Tour of Britain Interview – Yanto Barker


Eleven years on from his first Tour of Britain, Raleigh’s Yanto Barker is riding as strong ever after winning the Premier Calendar series & the Lincoln GP in 2014

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Tour of Britain Interview – Yanto Barker

Going back through the photos from the start of the Tour of Britain in 2004 at Manchester, there are lots of familiar faces and most are involved in the sport still, whether its racing or in management. A certain Bradley Wiggins for example or Roger Hammond. There are more.

One that is still racing and still winning is Yanto Barker. Back in 2004, he was on the start line with an equally fresh faced Rob Partridge riding in the colours of Wales.

I’d forgotten a lot about that Tour so thank goodness I have my collection of photos to remind me. When I asked Yanto what he remembers of that first Tour of Britain, he replied “I remember getting in a break with Jeremy Hunt, Russell Downing, Kurt Arverson and a couple of others”.

“It was the Celtic Manor stage (nr Newport, Wales) and we rode so so hard in the break but still got caught with 1km to go. It was such an experience because I thought I couldn’t go through and pull one more turn one more time about 50 times.”


“I said to myself that’s the last turn, I’m sitting on now but I managed to keep pulling with everyone else right to the end. I realised what hurting yourself really felt like that day and it’s stuck with me ever since. You can always push harder!”

Back then the Tour was just starting its journey through to 2014 guided by the team at Sweetspot. I was there and have seen the race become slicker, safer and taken more seriously by the riders over that decade of its life. Yanto says the race has changed for the better for two reasons.

“The organisation Sweetspot have done such a great job over the years. They really have applied everything they have learned in doing these kind of events and implemented the improvements every year to improve everything.”

“Secondly the crowds and support we get on the road has grown exponentially. It’s so great to have Tour de France size crowds along the route and at the start and finish areas. They are so well informed these days, obviously following their favourite riders, and it does not go unnoticed.”

“I am very grateful for all the support I get over the course of the race and this is a great opportunity to say thanks to everyone”.

Whilst Yanto was there at the start of what has become such a mega part of the cycling scene in Britain, just as the Milk race did before it, he did take a little rest from racing for a while and says in all, he’s ridden five Tours – sort of ;-)

“I have ridden five so far, but one was on a motorbike in 2011 when I commentated on the race!”


“For my sixth tour, I hope to make it memorable for all the right reasons. The moments that stand out for me in the others are being in the GC break on stage 1 of the 2005 Tour when we gained 15 minutes on the peloton. Making that selection enabled me to finish in 8th position overall which at the time, was the best result from a domestic based pro for a while and stood for a while longer!”

“Also, the break that I was part of (Celtic Manor stage) in the 2004 Tour was also a memorable time for the reasons I said above. The third time was 2012 when I was 6th on the stage into Guildford. I turned myself inside out to be there. Cav won and at the finish Nigel Mansell, team owner said ‘why didn’t you try a bit harder you could have won’”.

“If I had any energy left I would have swung for him at the time! He did burst out laughing straight after though. He was great to have at races, so enthusiastic and a good friend”.

The Tour of Britain 2014
Asked how he sees his role in the Raleigh team for the Tour this year, Yanto says “I am the team captain. This year I have been influential on all the results the Raleigh team has got in the races I have participated in and so I will be key to making the right decisions during this year’s Tour of Britain to get the best out of the boys”.

“It’s important when you are making decisions that you have conviction, experience to back up your decisions and a sense of responsibility to stand by them whatever happens and I am someone who does that”.

One of the strategies a lot of the British teams apply to the race is to simply attack the hell out of the start and try and make the break. Yanto says this isn’t necessarily the best option. “We need to make the most of the opportunities that come our way and that means adapting on the road”.
“We have some great riders who can compete at the top against anyone so it’s about getting the right people in the right place to deliver their potential”.

By way of example, I mentioned Matthieu Boulo. Early season in UCI 1.1 races the Raleigh team rode, the Frenchman was getting in the top 10 and top 20. It was clear the cyclo-cross rider was a class act. Here in Britain’s he’s won in the Tour Series, crit and hill climb, and at the Newport Nocturne last Saturday where he was scary good!


Practising for the Tumble stage Yanto?

I asked Yanto if he felt the parcours for the 2014 Tour will suit Matthieu? “Most definitely”Yanto replied “He is a classy gritty little rider and this years course definitely suits him. We all know that at Raleigh as we have raced with him all season. I am excited to see what he can do”.

With years of experience riding the race and also watching it from where I normally see it, a motorbike, how does Yanto see the race unfolding with so many strong sprint teams. He replied “This will have a huge influence on the shape of the race and what results we can expect to get from the stages”.

“What viewers fail to understand sometimes is that every rider in the group can go fast up hill and on the flat, so unless the big names really want to smash it up and even then most guys can still climb for 5-8mins which is the duration of most climbs here in the UK, there will still be a big group contesting the finish”.

“I expect there to be more bunch finishes than maybe some people would but we will see”.


The Team Game
There are two types of teams in the Tour of Britain. One like Sky etc where there is a leader and the rest have set jobs, whether its trying to win a stage like Ben Swift or sitting on the front and hurting a lot of legs like I’ve seen Ian Stannard do. Then there are teams where there is no set leader. All the riders have equal ranking and are free to get in the break or duck and dive in the sprint.

Last year, the UK Youth team got behind specific riders like Chris Opie in London where he was 5th and showed what a ‘unit’ can do. Asked how important was that for the team rather than riding like a group of individuals, Yanto replied “It’s everything”!

“Because the margin of physical performance between you and your competition is so small, the efforts you save by sharing them with a well functioning team is the difference between beating them or getting beaten”.

