Elinor Barker confident of catching Germany after qualifying second fastest at Tokyo Olympics

On a rapid opening day to the track events, the GB women’s team pursuit squad made mistakes but were still near the top of the standings

The Team GB pursuit squad in Tokyo
(Image credit: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The Team GB women’s pursuit squad are confident they can best their German rivals, after qualifying second on the opening day of track events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

As the indoor cycling kicked off at the Izu Velodrome, south of the Japanese capital on Monday (August 2), Team GB went into the team pursuit qualifying as favourites, having dominated the event at the previous two Olympic Games. 

But the team of Elinor Barker, Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald and Josie Knight settled for qualifying in second place behind the German squad, as the world record from the Rio games fell. 

Germany hit the track early and set a blistering time of 4-07.307, almost three seconds faster than the previous record of 4-10.236, set by GB in 2016. 

Team GB qualified with a time of 4-09.022, comfortably beating their previous fastest time.  

Barker, 26, from Cardiff, said: “We knew the world record was going to be broken and we fully expected it to be the Australians or the Americans.

“So it was almost weirdly comforting for it to happen when we weren’t looking.

"I felt like we didn’t need to worry as much for the rest of it because the worst has happened in a weird way." 

On whether she feels they can beat the German team deeper into the competition, Barker said: “I hope so. They’ve not always been the most consistent, but then again we haven’t really seen them for a year and a half. I think it was about 1.6 seconds between us and Germany. I think that’s very much within the realms of what is possible.”

Olympic cycling disciplines: Madison / team pursuit / omnium / track sprint  / Keirin / team sprint

The Team GB performance uncharacteristically untidy finish for the usually dialled team pursuit unit, as Archibald began to pull clear of her Kenny and Barker in the final lap, losing more time after already slipping behind Germany’s pace. 

On the performance, Barker said: “I think maybe we came out a bit too strong and then paid for it slightly towards the back end. 

“Luckily for us we’ve got our not-so-secret weapon Katie who can just bring it all the way back at the finish.” 

>>> Tokyo 2020 Olympics track cycling day one: Records smashed in both team pursuits despite shock crash, and cycling gold for China

She added: “I think it’s important to remember as well that the time we did in Rio was with two teams on the track, which is seconds quicker. So to do that with one team on the track really shows how much of a family we are. 

“I think we were about a second faster so to be able to do that on our own is quite a big step up. It’s unfortunate for us that Germany were so much faster than the world record, but I think we can still be really happy with that.”    

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.