Time will tell how strong. Barker is not setting big goals for next season. He is under contract with Norwegian team Uno X until the end of 2023 and says he has to be “realistic”. But she readily admits what her long-term goal is: the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.
He says that ideally, he says, she would like to ride an omnium or a madison while also being available to the road team.
“That’s the goal,” he says. “But the road will now come first. I want to discover what I’m capable of on the road. I used to be a track rider who rode this a bit, but I could never properly prepare for it.
“While I’ve done so much track now, I’ve got all this experience, I can be a road rider that does it. And by track I mean a lot of races. I’d like to have some opportunities in the Madison, maybe the omnium. And then yeah, on world and European level, I would like points races.”
Whatever she’s doing, she won’t stress too much. If he comes to Paris, that will be a bonus. But she no longer wants to be defined by her results.
“Trying to do both is going to be quite a struggle [ride a bike professionally and be a mum],” he says. “Fatigue, constant juggling. What I really don’t want to do is fall into the trap of thinking, ‘Oh, it’ll all be worth it if I win this or if I win that.’
“Because if I hadn’t then [win], it would be awful to look back and think that I somehow wasted the first few years of Nicoto’s life. I need to figure out what makes each day worthwhile and go for it. And then I just hope the results will follow. I don’t want to end up resenting myself.”
“Women’s cycling is in such an exciting place”
It all sounds very reasonable, especially considering the environment in which it has operated for the past eight years. Both Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald – teammates in Rio and Tokyo – had to withdraw from racing this year due to mental and physical exhaustion. The latter has now also suffered grief with the sudden death of her partner.
“I don’t really want to comment on that,” says Barker. “But of course it’s incredibly sad. And it brought home the importance of family and balance in your life. I feel so lucky to be where I am now.
“On a personal level, I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been. How few people actually do this after giving birth? To go out and get some fresh air and socialize and compete…basically maintain my identity…and then come back and be a mom too?
“How will the second year be? I’m sure it will be hard to juggle everything – the nursery, Casper’s job, my races – but I’m looking forward to it. Lizzie [Deignan] and Laura have already shown what is possible as moms, so I don’t feel pressured.
“I think I’ll try to get some confidence through the spring classics. And then hopefully in a good place for the Ardennes. Women’s cycling in general is in such an exciting place, with iconic races like the Tour de France Femmes and Paris-Roubaix Femmes now underway. Just racing in them before I retire would be amazing.
“I feel lucky to be able to try and be a mom at the same time.”