- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
A return to home turf in south Wales is helping make the Tokyo Olympics finally seem real for Elinor Barker.
Great Britain’s track cyclists are in Newport for a 12-day pre-Games training camp before heading out to Japan on Friday.
After the long wait and all the questions over these Games, a return to the same base used ahead of the Rio Olympics is helping Cardiff native Barker get back in the zone.
“This time before the last Games it was an unknown to me to have such a long training camp with all the staff and every single rider – it’s not something we do for any other competition,” Barker said.
“It felt a lot more overwhelming last time but now it feels like an exciting part of the process. It feels a lot more comfortable, but it’s exciting. Just being here in this environment is huge.”
The choice of Newport for a training base is particularly special for Barker, one of several Welsh talents – alongside the likes of Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe and Becky James – to have risen to the top of the sport in recent years.
“I think, massively so, it’s due to the facilities and the people those facilities bring in,” Barker said when asked about Wales’ strength.
“When I was growing up I was really close to the Maindy outdoor velodrome and only 25 minutes away from the Newport velodrome.
“I never really appreciated how lucky I was to have those facilities so close, but having the facilities is one thing, it’s also the people – the volunteers and the organisation that it brings – once you have that in place it’s what has allowed Welsh Cycling to produce so many successful riders.”
Barker won team pursuit gold in Rio alongside Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald and Joanna Rowsell Shand.
Five years later, three members of the band are back together as Barker, Kenny and Archibald are joined by Neah Evans and Josie Knight in the squad.
Pre-lockdown results suggest Britain should again be among the favourites in the women’s team pursuit.
As challenges come to Britain’s dominance elsewhere in the velodrome, the women’s endurance squad have continued to shine, taking team pursuit silver at last year’s world championships in Berlin, where Barker also won the points race.
Little wonder then that there always seems to be a positive atmosphere amongst the riders.
“Of course we’re all human and the worst-case scenarios do go through your head,” Barker said. “But we also have psychology sessions where we plan that.
“Recently we had a session where we went through three or four different scenarios that aren’t ideal and thought about what we would do, but right now it’s very hard not to feel positive given the year we’ve had.
“We’re here, it’s so exciting. We’re literally being spoilt to within an inch of our lives. We have all these amazing clothes, all our food is made by the chef, when we go to the track all our bikes and kit feel fast, we’re all in a good place physically.
“It would be hard not to feel positive at this moment in time.”