Katie Archibald and Elinor Barker will get another chance to stake their claim to ride the Olympic Madison next year when they race together at the UCI Track World Cup in Glasgow this weekend.
The battle for places throughout Great Britain’s women’s endurance squad is intense given the department boasts the greatest strength in depth anywhere within the team, but the Madison is drawing the most attention before its Olympic debut on the women’s side next year.
Archibald and Barker are competing with Neah Evans, Emily Nelson and Laura Kenny to get the nod to race arguably the most spectacular track cycling event.
The first challenge for any of them is to make sure they are among the five riders selected to ride in the team pursuit, as the Madison pairing will come from that squad.
Archibald and Barker won World Cup gold together in the Madison in Manchester in 2017, though several other pairings have enjoyed success too.
“I’ve been the world champion with Emily, national champion with Elinor, and I’ve won Six Day with Neah, so there have been really big highlights with all of them,” said Archibald.
“This weekend it’s with Elinor and the last time we rode together at a home World Cup we did so to great success, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Barker rode with Kenny at Six Day last month, finishing second to Scottish duo Archibald and Evans.
The key to a good pairing is more than just putting the strongest two riders together and hand-slinging one another to victory. In this intensely tactical race, the two riders must have a clear understanding of their respective roles.
“It’s not just about physicality,” said Evans, who will ride in the team pursuit with Archibald, Barker and Ellie Dickinson today before racing in the omnium tomorrow.
“It’s that team dynamic. You need to gel together. The best combination is not necessarily the strongest two, it’s the two that work best together. You don’t want one to be going on the attack and the other to be sitting up. We’re still trialling it.”
The women’s sprint events will see Milly Tanner and Lauren Bate ride together in the team event today, while Katy Marchant and Sophie Capewell tackle the keirin and individual sprint tomorrow and Sunday. Olympic bronze medallist Marchant endured a brutal winter last year, racing all six legs of the World Cup chasing Olympic qualification points before arriving at the World Championships in Pruszkow feeling the affects, but says she is in a much better place this year.
“Our target this year was to try and get ahead of the game in the first few weeks of the season, and the Minsk World Cup last week was a great start,” said Marchant, who finished fifth in the individual sprint and 11th in the keirin in Belarus.
“It’s all looking good at the moment for Olympic qualification, so we just need to keep getting the results. We’re in a better position than last year. We’re just trying to avoid putting ourselves in that spot again because it was a hard slog. It took its toll and it’s crazy to think how many countries we went to and how many races we did in a short space of time, but it’s put me in a good place.”