August 13/04 11:48 am - Athens: Canadian Men's Road Team Interview
Posted by Editoress on 08/13/04
Canadian Men's Road Team Interview
We had a chance to talk with Michael Barry, Gord Fraser and Eric Wohlberg this evening (Greek time), the night before the men's road race. We were going to do the interviews in person at the Village, but it was "locked down" today because of the preparations for tonight's Opening Ceremonies (now underway), so we had to do it by telephone (and therefore no photos, unfortunately).
None of the Canadian cyclists are participating in the Opening Ceremonies by the way - everyone was told to expect to be on their feet for "up to 9 hours".
CC - First of all Michael: what about this opportunity to race at the Olympics with your wife (Dede Demet-Barry, of the U.S. team who will race the women's road race on Sunday, and the time trial next Wednesday)?
MB/B> -We obviously train and ride a lot together at home (in Colorado), but this is awesome to be here together. In Atlanta (his first Olympics) I was pretty young, and overwhelmed by everything, so I couldn't take a lot of it in. Now, it is definitely good to come back and share it with my wife, especially since it is her first time at the Olympics.
We spend a lot of time apart (Michael races mainly in Europe for U.S. Postal and Demet-Barry in North America for T-Mobile), so it is pretty neat to be able to call her up in the morning, talk and have breakfast together.
CC - How about the course? Some of the U.S. pros and French riders have been calling it dangerous.
MB/B> -There are definitely a few technical sections, and some off-camber corners, but it is nothing worse than some other stuff we have raced. We were taking about it yesterday while training, and some of us agreed that it was similar to Lancaster (Wachovia Classic in Pennsylvania).
CC - What about strategy? It isn't quite the same as at the Worlds, where the big teams have 10-12 riders. Here they only have 5 and Canada has 3 (Barry, Gord Fraser and Eric Wohlberg).
MB/B> -Positioning is crucial - I think the initial selection will happen from behind (ie, riders dropping off the peloton). It is hard to stay away, because of the fast descent, and the wind was actually pretty strong when we rode the course.
I think we (Canada) have a pretty good idea of where we fit in the field, and what we can do. We want to be well positioned, and save our energy for the last laps -a similar strategy to Worlds last year (where Barry finished 7th). The big Euro teams will all be riding for one rider, and we won't be expected to do work at the front. It is not too hard a race to read.
CC - Canada has yourself, who is going very well (finishing 6th in Denmark last weekend), Gord Fraser as a sprinter and Eric Wohlberg, who can also do well in a long break. Have you talked about how you are going to handle different scenarios in the race?
MB/B> -If there is a group together at the finish, Gord is our obvious choice. He can go toe to toe with any of those guys in a sprint. We all know each other pretty well, and we are all mature riders, all professionals; so everyone knows what they have to do. we will be communicating through the race, so we can tell each other who is going well and who is having problems.
CC - Finally, what is next after Athens, and what about next season? We have heard that you have received a number of offers.
MB/B> -I'm going to stay and watch Dede race (on Sunday), and then back to Spain. I'm going to do the Vuelta and then, hopefully the Worlds (Verona, Italy).
For next year - I haven't signed with anyone yet. U.S. Postal has been really good to me, a great team, but I'm looking at different options, a number of different possibilities. I'm going to look at things over the next couple of weeks and see how things shake out. (Note: Michael did confirm that U.S. Postal / Discovery is one of the squads that he has talked with for next season).
CC - First of all, congratulations on getting into the Time Trial!
EW/B> -It's definitely good news. I heard Friday last week, just a couple of days before I left. I had asked Sean (O'Donnell - Cycling Team Leader) about whether I should bring my TT bike, and he said yes, a position had opened up. I haven't seen the course yet - we'll look at that next week - but I talked to some triathletes and other riders, and they say it is pretty straight forward, out and back along the coast with just a couple of small risers. It could be pretty windy though.
CC - The team numbers are a little more balanced than at Worlds.
EW/B> -Yeah, at least the odds are a little better for us; no one can really control the race, like with a team of ten guys, but there are quite a few European teams with some serious horsepower out there.
CC - So how has it been going since you got here? You came out of Nationals pretty tired with a lot of racing in your legs. Are you feeling more rested now?
EW/B> -I got here Monday evening, so I've had 4 good days of training. They have a little training circuit set up for us outside the Village, which is pretty good, because traffic is crazy. I feel like I'm coming around again. I had a rest after Nationals, then some racing at (BC) Superweek and New York, so it's going pretty good and I'm getting some life back in my legs.
We only have had one chance to see the road course (Wednesday), but it is going to be tough. There is that twisty climb with the switchback, and then the cobbled section. The cobbles start on an uphill and then a pretty fast descent. They aren't wheel breaking, but they are still tough enough to shake you up. But I think it's just like a big old dirty criterium out there - it suits us better. I think Gord's going to show some love out there!
CC - So what do you think about Eric's crit comment?
GF/B> -Well, it looks like a crit style, but in all honesty, with all the corners there's a lot of accelerations and de-accelerations, which will make me do a lot more work to stay in the pack. I'll actually have to work harder than if it was a more straight line course.
CC - So how do you see the race developing?
GF/B> -I think the course lends itself to a break, possibly even earlier than normal, and that's more Mike's and Eric's job. But, we're going to have to play it by ear. If it does come down to a sprint, it will be won from the top of the last rise, about 50 metres from the line. It's a good sprint - straightforward, the road's good, wide enough and long enough out of the last corner.
CC - A lot of people are asking about getting the Gord t-shirt on the photo of your son your wife sent us.
GF/B> -(Laughs). Yeah, that was just done up by a friend of mine back in Tucson, who is a graphic designer. it's just a one-off, no plans for production! But I'm glad people liked it.
CC - Just one last question, before you guys go off to rest up. This is difficult, but I want to give you a chance to respond to the rumours circulating regarding potential positive tests among U.S. riders, including some of your team mates. They are all rumours, and USA Cycling says that they have no word of any positives, but can you comment.
GF/B> -I think what you said is exactly right - they are just rumours. I can only comment specifically on my team mates (who have been mentioned, among various other riders), but I know their characters, and it would be a shock to me, knowing them. It is not like anything any of these riders would do.