Only time will tell how strong it is. Barker isn’t setting himself any big goals for next season. She is under contract with Norwegian team Uno X until the end of 2023 and says they need to be “realistic”. But he has no problem admitting what his long-term goal is: the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Ideally, she says, she would like to ride Omnium or Madison, while also making herself available for the road squad.
“That’s the goal,” she says. “But now the road comes first. I want to explore what I’m capable of doing on the road. Before that, I’ve been a track rider who’s done a bit of road around it but never on it. Couldn’t prepare properly.
“Now that I’ve done a lot of track, I’ve got all that experience, I can be a road rider that does track around it. And by track, I really mean group races. I’m in Madison. Would love some opportunities. Maybe the Omni. And then yes, at world and European level, I’d love a points race.”
Whatever she does, she won’t put too much pressure on herself. If she makes it to Paris, that will be a bonus. But she no longer wants to be defined by her results.
“It’s going to be quite a bit of work trying to do both. [ride a bike professionally and be a mum]”She says. “Exhaustion, constant magic. What I really don’t want to do is fall into the trap of thinking, ‘Oh, it will all be worth it if I win this, or if I win that’.
“Because if I didn’t. [win], it would be horrible to look back and think that I wasted the first two years of Nico’s life. I need to figure out what makes it worth it every day and go with it. And then really just hope the results follow. I don’t want to end up resenting him.”
‘Women’s cycling is such an exciting place’
It all sounds very sensible, especially when you consider the environment in which she has been operating for the past eight years. Both Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald – teammates in Rio and Tokyo – had to take a step back from racing this year due to mental and physical exhaustion. The latter is also now bereaved by the sudden d*ath of his partner.
“I don’t really want to comment on it,” says Barker. “But of course it’s incredibly sad. And it brings home the importance of family and balance in your life. I feel very lucky to be where I am now.
“I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been on a personal level. How few people actually do this postpartum? To go out and get some fresh air, and to socialize, and to compete … basically. To maintain your identity…and then come back and be a mother too?
“How’s next year going? I’m sure it’s going to be a struggle to juggle everything – nursery, Casper’s job, my racing – but I’m looking forward to it. Lizzie [Deignan] And Laura has already shown what is possible as a mother, so I don’t feel pressured.
“I think I’ll try to build some confidence through the spring classics. And then, hopefully, be in a good place for the Ardennes. Women’s cycling is just in an interesting place where the popular Races like the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix are happening now. It would be amazing just to run in them before I retire.
“I just feel lucky that I get to try being a mom as well.”
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