Katy Marchant and Elinor Barker: From the velodrome to motherhood and back again

The night before Katy Marchant's Olympic race her roommate Elinor Barker was harbouring a secret: she was pregnant. 

One month later, Marchant fell pregnant too. 

From friends in the velodrome to navigating motherhood together, Barker, 28, and Marchant, 30, embarked on an incredible journey that saw them grow closer at every turn. 

Both returned to the podium in style at the European Championships in Grenchen last month, just nine and eight months after giving birth to their sons, Nico and Arthur respectively.

And despite contrasting experiences throughout, the unbreakable bond of motherhood has only strengthened their friendship. 

"El found out that she was pregnant in Tokyo and didn't tell me straight away but looking back on it now, it was so obvious, all the signs were there," said Marchant. 

"We shared a room and she found out the night before my first race and she had just finished that night. 

"So, she didn't want to keep me up late or disturb my preparations. I have no idea how she did not tell me, fair play to her. 

"I spoke to her a couple of times after the Games and she was being strangely quiet. Then one day she just sent me a picture of the scan. 

"I found out I was pregnant three days after that. 

"So she paved the way for me, and on the good and the bad days, just to have someone to talk to was so helpful." 

"It's really nice that we can be there to support each other because no one really knows how hard it is to leave your baby at home for a long period of time if they've not done it themselves before,” added Barker. 

"We are both in the same situation and can support each other through the racing but also with what's going on at home as well." 

The challenge of being a mother in elite sport is not an unknown entity for British Cycling. 

In 2017, Dame Laura Kenny gave birth to her son Albie and four years later became Britain's most successful female athlete in Olympic history with five gold medals and a silver. 

Lizzie Deignan continues to make history on the road and have birth to her second child in September, as well as Dame Sarah Storey in the Paralympic sphere.

An inspiration for women everywhere, both Marchant and Barker credit Kenny for proving that the journey was possible. 

"The fact that you can see that people can have a child and come back to elite sport at the top of their game, it makes you think that if they can do it, you can," said Marchant, who won individual sprint bronze at Rio 2016. 

"With Laura being part of British Cycling alongside me just reassures you that the support is there. 

"She showed that you can be a mum and have an elite sporting career, it's inspiring." 

Olympic champion Barker added: "I'm lucky that I have a lot of people around me like Laura, Lizzie or Katy who can help me figure out how other people are training whilst being a mum," added Barker, who grabbed gold alongside Kenny in a world record breaking Team Pursuit final at Rio 2016. 

"When I spoke to Laura and Lizzie and ton of other women who have had babies, they all said the same thing, that it takes a while until that top end speed comes back who just have to be patient. 

"And that's quite difficult as an athlete as you just want to see the results come straight away but that's not how it works." 

No two experiences of motherhood are the same and that can certainly be said for Barker and Marchant's time post-partum.

Barker has taken Nico along to several camps as she begins her first season as a pro-cyclist for Uno-X, whereas Marchant has struggled with her initial 'mum guilt' of leaving Arthur behind during training days. 

"He will come to some races throughout the year and it's setting me up really well as I don't have to deal with that heartbreak,” Barker said. 

"My team said that they just love how Nico is going to grow up with the team and it will be his little family when he goes away, which is lovely to hear coming from them." 

"Logistically I found returning to training very mentally hard," countered Marchant. 

"Making sure I had childcare for training and looking after what he needs and then dealing with that mum guilt that it should have been me there. 

"I felt guilty when I went to training and left him but then I knew that that would make me a better mum. 

"It's all about speaking to friends who have been in similar situations.” 

With the prospect of Paris 2024 looming, an incredible journey that started in the Olympic village at Izu will go full circle for the two friends as they strive for a third Olympic Games next year. 

A journey that will hopefully conclude with Nico and Arthur cheering their mothers on from the stands of the Paris velodrome. 

"I would be very special for me to get to Paris, going to the Olympics is what I've always based my career around," said Barker. 

"It feels a little bit different this time around as often in an Olympic year, that's the one result that matters whereas this year I'm hoping to find my feet on the road and set myself some more solid goals. 

"I've enjoyed that intensity and single mindedness in the past, especially for Rio, but I've done it that way and now want to find a new way to win through setting multiple goals." 

"Standing on that podium with a silver around my neck only eight months after having Arthur, that now just makes me wonder what the next few months look like for me," added Marchant. 

"To go to a third Olympic Games is an incredible achievement and now having Arthur has relit the fire. 

"It might be my third but it will feel like my first because it's my first with him and I keep having this image of him being their watching me in Paris. 

"Sport gives you a lot in life and I want to show him those opportunities." 

Sportsbeat 2023