"Some women I have spoken to have gone into labour on the turbo, that would be the dream" Question Time with Elinor Barker

An Olympic, two-time world and six-time European champion in the team pursuit, Elinor Barker spoke to Rouleur about expecting her first child and her future with Team Uno-X

You recently won a silver medal at Tokyo 2021 in the team pursuit while two months pregnant. Are you, to your knowledge, the only athlete to have won an Olympic medal while expecting?

I thought I might have been, but I Googled it and think I am one of about 25 who competed while pregnant – it’s far more common than you might think – but I am one of seven who medalled. There was one woman who was six months pregnant. And another, I think in wheelchair tennis at the Paralympics, who was pregnant with her third or fourth child.

Any idea how long you will be able to keep riding for?

Some women I have spoken to have literally gone into labour on the turbo. That would be the dream.

What was the reaction of your new team Uno-X?

 Incredible. I don’t think I could have asked for a better response, and it was way better than I was expecting. Everyone has been so supportive. The team had not even started up as a women’s team, yet they were already so prepared that they knew exactly what to do to help, support me and make me feel reassured. It’s quite a scary thing, to have your world turned upside down like that. I still wanted to compete, I just didn’t know if that option was still open to me. Straight away they said, well, why should this change anything?

Related: Women's WorldTour Calendar 2022

Do you wonder if it’s the fact they are Scandinavian?

I agree with that, actually. The boss is also the CEO of Uno-X, the company. And he said I will treat you in the same way that I would treat any of my employees.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve ever cycled?

Genuinely, I have to say the Peak District, which is pretty much where I live. In the winter, it can be the worst, but in the summer, I can’t think of anywhere better. There are so many options. I have really come to appreciate it lately when I’ve been evaluating where myself and my boyfriend are going to live. Image: Sophie Capewell

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

So many things. For a long time I wanted to be an author. At one point, I wanted to be a footballer, but there weren’t any opportunities for girls in football at that time. I suppose I have that to thank for getting me into cycling. 

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I’m in Denmark at the moment – this is such a boring answer! – but the bike paths are amazing. And if you can’t go by bike, you can rent an electric car, like you would a bike in London. 

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Have you ever been in trouble with the police?

I got pulled over because I had my number plate stolen. I was on the way to the shop to get a replacement, got stopped and got a ticket. My brother has a better story, though...

What would your karaoke song be? 

Probably something by Adele. But I’m hoping I am never held to account on this...

Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met? 

Prince Charles or David Beckham.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?

I was still a junior rider at my first World Cup in Russia for Team Great Britain. I went to run for the bus, having put my joggers over my skinsuit, and felt something slide down my leg... It was my pants. In the middle of the track centre. In front of all of these icons of the sport. And with the cameras rolling. I just had to keep going and hope nobody noticed. 

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

I’ve been very lucky – I’ve just been a cyclist for ever! I did work experience in a court and got kicked out on the second day for falling asleep...

Who’s your sporting icon?

It’s hard to look past Serena Williams, especially now. She has always been a massive inspiration and such an interesting person. If I see an article about Serena, I want to read it. And the fact she is a mother and still competing at the highest level has piqued my interest even further now. 

Have you ever had your bike stolen, and what did it feel like?

A couple of times, actually. The first time when I was about 15. Luckily, somebody found it on Facebook Marketplace and my dad went round and got it back.

The most recent time, I wasn’t so lucky. I had three bikes stolen from the house, which was an absolute nightmare. Thankfully, they were all insured and we got it sorted. Even though they didn’t go in my house, but in my shed, it felt really creepy – to know they had been through my stuff. 

Related: What to look forward to in women's cycling in 2022

If you had a superpower, what would yours be?

One hundred per cent, teleportation. Nothing else would be as good as that. I wouldn’t have to pack either – how good would that be?

Finish this sentence: happiness is…

Getting a hug from my nephew. He’s taken quite a long time to warm to me.

Elinor is an ambassador for Laka bicycle insurance 

Cover image: SWpix/Alex Whitehead

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