Interview – Yanto Barker of Team Raleigh


Talking to Team Raleigh’s Yanto Barker, Britain’s top ranked UK based rider in 2013 who helped make UK Youth the dominant team it was last season

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Yanto Barker of Team Raleigh

Last weekend, Team Raleigh had one of those starts to the season you expect of a team that has strengthened its line up with two victories from two races.


2014_AlexBlainWins SevernBridge

Above, two races, two wins for Raleigh with Ian Wilkinson and Alex Blain.

Those wins were never assured for the team as the spread of top riders through five of the country’s top teams makes the racing more open than perhaps last weekend suggests it will be. This coming weekend will see Raleigh facing a tougher challenge in the Jock Wadley as teams more and more start to come out to play before the national series events in April.

Last season, it was UK Youth who dominated the season more than many expected and after that team failed to get the sponsorship it needed to continue, the riders from UK Youth are spread out though the big teams with two of them going to Raleigh, Ian Wilkinson and Yanto Barker.

Superman (Wilkinson) has already opened Raleigh’s account with a win for them at Eddie Soens and then Alex Blain, who was with Raleigh in 2013, added to that at Severn Bridge. The other rider new to the Raleigh line up is Yanto Barker.


Pre team launch Yanto gets into the ‘games’ and shows he can pull a wheelie on his Raleigh Militis

One of the most experienced and astute riders in the peloton, Yanto had a great season in 2013, perhaps his best , and is already hard at work for Team Raleigh. Whether that be chasing the wins or directing the team on the road, Yanto is pleased with how things are going at Raleigh.

“Coming from last year where we had an excellent team at UK Youth, this feels very similar” he told me at the team’s training camp in France recently.

This part of the season is interesting in that we start to see how things may well pan out during the year ahead with riders in different teams. It’s one thing for a team to look strong on paper, but another how it works on the road. After the Eddie Soens, Yanto smiled and said “What is interesting for me is seeing the team dynamics going on out there on the road” and left it at that.

It’s that insight into the new teams at play that riders like Yanto will do their best to exploit in the season but for now it’s about keeping an eye on the bigger picture. “I have been a rider for a long time and there are number of different ways to get to the end objective. Whether training hard or racing, the key is keeping an eye on things and not doing too much”.


With the state of the racing calendar in Britain, there is little chance of riders racing too much but team Raleigh also have their European campaign which is in full swing and with a small team, balancing racing and resting is essential ahead of April when the season here kicks off.

For team Raleigh, the Tour of the Med a few weeks ago was the start to their season. “Med, that was hard” says Yanto. “On that first stage, I was fine until we hit 200k and then I popped!”

That first stage was 230 kilometres, the third longest ride Ian Wilkinson said he’d done and that was the first race of the season for the team. “We all went there from doing winter training” explained Yanto adding “it’s very different racing at the top level there to the UK. These guys will be racing the Tour de France etc”

Mindful of what the fans may be thinking back home seeing the team at the wrong end of the results sheets, Yanto said that during the race, they did tick all the boxes. “We got respect from the peloton and we improved each day. Mark Christian also did a good job getting in the break on the last day and gave the jersey a real showing at the front.”

“It was what we needed to be doing” he says.

“In the UK, with the training I have been doing, I could go to a race and go straight to the front. Here, half the field had been racing for a month. I was struggling to hold a group of 120 on a stage that suited me in the Med and then on the last day, I was 70 odd on a mountain top finish on a stage that didn’t suit me.”

“So had that stage been one that better suited me, one k climbs for example, I would have been more competitive at the front of the race.”


Kirkcaldy in the Tour Series – win number 1 for Yanto in the series.

“There is no substitute for racing” Yanto admits before giving a graphic account of why. “That first stage in the Med, I went through three groups going backwards and then back to the front and it was bizarre. I did one three or four minute effort trying to hold the front group and it put me so much into the red, I could feel the lactic going round my ears! It was horrible and not something I had ever got close to. It took me half an hour of clinging onto groups to recover in the gutter. We were going so fast in every group”.

“Every group following the next group was going a bit quicker as they were catching each other so it wasn’t funny and you can’t recreate the desire to push yourself that hard to hold on to a group when you are out on your own training.”

Early season races are also a lot different to the ones at the back of the end of the season Yanto says. “Everybody is fresh so races at the start of the year can be harder with riders motivated to do something.”

Power to the legs
The body can also limit what a rider can do at the start of the season until it has adapted to the demands of it in racing as Yanto explains.

“I worked on power all last year and worked with Steve Benton (Yanto’s coach) closely to analyse the figures and make sense of them to improve and progress. We did a training camp recce of the Tour of Britain and on the last stage, we did a mountain top finish ride up Haytor, a ‘max’ effort to get a level of where were we at because we still hadn’t selected the six riders for the Tour”.

“So there were eight of us on the recce and for that 14/15 minutes I did 432 watts average. When I was doing my TT efforts before I came here (Med), I was struggling to get 400 which is ten per cent off”.

