Interview: Yanto Barker signs for Raleigh


After a season he says he has enjoyed more than any other, Yanto Barker talks about his 2013 highlights as he looks forward to 2014 and his new team, Raleigh

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Having stood on the top step of the podium during 2013 as well as help his team to make a huge impact on the domestic racing scene, Yanto Barker has a team sorted for 2014 (Team Raleigh) and is hugely motivated to continue that success in different colours.


Kirkcaldy in Scotland and Yanto Barker starts the series off with a win but the series got better and better for his team and it went on.

Being a professional cyclist can be difficult profession especially in Britain as teams fold when you least expect them and for Yanto, finding a team at such a late stage of the year was not easy coming as it did less than a month ago.

Find a team the LeCol business owner did but when asked if he ever felt like retiring whilst at the top of his game, the 33 year old, replied “I did. That was a 50-50 process in my mind. I couldn’t decide for ages and the three things that made it easy for me to come to a conclusion was one, I feel fantastic physically at the moment. “

 Being part of a professional cycling team doing things properly is such a great place to be”

Having had a ‘gap’ of three years during his career, Yanto admits that this makes his ‘racing age’ younger than his actual one. The second reason for carrying on he says is the excitement he gets racing for a team in the sport of cycling.

“The difference between riding a bike and competing as an individual which I did in 2009 and racing as part of a team, and benefiting from the broader dynamics of racing with a team – team work and all that – is incomparable in terms of excitement and satisfaction. Being part of a professional cycling team doing things properly is such a great place to be” he adds.

A pro cycling team has this real intoxicating mixture of varying physical abilities, strategic planning and devotion to your teammates and they’re all things you reap a benefit from when part of a really tight team.

“I don’t think that it’s possible to recreate that feeling outside of a competitive team sport where people are really grateful for what you do for them. It does happen in business but it’s more intellectual rather than physical. A pro cycling team has this real intoxicating mixture of varying physical abilities, strategic planning and devotion to your teammates and they’re all things you reap a benefit from when part of a really tight team.”

Thirdly, “I couldn’t concentrate any more on my business than I do now even if I had twice as much time. I am a competitive athlete right to my core and don’t know if I would focus better if you took that away from me. You can only be as effective as you can be and if you double the time, that doesn’t mean you’re twice as effective”.


Yanto with Rob Partridge and Jon Mould enjoying life on the road.

End of the road for UK Youth
During the Tour of Britain, team boss Nigel Mansell mentioned to VeloUK they were looking for a new title sponsor and the feeling within the team was that no matter whether one was found or not, the team would continue in 2014. So, it was a surprise that the team folded says Yanto.

“He (Nigel Mansell) genuinely expected to get something out of it (a meeting on Oct 14th) but the next day we were all officially looking for a job. It was late and made it very difficult for everybody and much much harder than it should have been.”


Why the team were never rescued by a new sponsor despite having had such a great year isn’t something Yanto really knows the answers to but what he does know is that the team were like no other he has ridden for.

“As a team, all the ingredients of who we were, what we were and how we did what we did, I have never seen that done so professionally in the UK before” he explained. Asked why he doesn’t think it’s been done as well before, Yanto says a lot of it came down to one person – the team boss Nigel Mansell in combo with others in the team.

“There are a number of factors like the way Nigel (Mansell) works in terms of choosing what is best for his team gave us some of the best ingredients to work with. I don’t take for granted one second that it would have been more difficult had we not had the opportunity to choose very carefully the roster.”

“Each rider was picked as much on character as performance ability to fit in with the team and the group dynamics.”

“We also had a full time team coach in Steven Benton who not only managed everybody’s performance but also coached everybody in the broader aspect of what coaching is. I don’t think many teams appreciate how big a factor that was in contributing to our success.”

“The final ingredients involved the combination of Nigel and his approach, attitude and ambition in combination with Steve and Pov (Dave Povall) in the way they managed that. I also had a big picture view of what Nigel wanted and translated that into how we acted and responded on the road as a group of individuals riding as a team as close as any team has ever been in terms of what we would do for each other in a race.”


Team coach Steve Benton talking to the team prior to a race in 2013

“We were able to manage that process so the right people got the right job each day and that meant we had the best people who were fully committed and never held anything back in order that we as a team delivered the best result. That wasn’t an accident; we did that week after week after week.”

An example of that consistent success was the Tour Series where the team dominated it more than any other team had. After Team Raleigh had started well, the series became all UK Youth and that was no accident says Yanto.

“We really didn’t let ourselves get complacent in the Tour Series. After we had won five rounds, we were still as hungry and nervous about the next round as if we hadn’t won a round at all. We had Nigel telling us too not to be complacent with the right reminder at the right time and everybody was genuinely ‘getting it’ and doing their job. That was what made us so successful.”


2004 Tour of Britain and Yanto Barker riding for Wales is in a break with Jeremy Hunt and Russell Downing. 

Best year ever for Yanto?
Having watched Yanto race since his Junior days, and achieve some great results, for me 2013 was the best I have seen him race consistently all season. Yanto agrees saying “I have ridden better than I have ever ridden this year and enjoyed it more than I have ever done. Those two together is a potent mix!”

“I think it is easy for people to look at the big names in European racing and go ‘that’s where you want to be’ but I promise you, it is not easy winning British races. It is a proper hard thing to do.”

