Living the Dream
Team Raleigh-GAC's Yanto Barker remembers a special day racing on home Devon roads at the 2014 Tour of Britain.
This was a special stage. It took me right back to the beginning of my cycling career, where you ride along dreaming of being in races just exactly like this Tour of Britain in the lanes. I guess dreams do come true.
My old club, Mid-Devon CC, were out there. There were a lot of people all along the route and at the finish; it’s a well-educated crowd in Devon, they know who they’re cheering for.
I got a lot of shouts – a few from the bunch too, who were teasing me as we went along. I was keen to be near the front, and I knew every manhole cover, every piece of gravel on these roads.
That local knowledge is really important: I lost the bunch on the second stage into Llandudno: if I’d known where the top of the final climb was, I’d have known what I needed to do to hang on. It’s all marginal gains.
Stage five in Devon was a tough day, with a lot of climbs including the short, sharp Stoke Hill 4km from the finish. We had one of the French boys [Matthieu Boulo] up there on GC, so it was my role to make sure he was all right.
I’ve been finding this Tour of Britain quite difficult, it’s a competitive field and it’s easy to underestimate how hard it is. But I’m happy; I was pleased to make it into the break the other day, it would be nice to do that again before the finish.
I raced the first Tour of Britain in 2004. The difference is that it’s gone from a secondary to a primary race on the world stage, and a lot of it down to the hard work of [organisers] Sweetspot. The popularity has changed too. It’s noticeable on the road, the amount of people has grown exponentially each year.
This day in Devon is deeply etched in my mind for its painful memories, how hard it was and how tired I am now. I had a lot of adulation and attention today too, and it’s something I don’t take for granted. I always make a point of saying hello and being polite to fans, even if I’ve just finished the race. It’s important to always give a good impression; you could be their idols. Like some of the little kids looking on, I remember being that young, looking up at the cyclists. It does last, it does stay with you, those memories.
There’s no staying at home tonight though: even if my house was a mile down the road, I’d be at the team hotel and in the routine.
Team Raleigh-GAC rider Yanto Barker was speaking to Rouleur’s Andy McGrath.