“I’d never used power in the winter before so never seen the numbers before. The feeling for the effort is the same, you’re just not producing the same power. Speaking to Steve about it, he laughed and said that is natural and he’s spoken to a lot of other guys with similar experiences.”

“I spoke to Chris Opie who has been training on power through the winter for a long time and he said yep, it is like bashing your head against a brick wall and how the brick wall does crumble!”

“If you put those figures into a race situation at that level, it’s a front group/last group situation, that’s how competitive it is now”.


Another Tour Series win this time in Stoke.

Like Lincoln but way bigger
Another of the insights I got from both Yanto and Ian Wilkinson was the fight for position at the bottom of Mont Faron in the Tour of the Med. It’s a ‘legendary’ climb for the race, one where the race is won or lost and the fight for position leading up to it is just like the one in the Lincoln GP but much worse say the riders.

“I’ve done the one leading to Michaelgate in Lincoln quite a few times” says Yanto and there’s a bit of a fight there. In Lincoln, you go up a drag at the feed and then the descent and into a narrow section and everyone knows you have to be well placed as the break goes on the climb and you need to be in the selection.”

“At Med, I hit the bottom of Faron looking after Matthieu (Boulo) who was impressive fighting well for a small rider. You have to learn to surf the wheels as there are a lot of people around and there are lots of them able to move up and what you have to realise is, if you pull out of a wheel, even for just 15 seconds, for the next minute and half which is a long time on the run in, a k and a bit, at 60k an hour, you really suffer so you have to be careful where you make the efforts.”

“Within the wheels, it is much less of an effort at 60 or 70k an hour. It is mental and does take some practice but you need to be in it to practice it. You can’t practice it going round little races at Hillingdon!”


A new team, new colours, new teamwork, same motivation
Yanto says he is motivated in the races in Europe as he is the ones at home. “If there is a number on my back, I want to win or at least do myself my proud”.

“When I was younger, it was all about the big international races but I am enjoying where am I am now. I had a great season last year and if I could do something similar this year, then that would be a success .”

“I take real pleasure being a respected pro in the UK, I take pleasure giving organisers a proper race by turning up and being serious and motivated. It doesn’t need to be Med or HC etc for me to be engaged like that. I ride my bike and want to make the most of every day that I am competing because you are a long time retired.”

When we spoke, Yanto had only ridden in the team for one event (Tour of the Med) and prior to that, there had been no training camps etc to get to know everyone. That process was done in the week leading up to Med but already Yanto liked what he saw.

“The team is good, the kit is good and we have been looked after well. All the ingredients that I look for are in the right place and in the right proportion. It’s going to be fun.”

Asked to compare it to UK Youth in 2013, Yanto explained there are differences between the teams. “In UK Youth, half the team was the same as the year before (2012) which is not the case here. In UK Youth, I knew personally and got on well with the five or six from the year before and I personally had a huge influence on who was signed.”

“Guys we knew could perform, knew we could get on with and knew were reliable to deliver their potential. In this team, I have come in more passively and had very little to do with those things. I’m a sounding board if anyone wants to know my opinion but like I said, the ingredients are good.”

“Wilko (Ian Wilkinson) (below) has a whopping sense of humour which brings everyone together because he’s making everyone laugh. I like that and can bounce off that. It’s a good energy and it makes people feel comfortable and at home.”


“Secondly, when we do get to races, we commit to each other and we deliver something useful in a race every day even if it’s not for ourselves. After five stages in a four day race, it’s all been there”.

“I truly believe that the only way to do things is with teammate work. I have looked at the teams for this year, the composition of those teams which I have l looked at carefully to see what I expect we can do and where we should take advantage.”

“The difference between success and failure will be teamwork. 100 per cent. I described it with Wilkes last year in Rutland. He won that race because we worked so well together that we were always one effort behind everyone else, as in less effort.”

“So when it came to that max effort up the last climb or the last sector etc, we had that little bit more energy and at that level, we’re all only one or two per cent apart. And so it’s about who has looked after themselves in the race, and who did the last effort and who’s had two efforts to recover. That is the difference.”

“It is the same with the Tour Series. The difference between going across to the break and getting dropped by the peloton is about three per cent which is tiny in such an intense environment. What I am trying to emphasis is that team work is essential. Something we’ll take seriously …”

“For those things to work, you need a leader, you need hierarchy, riders with different abilities for different terrain. You need commitment to the greater good for the team. You have to demonstrate that one person winning from a team is everybody winning and that is what we did last year in UK Youth. It was something Nigel was so passionate about to convey to us and we really got it.”

That team work was there in both Raleigh’s wins on the weekend but as yet, Yanto is yet to get the victory. Asked what his goals are in 2014, he replies “form cycles last for more than a weekend, so in general I’d like to be going well for the entire length of the Tour Series because the type of rider I am, I think I could do well in any type of round having won two rounds in two different ways last year.”

“Racing is racing, I want to win …”

And win he will … watch this space and thanks Yanto for the insights into racing with the pros

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