Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

Posted on: April 28th, 2017

Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

Tim Barry has had a whirlwind first few months as a directeur sportif with Aqua Blue Sport. The Corkman, 42, has had a lifelong love-affair with cycling. And now he finds himself filling one of the most important roles in a professional team. It hasn’t always been plain-sailing, but it has been one heck of a ride so far.


By Brian Canty

“I remember being in the back seat of my Dad’s car on a really wet, cold and windy day in Midleton; being at a race and that sticks in my mind. Just the event and the rawness of it appealed to me. You’re out in the elements and it goes on for a number of hours. There’s no hiding and that just sort of ignited a bit of a spark with me.”

– Tim Barry, Evening Echo newspaper, Cork,  February 2010


Midleton in east Cork is a long way from Monaco in the south of France. But it’s Monaco where Tim Barry spends much of his time these days; the cycling journey he began during his Cork childhood having brought him there.

His dad was a racer in the fifties and sixties. Barry would go along to see him, no matter the event or conditions.

Nowadays they watch races together. Just last weekend they sat down to analyse Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It was a very rare father-son Sunday afternoon together considering recent events in Barry’s life.

He has switched from managing an amateur team at home to the pro game. And life is busy.

“We talk in the evening after a race when obviously I can’t see it if I’m in the team car,” says Barry of his father.

“Dad’s 82 now but there’s no better man to point something out in the race. Like, if he saw one of our guys down the back or doing something silly, he’d tell me.

“What they don’t know is we have eyes everywhere!”

As a directeur sportif for the country’s first ever ProContinental racing team, Barry is many things. But first and foremost he is a pair of eyes.

When we chat he’s standing up in the lobby of the Aqua Blue Sport team hotel in Yorkshire.

He has the road book for the Tour de Yorkshire in-hand as he pores over the course for the next three days of racing.


Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

The roles of a DS (Directeur Sportif) are wide-ranging and varied. From issuing split-second decisions to riders over race radio to orchestrating pre-race tactics and post-race transfers, there really is no day off.


He’s done this a thousand times before both as a racer himself and as a manager for various Irish squads. But when it’s a ProConti outfit, it’s a little different.

“Planning ahead,” is how he distils his job in the team.

“You have to plan ahead, riders, staff, logistics, whatever. You’re moving a little army around the world.

“And you can’t do that at two days’ notice. So we’d know weeks in advance who will be where.

“Obviously there can be changes but as the invites came in for races we started to see who was going to be doing what.

“And then we make long lists of riders and staff so we have the smoothest operation that we can.

“But in this case (Yorkshire) it’s good because you have the road map and you link in with the riders who have done the race before or know the area.

“Like last week we were in the Tour of the Alps and Stefan Denifl knew a lot of the routes very well.

“The first stage; Adam Blythe was the one who did the PR video so he knows the course. You’d be surprised who you get information from.”

Barry is a shrewd man. He was a shrewd racer and now he is a shrewd manager. He has to be.


Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

As a former international racer, Barry knows exactly what riders need and want. And this has allowd him slot seamlessly into the role of DS at Aqua Blue Sport.


In his career, he won many races but will be the first to admit he might not have been the strongest when he did win.

When he won Rás Mumhan in 2010 he didn’t win a stage. And that requires thinking. And planning, or plotting as he likes to say.

Fifth overall in the Rás in 2005, seventh in the Tour of Turkey, a couple of Tours of Ulster and a Rás Mumhan title are some of his best results. And they all came about by using his head as much as his legs.

As a manager he has masterminded countless successes too. But now, the bar has been raised with Aqua Blue Sport as they take on the likes of Team Sky, BMC Racing and Trek Segafredo week in, week out.

This weekend is massive for the team because the eyes of the world will be watching. And with British national champion Blythe in their ranks they have a proven winner with huge marketability.

“The objective is to win and we’ve a couple of riders here who on any given day can win. But different guys are in different stages of their condition,” said Barry.

“Definitely a stage win or stage wins is what we are looking for. But we are going to treat it like a few one-day races and we see what the GC is like at the end of it. And as a team we have a lot of GC options here.”

The year has been a “roller-coaster” so far for the men in blue, with plenty ups and downs.


Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport


But recently, they were given a huge fillip when they were granted a wildcard entry to the Vuelta A Espana in their very first year.

Few suspected they’d be granted it as the competition for places is fierce. And for a group that is very much unproven so far; it has only heightened the team’s ambitions to prove their worth.

“To get a Grand Tour in year one is unbelievable,” says Barry. “We’ve been so busy with all the other races it probably hasn’t even sunk in yet.

“Some of the riders have done Grand Tours before but for a team… Okay we have the Vuelta in August and we’ve started planning for it. But we’ve got Yorkshire and Frankfurt staring us in the face.

“There’s been way more ups than downs, loads of ups and lots of work but good,” he continues.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed it but as anyone who knows the sport at any level will know it’s tough. But I definitely enjoy the challenge and working with new people and taking it up a level.”

Since he took up the sport, Barry has always been hooked on cycling.

He hadn’t missed a Rás Mumhan for 20 years until this year. And as this year’s An Post Rás clashes with the Tour of Norway, he will miss that for the first time in 18 years.

He rode both races more times than he remembers. But nowadays he must make do with 6am runs to keep in shape.


Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

Barry and the team’s other DS Nikki Sorensen are the men charged with coming up with pre-race strategies. They also advise the riders on what weather to expect, what clothes to wear, when to attack and when to sit tight in the bunch.


“We have an ongoing joke in the staff; work with a cycling team, never ride your bike!

“It’s funny, you see a lot of people out early. I went into this with my eyes wide open, early morning 6am out on some ring road around a motorway and you’re meeting people from the race because they’re out training.

“It’s good for your head, good for your sanity to exercise and to keep yourself in semi-decent shape.

“The soigneurs are great too; they drop the food bag in every day and you have to make sure you don’t over-indulge!

“It’s different but it’s about being disciplined and getting organised. So you have that 40 minute window to do a 10k run, maybe. The work doesn’t stop. It’s a 24-7 job, for sure.

“I’m beginning to regret ever meeting Rick Delaney,” he laughs. “There isn’t a day off, I can’t remember my last day off.

“But if you love the job it’s not like work and that is the case with me.”

Irish riders Conor Dunne and Matt Brammeier are in the team this weekend. Martyn Irvine will be kept for more upcoming battles.

Barry has known the Newtownards man a long time. Barry managed the Irish team at the 2009 Tour of Ireland which Irvine was on.


Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

Barry was one of the country’s top domestic riders over the last two decades and won many races, including the Tour of Ulster twice.


“Martyn is great, he did his first race and did a good job for the team,” he says of the former world track champion’s comeback event three weeks ago at Brabantse Pijl in Belgium.

“Loads of guys were going out the back who raced last year and have been racing since January and he was doing a job that day.

“He did it right and he got the kilometres in the legs and he did the same in the Alps.

“He won’t be upset at this but you put him in a race like the Tour of the Alps and everyone will say ‘that won’t be for Martyn’. But he was there until the last day.

“He got the miles in, did the job and will build for the second half of the season and he will have the racing in his legs.

“Anybody who has seen him, just look at his face. He’s looking after himself and that break has done him good for motivation.

“He’s super keen and don’t be at all surprised if you see a big result from him in 2017, or more than one.”


Tim Barry on his new life in pro cycling with Aqua Blue Sport

Barry has ridden the An Post Rás several times with his best result being fifth in 2005. He rode his last one in 2012.


A win for the team could very well happen this weekend. And their best chance is Blythe on Saturday. GC is probably beyond them, but a stage is definitely within their grasp.

“We’re going to do everything we can to have one of our guys on the top step,” he says.

“We’ve had a few close ones and I think when we do get that win it will be special. And it will help us to go for the next one and the next one and the next one.”

With the riders and staff all working for the Aqua Blue Sport ecommerce company, the job is not just about the bike races.

“Obviously we have the Aqua Blue Sport company, linking in with the marketing people.

“We actually really need to get that to the front of people’s minds. Because that’s what makes the whole thing sustainable.

“People can buy from the site, which finances the team. This whole project, as Rick said, will be self-financing so that there will be a long-term sustainable team there for riders to develop their careers.”