attacks [on the Cauberg] and just shouted ‘Go!’ I led out, but the finish line didn’t seem to come for ages, but I just knew as soon as I saw [Garner come by], she had it.”
Brailsford told Cycling Weekly after the race that Sky and British Cycling are planning the next step for the women juniors, like Garner and Barker.
“We are thinking more about building a base for the future, and creating a path for the youngsters,” Brailsford said. He pointed to the men’s Academy programme and its success. “The time is right to invest in the same type of thing on the women’s side.”
Barker remains proud of how she and Garner closed out their spell as juniors with the road race win.
“It was just amazing to see what we can do, we just gel so much as a team,” Barker continued. “She’s just a phenomenal rider. She didn’t need me really. She would’ve just won on her own! Though, just to be a part of it, I’m so proud.”