YANTO Barker has seen British cycling take over the world and attract millions of fans.
Now he wants that success to translate to the domestic racing scene.
The 32-year-old, who rides for the elite level British team UK Youth, spoke to Cycling Illustrated after a momentous year for the sport in Britain.
He said: “The success of British riders has the potential to increase everything’s from attendance to sponsorship.
“But it needs action by governing bodies to capture the interest while it is fresh in people’s minds.”
Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have become well known even to British people who would struggle to replace a slipped chain.
Their success has helped double the number of British Cycling members since 2010.
Yanto, a former British junior champion, says the quality of riders in the domestic scene has also grown.
Now he wants more elite events, three to four day stages races, and more secondary level professional rides.
British Cycling spends up to £100,000 a year on the Premier Calendar – but the number of races has dropped to a third of the 2000 level, thanks to the cost of policing and organising the events.
“There are six races in the Premier Calendar for the highest level of riders and that’s not enough. Riders still have to go abroad,” said Yanto.
“There should also be good second tier events where all the big teams who have riders who aren’t selected as part of the first team can get races.”
Yanto was the top British finisher in the 2005 Tour of Britain, placed higher than domestic rivals like Rob Hayles, Chris Newton, and Jeremy Hunt.
He retired for two years and started his own upmarket line of cycling clothing, Le Col, then returned to promote the brand, and the profile of British cycling has gone stratospheric since then.
Yanto is enjoying this second career but said he found the season 2012 hard and, if you are not a sprinter, a little bit frustrating, given most British races have a similar “lumpy” profile.
“Whereas you would have had a climb to create a select group of 10-12 riders near the finish, now you ride hard, get to the top, and there’s still 35-40 guys left, which is a bunch and a very different prospect coming into the finish.”
British Cycling achieved great success in 2012 with a reputation for being clean.
In the same year, Lance Armstrong’s reputation was annihilated as the secrets of a decade of doping came tumbling out.
During his early twenties Yanto cycled for top French amateur teams but was not able to break into the continental peloton.
Does he feel that feel drug use by other riders played a part in blocking his career?
“It was a sorry time,” he says.
“No kid dreams of cycling with people taking drugs or of having to make a choice to avoid taking drugs themselves when others clearly are.
“Drugs definitely hindered everyone at that time who wasn’t also taking them.
“Unfortunately it was a deep rooted cultural aspect to the sport that has at last I believe been beaten.
“At the same time I’ve heard the drugs excuse be used by plenty of people who just weren’t good enough and at one time almost everyone who showed any form at all was looked at suspiciously.
“You could still get results back then just not always as good as if the playing field was level.
“There are people who will unfortunately look for any advantage or try and fill a gap.
“But I feel more comfortable now that it’s a good idea for young riders to abroad without finding too much pressure.”
Yanto describes himself as ambitious and motivated and set up Le Col partly as way of securing his future outside the sport.
He is a fan of TV shows like Dragons Den and The Apprentice and says there are similarities between what it takes to win in business and win in sport
His products are pricey – up to £250 ($400) for a men’s winter jacket – and are aimed at discerning riders.
But he said he is more into image than fashion, saying image is also about the way you conduct yourself, not just the clothing.
What does he think of Bradley Wiggin’s style, the Mod fan whose sharp fashion sense has garnered plenty of tabloid coverage?
“I think Brad is also into image more than fashion,” says Yanto.
“He is bright and has chosen a look that fits who he is, his brand if you like. I respect people who do that even if I wouldn’t wear it myself.”
Yanto predicts another Tour de France win for Wiggins next season (with Contador and Andy Schleck completing the podium) and has high hopes for two British friends who made big team changes.
Alex Dowsett, the British Time Trial Champion, moved from Sky to the Spanish team Movistar, and Tour of Britain champion Jonathan Tiernan-Locke joined Sky.
“Locke has signed for the biggest team of his career and that very exciting for him,” says Yanto.
“Sky will teach him a lot and he will benefit a great deal from that kind of approach regardless of how long he chooses to stay with them, but ultimately he will have an opportunity to show the world on the biggest stage what he is capable of.
“Alex stepping out of team Sky to Movistar is a step into a much more relaxed environment and I think that’s probably what Alex is looking for after the very regimented style at Sky.
“Alex is switched on and motivated and I think he will perform well next year again having learned a lot in the last two years.”
Yanto’s training schedule is just ramping up for 2013 and he will be out for ride on his birthday, January 6.
He has an enthusiasm for data – so what is it telling him about next season?
“Ha ha! Yes I do, well I had a strong influence on choosing the UK Youth team for 2013 so I hope I’m not completely wrong with my data analysis and the team does very well and builds on the good work we did this year in 2012.”
He initially came back into cycling to promote his business but says he is enjoying racing more this time around.
“It’s so much more fun because I’m not afraid it’s all there is,” he said.
“I have other interests now.”