“One example of that was the pleasure I got getting a result in the Ipswich GP. Okay, there wasn’t a huge field in the race, but if you look at that group at the end, there was nobody in that field I respect more and it all happened with a proper selection on the road.”

“At the end, we tore strips off each other to open some gaps and the guys that were left, I seriously respect. So you don’t win races in Britain by accident”.


Two of Yanto’s Highlights
Everyone who has watched Yanto race in 2013 will have their highlights of his performances. I certainly do but my highlights like the team’s performance with Yanto in the Tour of Britain differ to his personal memories of a great year.

“There are so many” says Yanto “but the first one for me is Stoke (Tour Series). I won that personally, we won it as a team, we took the lead on the overall and also had the fastest lap! It was like the holy grail of Tour Series rounds. That was amazing.”

“We all locked into how that happened as a group, we all registered what we did, how we did it, what it felt like, how we were motivated to do that again and we went from there. So that was one of my favourites.”

“The second one is an achievement to me because it was so ‘out there’ in the Tour of the Fens. We had chatted the night before the race and threw round a few ideas and none of them sat right with me. I was a bit concerned but said we don’t need to stress about it as we had the nationals the next week and were still running quite high off the back of the Tour Series win. So we felt there was less pressure”.

“Then overnight, I thought, you know what, we need to do something special. It’s a flat race so a group working together means more as you don’t have the opportunity to start tearing people apart on the climbs. The plan was to sit in for two hours say but re-evaluate in the race. Marcin didn’t like the idea but I said ‘we can do this it but we can’t do it without all us buying into it’. So he agreed.”

“We chose our moment when we decided to ride after about an hour and twenty five minutes despite everyone watching us. We went to the front, and we didn’t do anything silly straight away. We just started to wind it up and then having done a few laps already and knowing the circuit, we picked out moment and we just opened the taps!”

“After about two miles, we had a gap of about 15 seconds on the chasers but at 55k an hour, 15 seconds is quite big and Rob Partridge looked round and there were only two or three other guys on the wheels apart from the whole UK Youth team”.

“He gave out a yell and I was like ‘listen, we have a five minute gap to close down on the break and 140k and it wasn’t time to start whooping!’


Tour of the Fens: Marcin leads the front group with four from UK Youth and three from Node 4.

“When our group and the front group came together there was some jumping around and that was the complicated section of the race for us. But I was happy as I knew there were enough of us going well to finish the job off.”

“Three of us got away with three Node 4s and a few others and then Marcin came across on his own and it was just ridiculous what he did! It was phenomenal as we weren’t hanging about and he properly turned himself inside out to get across.”

“So we were pleased to have put ourselves into a position to pull off a 1-2-3 … I was so pleased to be part of that although it was probably quite irritating for everybody else!”

Moving on …
With UK Youth disbanding, it’s time to look forward and for all of them to take what they have learnt to their new teams and few in the team are probably better equipped than Yanto to do that. He says that Team Sky would not have paid more attention to the marginal gains than UK Youth did in 2013 such was the detail they went to in their planning how they tackled events.

“Every single person on the team this year will be a big step up in their understanding, professionalism and the broader aspect of racing and training as a professional athlete” says Yanto.

“I have been a professional for many years, been part of GB team and benefited from coaches, physiotherapists, management and all that sort of thing but I still learnt loads this year. I’m very grateful for that”.

The training for the season ahead was already well under way even before he signed his new contract. Yanto says he’s motivated to do well in every single race he competes in next season and to help his new team achieve the same success UK Youth did in 2013.

“Teams are only as good as the person directing you” says Yanto. “You can have a lot of great riders but if you can’t engage everyone to ride for each other, then the strength of the team is nothing where as if you have an average team totally dedicated to each other, then you have the strength to do well.”


UK Youth at the front of the peloton in the Tour of Britain led by Rob Partridge

“Only recently have teams in the UK worked out how to get the most out of riders riding for each other rather than just themselves and that is something all of us at UK Youth demonstrated this year. There are no secrets, it’s just hard work”.

“I am already thinking about next year; how I am going to contribute to making the Raleigh team stronger and better, how can I help others win and how can I win myself. I spent three hours in the pouring rain today (Saturday) so I must be motivated! But I’m quite happy doing that and as motivated as I have ever been.”

The term living the dream is used a lot in cycling but you realise when Yanto talks about his days growing up in Machnynlleth when he dreamed about racing the big races with the cameras, the crowd and the spotlight on him, that he indeed is living that dream.

No more so than this year when a stage of the Tour of Britain started only 500 metres from where he was born. And there he was leading the country’s top British based team, UK Youth. That was, he says, a powerful experience and one that he carries with him as he prepares for the 2014 season.

Keen to carry on impressing the fans as he did in 2013, and his team, Yanto is still working with the UK Youth team coach Steve Benton and even when Steve’s contract ends with the team on December 31st, Yanto intends to continue to work with him.

“He is such a font of knowledge” says Yanto. “He knows me as well as anyone ever has and the prospect of working with him next year gives me the peace of mind that I will perform again similar to the way I did this year.”

“I am over the moon to be given that opportunity again. I am seriously motivated to show people that I am not any less motivated despite what has happened and just as motivated to do my best for Raleigh as I was this year with UK Youth.”


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