Cycling: Elinor Barker shows next generation is in very safe hands

 

Maastricht

Eleven years after a certain Nicole Cooke claimed the junior World Time Trial title, Britain's first medal of the 2012 World Championships was netted by another talented young Welshwomen, Elinor Barker from Cardiff, in the same discipline.

It is way too early to tell if Barker will follow Cooke's wheeltracks and claim an Olympic road gold and senior Worlds titles in the years to come. But for Barker to add to her silver medal in the same discipline in the 2011 World Championships represents another big step in the right direction - and shows she can handle the pressure of being a pre-race favourite, too.

Barker, 18, made continued time trial progress to claim gold on a far tougher course than in Copenhagen - a punchy, 16km (10-mile) effort across the relentlessly undulating and wind-blasted countryside of the Netherlands' Limberg region.

"Winning silver last year put a lot of pressure on me today and I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this race," she said. "But I've pretty much dedicated the last year to this. I've been on my time trial bike at least twice a week, doing hill efforts, watching my diet, going to bed early.

"Absolutely everything for the last year has been focused on this race."

A double gold medallist in the European Track Championships earlier this year and silver in New Zealand's World Junior Championships just a fortnight ago, the versatile Barker will ride her last race in the junior ranks in Saturday's road race. After that the senior category beckons, with Rio 2016 a not-too-distant objective.

"I will be thrown in at the deep end and it is really exciting," said Barker, who started cycling aged 10 as a way of getting out of swimming classes. Eight years after taking that initial plunge, she has now clocked her greatest success so far.

In the senior women's event, the 2010 world champion Emma Pooley came close to repeating her bronze medal performance of 2011 but was finally forced to settle for fourth. Victory went, for the second year running, to Germany's Judith Arndt, a stalwart of women's cycling who took her first Worlds time trial medal back in 1997 and is now set, at 36, to retire.

In today's senior men's time trial with neither Bradley Wiggins - silver last year - or Chris Froome in the mix, Britain's chances are more limited than initially hoped, although even after an injury-blighted season the national GB time trial champion, Alex Dowsett, remains a strong contender for what he hopes will be a top 10 spot. The leading contenders are Alberto Contador, in flying form following his recent Tour of Spain win and –another Dowsett prediction – the defending champion, Tony Martin.

 

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