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UCAPP athlete Phoebe Barker treated a sick goat before medalling at national championships

Veterinary student Phoebe Barker was asked to lend a hand on the farm where she was staying before her race

For most cyclists, the night before a race is reserved for winding down. It's a time for last-minute equipment tweaks, head-sized bowls of pasta, and mulling over race tactics. Then, once the to-do list has been completed, it’s off to bed for an early night. 

Things aren't always so simple, however. 

Ahead of the recent Team Time Trial National Championships, Phoebe Barker, a fifth-year Cambridge University veterinary student, found herself called into action, when she was asked to perform an unexpected procedure on a poorly goat. 

“We stayed the night before [the championships] in an Airbnb,” she tells Cycling Weekly, “and being students, we found a relatively good value, cheap one - this little annex on a farm. They probably had about 30 cows, 40 sheep, a few geese, six to eight dogs, six to eight cats.” 

When Barker’s friends revealed to their host that she was a vet student, the 23-year-old was met with a proposition. The host had been struggling to administer some medication to one of her animals. Would she mind helping out? 

“We went over to see her goat, which had horrifically bad mastitis," Barker explains. "That’s basically just inflammation of the udder, but it had all gone red and hard. The skin around it was chapped and blistered from where it had been rubbing against the inside of the leg.

“I milked out a lot of the puss and blood, then wiped it clean with a sterile wipe and put the antibiotic tube up.

"Luckily the other girls helped sort the bikes out and did some bike maintenance while I was doing this," she continues. "We were probably in bed later than we expected to be, but it wasn't the end of the world." 


(Image credit: Phoebe Barker)

The following morning, shortly after 8am, Barker rolled out with her two Cambridge University team-mates in the three-up Team Time Trial National Championships. The course comprised a hilly 23-mile loop, and although the trio had recently been crowned inter-university champions, they were up against elite domestic teams, all vying for the title.

“We were hoping to just not come last,” the student says. Impressively, after averaging over 40km/h, the Cambridge University team ended up finishing third, bronze medallists behind the winners Team Bottrill and second-placed AWOL O’Shea. 

That same day, Barker also received good news from her Airbnb host. “She texted us to say the goat, which was called Trixie, was doing much better,” she says. “It was up and walking, looked much brighter, and had gone out to the field to graze.” 

All in all, the trip proved a successful one for Barker and her team-mates. "And we definitely got five stars on Airbnb," she laughs. 


Article by Tom Davidson for CyclingWeekly.com