A MINUTE WITH: TOM BARRAS
After six years of racing in Belgium, the son of ‘Super Sid’ has returned home to lead the young Merlin racing team in top British road events
Why have you come back to British racing?
I’m 29, and it’s time I started earning some money. When I went to race abroad I wanted to see what I could do, and while there are some performances that I am very proud of, I haven’t set the cycling world on fire. Also, I have launched my own website building company, seventy8.co.uk. Now I want to combine working on this with racing.
Why did you leave British racing in the first place?
I left after the 2000 season, when most good teams were coming to a close. I had raced for Linda McCartney, and was waiting for the new sponsors to take over. When that folded, I telephoned Tim Harris in Belgium and he got me in with Team Downunder, and I raced with them until they evolved into the DFL pro team last year.
Does it feel like a come-down to be back?
Certainly not. I started racing because I grew up watching my dad in Kellogg’s city-centre races, and I loved it. Riding in British road races and city-centre crits was all I wanted to do, and now I’m doing that.
What is the standard of road racing like in this country? Are there characters in the bunch now to compare with the likes of Phil Thomas, Phil Bayton and your dad, Sid Barras?
With riders like Chris Newton, Dean Downing, Malcolm Elliott and Ian Wilkinson you have to be at your absolute best to win a big British race. The standard is very high, but that’s not just because of the names. It’s high because the young ones coming up are really good, and they believe in themselves. As far as characters go there are plenty — it’s a very mouthy bunch!
You’ve not been known as a sprinter before, but this year your sprint has been very good, why is that?
I’ve always had a sprint, but in Europe I was a team rider, so it never showed. Now I am the leader of the Merlin team, and once I showed them I could do it, and was worth working for, I’ve had excellent support from the young Merlin riders. But my results have also been down to the training programmes Cherie Pridham gives me. They are very specific and designed for me to peak for certain races. So far they’ve worked.
Has being the son of a famous rider ever presented you with any problems?
I’ve never found it to be a disadvantage, put it that way. Sometimes, when I was racing as a junior, I would hear other people’s dads tell their sons: “Sit on Barras,” and they hadn’t even seen me race, which used to make me laugh. My dad has certainly never put any cycling-related pressure on me. He’s only ever been supportive.