DEDE DEMET BARRY: The PEZ-Clusive Salute
We first met Dede Demet Barry when she was just starting out in cycling – actually it was the other way around… Dede was already a world champion and an icon in elite international cycling. At the end of this season, one of “the” names in Women’s Elite racing is hanging up her cleats and chatted with PEZ about the Olympics, her season, and brilliant career.
We’re Not Worthy!
A year ago Dede, ever the modest one, confided that it would be a dream to make the American Olympic team in 2004 and return to her family roots in Athens. We never doubted her and she went about making the dream a reality in her quiet but determined way. With a silver medal tucked under her pillow, we do the wave as Dede – a full fledged PEZ-Pal – does a victory lap for you, her Pez-worthy fans.
Dede pulls the troops over Fillmore Street at the 2004 T-Mobile International in San Franscisco.
Randall: Hey Dede – now that you are retired from the daily training grind how is the cafe circuit treating you?
Dede: I am feeling relaxed and happy to be home in Boulder, Colorado. The racing season ended at a good time, as Michael and I are able to enjoy the beauty of the leaves changing color and some wonderful, warm weather here in Boulder. It’s nice catching up with our friends here, as we have been in Europe for much of the year.
Randall: When we talked with you and Michael late last year you said making the Olympic team would be a dream. Would it be fair to say you were silently harboring much greater ambitions for Athens?
Dede: I had big ambitions for Athens, but I was also realistic about the fact that it would not be easy to make the Olympic team and if I did, I would face very strong competition at the Games. Like always, I took it one day at a time, did my training and raced the best I could. I feel very fortunate that it worked out so well. Being a part of the Olympic team was a huge honor and winning the medal was a dream come true.
Randall: Your road to Athens started early – maybe January but realistically many years before. Along the way you must have experienced many ups and downs. How did you deal with the inevitable highs and lows on the road to Athens yet remain focused on your goal over the years?
Dede: As a young child, I was inspired by Eric Heiden winning five gold medals in the Lake Placid Olympics. He was a great role model for me – an incredible athlete and a very humble person. As a child, I began to dream of one day being an Olympian. That dream has taken me around the world, allowed me to experience and live in different cultures and helped to form my character. There are always ups and downs in sport, as there are in life and that is part of its beauty. Without the lows, there would be no highs. It’s important to stay levelheaded and keep everything in perspective. My friends and family have helped me to do that.
Knock Me Down – But I Get Up Again
Randall: Because of your modest nature many of your fans may not be aware of some of the challenges you dealt with en-route to your Olympic medal. You came back from retirement a few years ago and you didn’t have a team. You went on to win the Montreal World Cup that same year to announce your return to the top. You completed your university degree in 2003 then later earned an 8th place in the 2003 World Championships. You were hit by a car early in the 2004 season while warming up for a race and, without further adieu, went on to finish the stage race. And after the Milan San-Remo WC race you ‘drove all night’ from San-Remo in Italy to Spain to be with your husband Michael. How do you do it – what drives you inside?
Dede: I believe it is important to chase your dreams in life and maintain balance. I love riding my bike and I am very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive family, as they have supported me and helped me to handle all the ups and downs. In 2000 when I decided to go back to school I was pretty much finished with cycling – I still loved to ride my bike but I was feeling stagnant. I had always done my training sessions like they were a job, not really taking time to realize what I was doing or why I was doing it. During my time at school I did a lot of riding alone or with Michael and during this time I realized I could have fun on my bike. Riding also became a moment in the day in which I could escape school life, focus my thoughts and enjoy the outdoor environment. Since coming back I have tried to remember this and enjoy every pedal stroke.
Dede at the 2003 Worlds in Hamilton
Pro Cycling – 6 Days on the Road
Randall: In the last year alone you raced on 3 continents and traveled thousands of miles. Over the course of your career you must have experienced everything from four-star hotels to missed rides to the local crit. We fans see pro cyclists on the podium with fresh jerseys on and it all looks pretty easy…, but it isn’t. What is the life of a pro cyclist really like?
Dede: The life of a professional cyclist is much less glamorous than some people may think, as we are traveling much of the year, staying in small hotels and separated from our families. We race in foul weather and train in the freezing cold and snow. But, I have learned to thrive in foreign environments and work with people from around the world. I believe that these experiences will help me in all walks of life and when you look back on it all, the only things you remember are the good moments.
Randall: You must have built up a lot of memories at this point, both in the peloton and ‘on the road’. What stands out most in your catalogue of the weird and the wonderful?
Dede: Wonderful: Exploring the world, meeting interesting people, climbing mountains and being flying fit. Weird: Staying in dark, dingy hotels in the middle of nowhere, feeling too tired to move or focus mentally, waiting for the next race to start and wondering what the hell you are doing there, as you wish you could click your heals and go home.
Randall: Many cycling fans aren’t as familiar with the top women cyclists as they are with say a Lance Armstrong or a Jan Ullrich. Yet they are just as talented in their own right. Let’s familiarize fans with some of the stars of international women’s cycling. Tell us the first thing that comes to mind;
Nicole Cooke: – Incredibly aggressive, well spoken, focused.
