Twelve months ago in Copenhagen Elinor Barker finished just 1.48 seconds away from a gold medal and the rainbow jersey in the junior women’s time trial.
One year on and Barker, starting second to last on a blustery day in Limburg after Denmark’s Cecilie Ludwig had set an early and impressive best time, stormed the 15.6km course to beat Ludwig by 35 seconds and finally claim the stripes she so narrowly missed out on last year.
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“I’m just so glad it’s over and its gone well,” Barker said after she’d received her rainbow jersey. “It was just so hard. I didn’t feel great at the start but after the first couple of km I just got into a rhythm and just stuck with it.”
Barker was treated to two verses of ‘God Save The Queen’ as she stood on the podium in The Netherlands, her face slowly changing from disbelief to elation as her coaches and support staff looked on.
“It’s huge, this is all I’ve wanted since this day last year,” she revealed. “It’s all I’ve thought about. But it’s not even sunk in yet.”
The Cardiff-based 18 year-old surprised even herself with a silver medal in 2011 on a flat and technical course in Denmark. But the result helped her realise that on a hilly course that suited her strengths a gold medal could be hers, and it gave her all the more motivation to make it happen.
“I’ve pretty much dedicated the last year to this,” she added. “I’ve been on my time trial bike twice a week, doing hill efforts, watching my diet, going to bed early. Absolutely everything in the last year has been focused on this race.
“Coming back with silver last year it put a lot of pressure on me, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this race. I only lost out by about a second and a half last year and you think how many corners there are and how much I could have made up. I didn’t leave anything unturned.”
Barker has travelled to New Zealand and Portugal in recent weeks for the World and European Junior Track Championships, winning two golds in the former and two silvers and a bronze in the latter.
As a result, however, she admitted that her programme meant she had little in the way of results to use as reference to her European rivals, and that she worried that the jet lag she suffered on her return would impinge on her form coming into the road worlds.
“Looking at the start sheet there were a lot of names on there that I recognised and who I knew were good at time trialling and for whom this would be their kind of event. I spent a lot of time worrying about this!”
Despite her win, the track remains very much at the forefront of Barker’s plans having been inspired by double gold medallist Laura Trott who achieved very similar results to Barker just two years ago.
“It’s just really inspiring to think that that’s where I could be in a few years’ time,” she said. “Definitely the team pursuit is the ultimate dream, but I think it’s too early to say at this point. I’m only a junior. I’ve got a lot of time to specialise.”