Un­cov­er­ing the hopes and fears of two sleepy cy­clists

Cycling Weekly - - WEEKLY COLUMN -

We, the Great Bri­tain Cy­cling Team, are in Canada. We are jet­lagged, or maybe ex­hausted from a 5am wake up and transat­lantic travel, but ei­ther way it’s early evening and eye­lids are droop­ing. So in a bid to stay awake I am adding to this col­umn’s oc­ca­sional in­ter­view se­ries with an ex­tract from my time spent try­ing to keep Eleanor Dick­in­son and Eli­nor Barker awake.

Both are un­der their re­spec­tive du­vets and hug­ging a cud­dly toy. Hardly con­ducive to our am­bi­tion of stay­ing awake, but I’m not here to preach ad­vice. I’m here to ask pry­ing ques­tions. Like we’re on a bad first date, I ask both what they are most afraid of.

El Barker: “I’m most afraid of telling my deep­est, dark­est fear to a na­tional pub­li­ca­tion and a psy­chopath read­ing it and us­ing it against me. El­lie Dick­in­son says she needs time to think, but never an­swers. We have to as­sume that what she’s most afraid of is com­mit­ment.

I then ask if you weren’t a cy­clist, what would you be? Now, in­stead of be­ing a bad first date, it’s a bad first date with a cy­cling jour­nal­ist. El­lie D tells me she would be Dora the Ex­plorer be­cause of her pas­sion for trav­el­ling and tiny ruck­sacks, not for singing the al­pha­bet to tod­dlers. El B would be drunk. I would be the next MD of Archers Sleep­cen­tre.

Un­for­tu­nately the ques­tions there­after be­come more ex­pan­sive and the an­swers less sound-bitey. El­lie D is forced to won­der for how long she wants to be a pro­fes­sional cy­clist. “Un­til I’ve achieved all I want to achieve,” she says, be­fore get­ting in a pickle hav­ing to de­fine what it is she wants to achieve. El B wants to avoid any ex­is­ten­tial angst this close to bed­time and doesn’t an­swer, be­fore we spi­ral into a dis­cus­sion on how much of our iden­tity is cov­ered by the word “cy­clist” and her fight for es­cape is lost.

When I leave, with both Els think­ing about their great­est fears and of the con­sump­tion of their iden­tity by their pro­fes­sion, I know I’ve done my job well: nei­ther will be sleep­ing peace­fully any­time soon.

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