Katie Archibald column: Uncovering the hopes and fears of two sleepy cyclists

Nothing like an existential chat to keep you awake

We, the Great Britain Cycling Team, are in Canada [ed. – at time of original publishing, Oct 25]. We are jetlagged, or maybe exhausted from a 5am wake up and transatlantic travel, but either way it’s early evening and eyelids are drooping. So in a bid to stay awake I am adding to this column’s occasional interview series with an extract from my time spent trying to keep Eleanor Dickinson and Elinor Barker awake.

Both are under their respective duvets and hugging a cuddly toy. Hardly conducive to our ambition of staying awake, but I’m not here to preach advice. I’m here to ask prying questions. Like we’re on a bad first date, I ask both what they are most afraid of.

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El Barker: “I’m most afraid of telling my deepest, darkest fear to a national publication and a psychopath reading it and using it against me. Ellie Dickinson says she needs time to think, but never answers.

We have to assume that what she’s most afraid of is commitment.

I then ask if you weren’t a cyclist, what would you be? Now, instead of being a bad first date, it’s a bad first date with a cycling journalist.

Ellie D tells me she would be Dora the Explorer because of her passion for travelling and tiny rucksacks, not for singing the alphabet to toddlers. El B would be drunk. I would be the next MD of Archers Sleepcentre.

Unfortunately the questions thereafter become more expansive and the answers less sound-bitey.

Ellie D is forced to wonder for how long she wants to be a professional cyclist. “Until I’ve achieved all I want to achieve,” she says, before getting in a pickle having to define what it is she wants to achieve.

El B wants to avoid any existential angst this close to bedtime and doesn’t answer, before we spiral into a discussion on how much of our identity is covered by the word “cyclist” and her fight for escape is lost.

When I leave, with both Els thinking about their greatest fears and of the consumption of their identity by their profession, I know I’ve done my job well: neither will be sleeping peacefully anytime soon.