Elinor Barker surprised even herself when she won the world title in the elite women’s Scratch Race at the UCI Track World Championships in Poland on Wednesday. Racing under the colours of Great Britain, Barker sprinted neck-to-neck against Dutchwoman Kirsten Wild to take her first victory in the event.
"I don't think I've ever won a scratch race in my life," Barker said in a flash interview after her victory. "I thought I'd timed it ever so slightly wrong, and I've come second in a lot of scratch races - It feels amazing.
"It doesn't feel like I've won until I’ve got the [rainbow] jersey on."
Barker said she has also had a sub-par season on the World Cup circuit this year, where she couldn't quite pull together the winning performances that she had hoped. She was also disappointed to have gotten second in the Scratch Race at the National Championships earlier in the season.
"I didn't [think I could win]," Barker said. "I had a tough World Cup season; for various reasons it just didn't come into place for me, but I think I would go through all that again to get to where I've gotten this weekend. Everything has come into place now."
It wasn't a smooth Scratch Race with a crash that happened with just over a lap to go, but it didn't disrupt Barker's performance, and she wasn't aware of the accident until after the race.
"I knew that I wanted to come from the back to the front, wait for a bit of a lull, and then get to the front and take it on," Barker spoke of her strategy ahead of the event. "And try and avoid any kind of carnage because we have the Team Pursuit tomorrow, which is the focus."
Great Britain's women's team pursuit squad includes Barker along with Laura Kenny, Katie Archibald and Ellie Dickinson. They set the second fastest time in the qualifying round on Wednesday, and will ride with a shot at the gold final against New Zealand in the first-round on Thursday.
Respected by all at Drops Cycling
Barker splits her athletic endeavours between track and road racing. She has previously ridden for teams Matrix Fitness and Wiggle High5, but this year she signed on to race with Drops Cycling.
"We were all delighted for Elinor, she has been a popular addition to the squad, and is well liked and respected by all of us," Drop Cycling’s manager Bob Varnery told Cyclingnews after Barker's victory in the Scratch Race.
"Elinor has been a secret admirer of our programme for some time, we tried to sign her in 2017 but her standout ride at the British Road Race Championships bought her a very good offer from Wiggle.
"We kept a dialogue going throughout last season and were mutually delighted to finally have the opportunity of working together."
Varney said that Barker has a long-term focus on the road after the 2020 Olympic Games where she aims to compete on the track, but he said the team supports her goals.
"We are working hard behind the scenes to be able to provide a stable environment where she, and our other top young British riders can grow with us," Varney said. "Our fun but professional culture provides a perfect foil for Elinor to escape some of the intense pressure that surrounds her track career and Olympic ambitions."
Varney said that Barker will take a much-needed rest after the Track World Championships before beginning her preparations for the road season ahead, which will likely begin for Barker in May.
"We are keen for her to have some downtime after the Worlds before building up for a sustained period of road racing where she may debut for us in Luxembourg at the Elsy Jacobs Festival," he said.
Barker may also compete with the team at the Tour of California Women's Race, Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour and possibly the OVO Energy Women's Tour, should the team receive an invitation to the Women's WorldTour event.