“For instance, if you are in the break on your own and in the finale you start attaching each other for the win, to get in the winning attack you have to go with everything. If you have a team mate, you share the attacks so only do 1 in 2 and save some energy so that when you GO, you go harder”.

“When you are in a good team, the probability of having team support is much more likely and that gives you the physical advantage as long as you can rely on them to do their bit when it’s needed. Wilks and I did this last year in the Cicle classic perfectly and it’s exhilarating when you do it well”.

“This showed in the records we broke as a team consistently over the course of the season. It’s possible to do again and I could recreate that given the right position and resources”.


2013 and Yanto is off the front trying to get in a move on Stage 7

Timing the form for the Big One
The season in Britain is a long one once it gets started. That isn’t until April in general as far as targets go but with the Prems, then the Tour Series, more Prems etc, the racing is non stop. Yanto, winner of what was the Premier Calendar and should be called the star Trophy because that is what he gets, has been consistent all year.

Which begs the question, how is his form after that long a season? “I have got the timing right or at least I hope so and it looks like it” he replies.

“I have worked carefully with my coach Steve Benton and planned my training specifically for the Tour of Britain for the last eight weeks. He is the best coach and I have total confidence that we can manage my fitness to the optimum. I hope I can deliver some results for the team and sponsors on the biggest stage”.

Asked if the lack of racing in August has helped that preparation, Yanto says “Yes, it is possible to prepare by training and that’s what I have done. You have to make the most of what you have and I am satisfied with the preparation I have had”.

“I have trained specifically from home (London) because I also have to run my own business – Le Col clothing – and so to go away is not always so practical. But like I said, I believe I have prepared myself as well as possible and have no doubts”.

Fitness and good form is one thing but looking after yourself in the race is another so what does a rider who has been racing for a decade and more have as a favourite snack in the race? “It’s interesting you say that Larry because I would say I have adapted completely from the ‘old school’ way to the new technology supported way using power and data to train and race”.

“I have made a complete transition because I believe there is an advantage to doing it that way and I am committed to my performance. I have a sweet tooth though so I am happy with anything sugary LoL. If I have one favourite thing, it’s a brioche with cream cheese and then a strawberry inside. It’s the perfect bite to eat and makes my mouth water just thinking about it!”

Yanto adds that he does have a strategy on a normal day for how much he drinks and eats. “I set myself a quota and stick to it with discipline because it’s the easiest way to count out a result for no good reason and when you get to my age, it’s unforgivable to waste an opportunity for that reason”.

So what’s the biggest meal of the day – breakfast or dinner I ask? “Dinner but only because I literally can’t fit as much in at breakfast even though on stage races I try”!

Favourite stage
Looking ahead at the nine stages over the eight days, I asked Yanto does he have a favourite stage of this years race? “I like a few for different reasons but the Devon stage is a key one because I grew up racing in Devon and to go back in a world class race is cool.”

“I remember riding round as a youth aged 14-15 pretending I was in races like the Tour of Britain and to go back there in the Tour is surreal like a dream.”

Single day race to Stage Race
It was only a month ago, less even, that the British teams took on the best in the world in RideLondon and that race for sure had a different feel about it than the stages in the Tour of Britain. Was I imagining it I asked Yanto? “No,it’s true. When you have something to defend, it creates more structure to the racing. There is nothing to defend in a one day so it’s a bit less predictable and controlled”.

So is it relief or frustration when that control is applied, and the race is shut down after a break goes and you are not in it?

“LoL, that depends if you wanted to be in the break realistically or you were about to get dropped and are just grateful the group has slowed down. I have been in both positions many times!”

I remember Yanto talking to me about how last year, he would talk to Wiggins and co about allowing his team to ride at the front. So how is the relationship between riders like Yanto in the British based teams and the bigger ones like Wiggins?

“Well, I used to live with Brad so it’s all good. They recognise professionalism and if you conduct yourself around the peloton with respect and professionalism, then they are cool. I remember when we were leading out Maggy (Magnus Backstedt) out in 2012 on some of the sprint stages and Cav and his team gave us a lot of respect because we showed we knew what we were doing”.

“You know how it works. Over the years, you race quite a lot with each other, so you build those relationships. Plus, when you get to my age, you have been racing against some of the best guys since they first turned senior when you’d often beat them. Then they progress and become more successful but they still remember :-)


George Atkins who rides in the same team as Yanto in the 2014, at the head of a lined out peloton in 2013.

Lined Out
As a photographer on a motorbike, the worst scenario is the peloton across the road and that generally happens after the break goes and before a team takes control and then lines out the peloton. That is then the best scenario because with a big engine under me, I can move up and down the race, front to back and back to front.

But being lined out doesn’t always seem like the riders are in danger of splitting. I remember in one of the first Tours, a stage in Scotland when the wind blew and the riders were chewing handlebar tape trying to stay on the wheel in front.

So when a team lines out the group, and you the TV viewer see them in single file, what’s that like I asked Yanto? “Again, this depends on how good you are going. Most of the time it’s serious and fast but in control”.

“Only when the group really starts splitting does the serious turn into concern that I will get dropped by the main field. In my experience, I can normally climb second group so top 30 riders in the field”.

So finally, I asked Yanto if he could pick a realistic result to celebrate the 2014 Tour, what would that be. He replies “looking at this year’s course, a couple of top stage positions. Not GC for me but to contribute to a good GC position for one of my team mates would be good too”.

Who that GC rider in the Raleigh team will be is hard to say but Mattheiu Boulo looks like a good choice as he can climb or perhaps Mark Christian who is also very strong. Who ever it is, they can be sure, they have one of the best in the business in their corner (Yanto) helping them on the road, rallying the troops around them so when the crunch moment comes, that chosen rider has something left to race with the best in the World.

Look out of the red and black of Raleigh in this years race … you can’t really miss them!

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