Barker began cycling aged 10, as a way of avoiding swimming classes. She was recruited by the British Cycling Olympic Development Academy – and has been on a path to track success ever since.
The life of a professional cyclist has its ups and downs – she told us: “The best thing about being a pro cyclist is when sometimes on a weekday, I’ve finished training, and I’m in my pyjamas at 3pm, thinking ‘this is my job!’”
There are sacrifices, too – if she wasn’t a pro, the 20-year-old, like many her own age, would like to travel and ‘see the world’.
The job involves plenty of travel, but little seeing the world – she said: “You see a lot of velodromes, and a lot of hotels. We did get to go to the Caribbean last year, for the Track Euros, bizarrely, I’ve never seen water so clear and blue, and sand so perfect. It was like something out of a holiday brochure, I guess that’s where they get the pictures from!”
Missing out on the pub with friends is another thing Elinor misses, but she added: “The benefits of being a pro cyclist definitely outweigh things like not being able to go to the pub. We live in the kind of environment where everybody I see day to day is a cyclist, I don’t feel like I’m really missing out as everybody is living the same lifestyle.”
For those starting out in the sport of bike racing, Elinor advised that riders enjoy their training and racing, without getting too serious, too early on – she said: “Enjoy it a lot more. A lot of people start out at an entry level and take it really seriously, then there is kind of a cross over in between, then people get to a really professional level and they chill out a bit more.”
Making mistakes is important, too – she said: “You’re going to make mistakes, the only way to get better is by making those mistakes in the first place. The more you make the quicker you’ll learn early on.”