January 6/05 3:22 am - Interview with Michael Barry
Posted by Editoress on 01/6/05
Michael Barry is the 2004 Male Canadian Cyclist of the Year, and the top ranked Canadian man in the UCI world rankings (at the end of 2004). Along with Ryder Hesjedal, he is one of two Canadian men to be riding for a ProTour team - both for Discovery. We spoke with him earlier in the week at his home in Boulder, Colorado, where he is preparing for the upcoming season.
Canadian Cyclist - First of all, congratulations on winning our CC Award. You led for pretty much all of the voting, but Geoff Kabush was pretty close, finishing less than 50 votes behind you.
Michael Barry - Thanks. Geoff had a great season, winning the Norba (series), and the cyclo-cross Nationals at the end of the year.
CC - You've been on the ballot a number of times, but have usually been beaten by someone like Roland Green winning a world title, or Eric (Wohlberg) winning Commonwealth Games Gold.
MB - Those guys have had outstanding results - among the best in the world. I've been improving every year, doing my work on the team, but that sort of thing doesn't get recognized as much. This year I wanted to improve off last year (2003 - when he finished 7th at the Road Worlds in Hamilton). I came close in Zurich (World Cup - 7th) and at the Olympics (32nd with a last lap breakaway that could have led to a bronze medal). I just have to keep trying, and sooner or later it will work out. I keep getting more experience, and hopefully I can give it a good go in the final of one of the races.
CC - Do you have an idea of what your schedule is going to be for the coming season?
MB - For the early season I have a pretty good idea, and we will flesh it out at the camp (in California next week). So far, it looks like I will be doing Andalucia (Spanish stage race), some Spanish one days, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo, the Belgian Classics, Tour of Georgia and the Giro. I'm really excited about the schedule; the single day races suit me quite well, and we have a great team for those races.
CC - Now the question that I have to ask, and that I'm sure you don't have an answer for: Will Lance do the Tour?
MB - (Laughs) I don't know. I don't even know if Lance knows yet. I think he will see how his form is, see how he's going mentally through the season. There are lots of new riders on the team who are accomplished Tour riders now, and I think this gives Lance more freedom now.
CC - You have stayed with U.S. Postal, now Discovery, through much of your career. I'm sure that you have had other offers, some of which might have given you the opportunity to ride the Tour - why continue with Discovery?
MB - That (the Tour) was an issue, but I'm really happy with Discovery. They've let me progress at my own speed - the team has shown faith in me. I'm comfortable with the atmosphere, the environment, and I didn't want to give all that up.
The Tour is the biggest event for our team, and it's challenging to make that (squad). I've been between the 9th to 13th guy to make the team in the past, and I want to work more on (making the Tour team) for the next couple of years.
But there are lots of other big, important events to focus on, and I think Lance will bring the focus in North America to those other events as he rides them, which is a good thing.
CC - What about the ProTour - are you in favour of it?
MB - Within the team we had to hire a lot more riders, and the team will have to do a lot more racing; maybe 90 days for the team overall. It has meant new directors, new buses, more of everything - now, instead of two teams racing, we will have three going at the same time. I think it is a good move for cycling; it will give more prestige to more events across the calendar.
CC - There has been some argument that it makes cycling to Euro-focused and will hurt cycling in North America, Asia, etc.?
MB - I think it was already more and more European-based, with all the World Cups in Europe. With the ProTour, I think that cycling will be able to market itself better, promote the teams like soccer, the NFL and other sports.
CC - I assume that you are going to be based in Spain?
MB - Yeah, we'll (Michael and wife Dede) be in Spain pretty much the whole year, in Girona. It means that we really have two homes. We will head over the first week of February it looks like. Dede has a couple of training camps and some public speaking engagements, but for the most part we will both be based in Girona. It's ideal, because we have been apart a lot over the past few years when we were both racing.
CC - So Dede didn't think of continuing racing, "cashing in" after her silver medal in Athens (in the time trial)?
MB - Not at all. She has realized that she has finished with racing and is ready to move on. She loves riding her bike, and will never stop doing that, but I think she was ready to be done with all the traveling and racing.
CC - Where do you see your strengths - Classics or the Grand Tours?
MB - The one day races suit me well for personal objectives. As I mature, I'm coming into my prime as an athlete now, and I think that I could do well in some of the smaller Tours. I'd like to try my hand in the Tour and the Giro, but I don't see myself as a GC (General Classification) rider; I will be there to work for the team. But then âˆ‘ every year I surprise myself (laughs).
Last year I went into the Vuelta fit, and the team was hoping I could do well, but then I crashed on the second day, and got sick after that. But the team has more confidence in me, my abilities, so we'll have to see how it goes.
CC - You and Ryder are the only two Canadians to be members of ProTour teams - does this put any pressure on you, in order to help Canada's ranking?
MB - I don't know if it does really; I always show up at races hoping to do my best. But, yeah, it's not a good situation to have only two of us. Three to four guys racing in Europe would be ideal. It will be interesting to see how Ryder will do; he's really motivated.
CC - Speaking of Ryder - have you and he talked about his joining the team?
MB - He lives next to me in Girona, and last year rode with me, and I showed him the ropes - he was pretty green, but motivated. We're setting up a Canadian Connection (laughs). He's still young (24), but maybe in a few years he'll be stronger for the multi-day races. He's a talented climber, and can time trial fairly well, so he could do well. I think he'll figure out his position in the peloton - he just has to keep his head, not get bogged down. I think he's pretty adaptable.
CC - I understand that you have been writing a book?
MB - Yeah, last summer VeloPress approached me about writing a book, about talking about the last season of U.S. Postal (now Discovery). It's going to be called Inside the Postal Bus. I didn't know what I was getting into, so I said sure! (laughs)
I did a lot of it in October - I had been doing bits and pieces, but there was no structure. Then I saw that my deadline was approaching (laughs). It's going through its final edit now, and I think it is due to come out in April.
Basically, it's what goes on within the team. I tried to convey what happens - these guys like George and Lance are superstars, but I know them, and they're really good guys.
CC - You've been racing a long time - I remember going to races, and you, Mark (Walters) and the Zierfuss' boys were racing at 8-10 years old! Any problems with motivation after this many years?
MB - No, not really. I still love riding my bike; it's a rare day I'm not motivated to training, and usually then it's because it's cold and raining (laughs). The life of a bike racer is pretty good. . The atmosphere within our team is really positive, which is one of the reasons I didn't want to leave it. Riding my bike is my passion, so getting paid to do something you love, what could be better. I love it still.