Joane Somarriba: – Relaxed, friendly, classy.
Zoulfia Zabirova: – Fun to chat with in the bunch. Emotional.
Oenone Wood: – Talented and nice.
Judith Arndt: – Strong and tactically sharp and normally quite classy in the bunch.
Randall: Normally – are you referring to her little display on international TV during the Athens road race? I thought that was over the top, especially given the venue.
Dede: She did not impress me with her performance. I believe she could have won that race, she was the strongest in that race, but wasted her energy and threw away the gold medal. By flipping off the German Federation at the finish, she gave Women’s cycling a negative image on international television.
Dede finished 8th in the World’s TT in Hamilton, then changed her position and gained 40 watts in power.
Dede – A Real Podium Girl
In Part 1 of our interview with Dede we talked about her road to Athens, the reality of life as a pro cyclist and even a little girl talk. Today we learn what it means to be a real podium girl. But first, let’s rewind the video and play back the months and moments leading to the start hut in Athens and the silver medal.
Behind the Scene
Randall: Cutting to the chase, you finished 8th in the 2003 World TT championships. You won the two time trials at the Tour de l’Aude in 2004. Were you gunning for a medal in the Olympic TT champs right from the start of the 2004 season?
Dede: At the start of the year, I was very focused on qualifying for both the Olympic road race and the time trial, but as the Olympics approached I put more energy into my preparation for the time trial. I realized through my SRM data, that I had a very good chance at a medal in the time trial if I prepared properly. I also like the fact that the time trial is a cut and dry event. There are no tactics involved, if you are the strongest, you win, which is not always the case in road racing. I felt my chances at a medal were best in the time trial.
Randall: You spent some time in Germany early in the season testing your position. Tell us about that.
Dede: In the spring, I went to the velodrome in Buttgen, Germany and worked with Uli Shoerberer of SRM, Jim Miller, our T-Mobile director and Giant on reducing my drag on the time trial bike. We made significant changes to my time trial position and tested different wheels and helmets. In the end, we reduced my drag by more than 40 watts, which translated into an ability to travel at higher speeds on my bike. The changes we made were a huge part of my success in Athens.
It All Comes Down to This
Randall: In the last weeks leading up to Athens you didn’t do a lot of races. To be honest, I was worried you might not be ready for Athens. What was your confidence level the night before the race?
Dede: I felt perfectly prepared for the Olympic Games when I arrived Athens. I won the Sparkassen Giro in Bochum, Germany the week before the road race and felt great. In the Olympic road race, I felt strong, but I did not feel all that snappy, perhaps because of the heat or because so much of my training consisted of steady state time trial efforts in the final weeks before the Games. I was a bit nervous for the time trial, but excited. And after taking it easy the day after the road race, I had super legs and felt very confident that I was in my best condition in the start hut of the time trial.
Randall: What was your mindset in the start hut – what were you telling yourself?
Dede: I was excited and happy to be there. I was also very focused and wanted to do the best I could. When I rolled off, I was very focused on the task at hand and the technical aspects of the race. I tried to maintain my rhythm and put power into each pedal stroke. I wore a radio and Jim Miller gave me a lot of encouragement during the race and time split information. I knew I was on a good ride while I was out there, but nearly all the favorites started after me, so when I finished, I had to wait while the others completed their race.
Randall: And when you realized you had won the Silver Medal?
Dede: I was ecstatic. It was a dream come true.
Now that she’s retired, Dede was mum about plans for the next few months, but you can bet she’ll be enjoying more time with hubby Michael Barry.
A True Champion
Randall: After you won the silver medal in Athens, it would have been understandable if you lost your focus for the rest of the season. Where many racers might have called it a season you went on to great rides in the T-Mobile Grand Prix in San Francisco and the World Championships in Verona. What would you say are the defining characteristics of a true professional?
Dede: I did not feel on my best condition at the World Championships. I was having problems with my back in the month leading up to it, but I wanted to give my best effort, as I knew that it would be my last race. I think as a professional, it is important to always give your best effort.
Randall: You have proven your ability as a cyclist many times over. But what I find remarkable about you is your attitude. I have never once heard you complain. I have never heard you say a negative word about the other riders. You never make excuses and you are always quick to recognize the achievements of others. You have become perhaps the spokesperson for women’s pro-cycling. I think this is your greatest victory and it is what makes you a champion for the ages. What do you think?
Dede: Perhaps. My father taught me to always try to be the best I possibly can no matter what task I pursue. But my parents also set a great example as people that helped out others and were constantly there for other people. My father was a big part of my life and career and since he died he has not only continued to been a driving force behind my cycling but also my formation as a person.
Randall: On behalf of all your fans, PEZCycling thanks you and salutes you. You are a podium girl in the best possible way!
Dede: Thanks to you as well and thank you to all the people that have supported me since I was a kid in Milwaukee playing house league soccer.
Check out Dede’s website at DedeBarry.com