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The Story Behind the Headlines
Michael Barry has been pro for 13 years and is one of the most valuable riders in the peloton. Michael’s value isn’t always counted by how many podium finishes he has, but rather by how many podium finishes he has played a large part of. You can think of Michael Barry as one of the all-time best assist leaders.
This year’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad classic was no different than many of Michael’s other success stories. His hard working efforts paid off with two of his teammates finishing on the podium. This time it was Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha who finished second, and Mathew Hayman who placed third.
Omloop Het Nieusblad, previously known as Het Volk, is a hard man’s race through the fields of Flanders in western Belgium. Here are a few stats from Michael’s race:
Protect the Team Leaders
The day before the race the team rode the final 50kms of the course in order to get acquainted with the crucial climbs and cobble sections which define the race. After the training ride the race strategy was set in place with the main objective to protect last year’s winner Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen who recently placed second in the Tour of Oman.
Michael’s role was to help cover early attacks and breakaways so that team Sky would be represented. By having someone in the early break a team can actually put pressure on the other teams, who may not be represented, to chase as the race develops. The aggression of the first hour is well represented within Michael’s SRM power file as you can easily see the large number of power spikes within the first 40-minutes of racing.
Once the early break was established Michael describes the main peloton as easing back a bit and settling into a Rhythm in order to protect the team leaders. During this time period Michael and the other domestiques (teammates in support roles) focus on making sure the two team leaders are well fed and have the proper clothing against the wet conditions. They also help block the wind for their leaders and usher them to the front of the group when needed.
Michael knows how crucial it is to be in the first 10 riders of the field when the race enters the climbs in the final 100kms of racing. The climbs in Flanders are on small roads and often times cobbled with only one good line to ride. Being in the front means your chances of crashing and having to walk up a climb are reduced.
The Last 100K
Along with Jeremy Hunt, Michael was asked to work on the front of the race in the final 100kms in order to help protect Flecha and Boasson Hagen. This strategy would also help split the main group into several smaller fields which would eliminate riders from contention.
By viewing the race file you can see how Michael had a 48-minute stretch of time starting at about 90kms to go where he maintained a very high power output. He averaged 317w for this portion of the race but it actually had the same stress as having ridden at 364watts as measured by his normalized power reading. Michael also recorded 14 segments where he averaged over 480w for at least 20 seconds during this crucial moment in the race, and he had his peak 20’ normalized power reading of 392w.
Pushing to the Limit
With about 30kms to go Michael eased off once he was dropped and finished with a large group. However the damage had been done it seems. Michael had a suspicion within the race that he was not having a normal day as midway through his legs were not feeling as they should and his body was getting unusually cold. He suffered the last 10k and once he made it to the Team Sky bus a team doctor determined he had a fever which has since manifested into a cold.
Michael will be back though to contest more spring classics within the coming weeks. He felt the team had a great start to the classics season which was topped off by a victory in Sunday’s Kuurne-brussels-Kuurne classic won by Team Sky’s Chris Sutton.
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