Olympic champion Elinor Barker on Esports world championships, racing with Dame Sarah Storey and the Tokyo Games

(DPA/PA Images)
15:21pm, Tue 08 Dec 2020
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Olympic team pursuit champion Elinor Barker believes the Great Britain cycling team will be better prepared for the Tokyo Games in 2021 than they would have been this summer.

The 26 year-old is currently preparing to compete virtually in the first ever UCI Cycling Esports World Championships alongside British teammates Dame Sarah Storey, Dani Christmas, Jenny Holl and sister Megan Barker.

And while a 50km race ridden remotely from home is a far cry from a 4000m team pursuit on the track, the Welsh star is relishing the challenge.

Barker has made a name for herself as one of the best team pursuit riders in the world

(DPA/PA Images)

"Yeah, it will be a bit different. Although a lot of the races this year have been different," she said in an exclusive interview with NewsChain.

"I think it’s going to be quite different lining up with the likes of Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen on a virtual start line. It’ll be quite strange.

"I think that’s what’s going to be so interesting. It could be an entire podium that you’d see at a road world championships, or even this year’s world championships.

"But I think it could also be an entire podium that you see at a track world championships because timing-wise I actually think it’s closer to a madison than it is to a 140km road race.

"So I think it’ll be interesting to see what attributes matter more and who is going to come out on top."

Storey is a 14-time Paralympic champion having won gold medals in both cycling and swimming

(PA)

Storey, a Paralympic legend, is someone Barker does not have many opportunities to race against in competitive events during the season due to their differing disciplines.

And that is something Barker is also looking forward to this week.

"I’m very excited to see Sarah race," she added. "She’s an absolute powerhouse. I think she’s going to do incredibly well.

"It’ll be interesting to see where her name ends up at the finishing line amongst the likes of Van der Breggen and international WorldTour riders."

The plan for Barker at the beginning of 2020 was to secure a second Olympic gold medal in Tokyo and maybe even a third if she was to be one of the two British riders competing in the madison.

Those hopes have now been delayed by 12 months due to the pandemic, a postponement she told us back in March she was ‘at peace’ with.

Now she has gone one further by suggesting the delay could actually work out in Great Britain’s favour.

The British quartet of Barker, Katie Archibald, Ellie Dickinson and Neah Evans finished nearly two seconds down on the US team at the world championships back in February as they had to settle for a silver medal.

Barker, who was the only Brit to win a world title when she triumphed in the points race (an event not included in the Olympics), could then only manager sixth in the madison alongside Evans as Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters took gold.

So Barker feels that while the postponement obviously came as a surprise for everyone, the team could end up benefiting as a result.

(L-R) Katie Archibald, Laura Kenny, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell Shand set a world record in the team pursuit on their way to gold in Rio

(SIPA USA/PA Images)

"I’m incredibly excited and appreciative, probably more appreciative of the opportunity than I was this time last year," she said.

"I feel like myself and the rest of my teammates will be better in 2021 than we would have been this summer.

"But at the same time I’m not going to pretend that’s what I was expecting."

Barker is also looking to be a part of the two-person madison team in Tokyo - the first time the discipline has been included as part of the women’s Olympic programme.

The British team would have been hoping for a few more chances to experience the madison in 2020 but due to the drastically reduced season that has not been the case.

But she feels it is important to remember that they are not falling behind any other team because everyone else is dealing with the same difficulties.

A women’s madison event will be held at the Olympic Games for the first time ever next year

(PA)

"More preparation would certainly be nice," she said.

"Sometimes it can feel like we’re not getting the preparation and that means that other teams are getting ahead, but the races are so few and far between that we’re all in a pretty similar situation. It’s important to remember that."

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