– Words by Adam Klevinas –
Before thousands of cheering fans, Barry finished 57th, tucked inside the main group, but was able to help his teammate, Lars-Petter Nordhaug take the overall victory.
“It was very hard right from the start, similar to the race in Quebec,” said Barry. “I did all that I could. I didn’t have superb legs, but I was able to fill a few gaps in the final and put my teammates in place a little bit.”
“Realistically, in July, when I fell, I had great legs, I was really in shape, and I thought I was going to be able to come here to try to go for a good final position,” said Barry, “But after my crash, I just wanted to be able to start and do everything I could for the team. You have to change your goals after such a crash. Six weeks ago I was in the hospital with screws in my arm, so I was just happy to be able to race here in Montreal.”
The 2012 racing season hasn’t been easy for the 37-year old Toronto-born cyclist. After being involved in a crash in February at the Tour of Qatar, Barry was left with a broken elbow that put him out of racing for a total of three months.
He came back to help his teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen, who finished fifth today, win the Tour of Norway in May only to break his arm in July at the Tour de Wallonie. To his misfortune, it was the same arm as the elbow that he broke three months earlier and required sitting out for at least another six weeks.
There’s no question Barry could suffer with the best.
Barry’s injury meant that he would miss races such as the Eneco Tour, the Clбsica San Sebastiбn and the Tour of Denmark. However, Barry calculated that he would be recovered in time to compete at Canada’s two WorldTour races – the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Quebec and Montreal. Regardless of the injuries that he suffered this year, both the Quebec and Montreal races were always part of his objectives for the season.
“I was pretty sure that this was going to be my last season, and we don’t get many opportunities to race in Canada as professionals,” said Barry. “Every chance I get is special. It sort of bookended my career.”
PEZ last talked to Michael at the 2010 TDF.
During the race, Barry said that he took the time to appreciate several moments of his last race on Canadian soil, but joked that crossing the finish line was one of the best.
“I will certainly have good memories of today’s race. It was remarkable riding the whole circuit,” said Barry, “There were so many people cheering me on. There were so many supporters that have encouraged me and helped me since I was a young boy. It was really quite lovely.”
Barry is also cognizant of the influence he has had on his beloved sport in Canada, and of the impression he has left on the professional peloton as one of the sport’s most reliable domestiques.
“I was certainly conscious of it during the race, with all of the people that have encouraged me,” said Barry, “There were several riders that came to see me during the race and told me that I have had a superb career and wished me luck for the future. Just hearing that, and not only from fellow Canadians and my Team Sky teammates, but from other riders that I have ridden with over the past 10 years, it really says something.”
Barry rode almost every major event – including of course representing his country at the Worlds several times.
As he leaves the sport behind, Barry is confident that Canadian cycling is in good hands.
“When we hit the climb for the last time, there were several Canadians still up front,” said Barry, “It’s very encouraging to see so many Canadian riders at such a high level. Five years ago, you wouldn’t have seen that many Canadians at the front. There are many future champions for Canadian cycling.”
“And also just to see the number of cyclists in the city in Toronto, and here, in Montreal, its remarkable how many cyclists there are,” added Barry, “As a young boy, there weren’t nearly this many. Canadian cycling has a great future.”
Barry started his professional career in 1999 on the Saturn Cycling Team before moving to the U.S. Postal Service team in 2002. When the team became Discovery Channel, Barry stayed on before moving on to T-Mobile/HTC-Highroad in 2006. In 2010, Barry signed with Team Sky and was able to fulfill his dream of riding in cycling’s biggest race, the Tour de France.
Some of the highlights of Barry’s career include finishing seventh at the 2003 World Championships, being part of the winning team at the 2005 Giro d’Italia, winning a stage at the 2008 Tour of Missouri, and being part of the winning team time trial in the 2009 Giro d’Italia.
During his career, Barry also competed for Canada at the Olympic Games in 1996, 2004 and 2008. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he finished in ninth place in the road race, Canada’s best result since Steve Bauer’s silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
As Barry looks toward his imminent retirement, he says he has a few options, in both Canada and in Europe, but his main priority is to spend more time with his family. In fact, being away from his family often and for long periods, was one of the main reasons that influenced his decision to retire.
“It’s been difficult being away from them,” said Barry, “I really want to think of my family right now. I have two children, and for them and my wife, the life of a professional cyclist is pretty difficult. I wasn’t at home very often, and they came to live in Europe and now, I really want to spend time with them and think of the future with them.”
Barry’s future plans include writing another book, which he plans to do this winter and hopes to have published sometime next year.
However, Barry’s racing season – and career – hasn’t come to an end quite yet. He will be racing at the Circuit Franco-Belge at the end of September before racing his last race at the Tour de Beijing in October.