PEZ Talk: ‘Young Gun’ Barry Miller
Barry Miller cut his teeth on the track and has been a regular on the wooden boards of Europe in the winter, but in May of 2014 he headed off to Sweden to attack the road scene. Since then he’s changed team, but he’s making a name for himself with some strong performances. Ed Hood caught-up with Barry for a progress report.
PEZ first bumped into Barry Miller a few years back riding the Cycling Festival races in Trinidad and Tobago. Then we met up on the UiV Circuit, that’s the winter track racing series at the six days for U23 riders. Lately we were intrigued to see he was riding for a Swedish team and his name was creeping up those finish sheets – we thought we best ‘have a word’. . .
PEZ: ‘Firefighters Upsala’ in Sweden, how did you get that ride for 2014, Barry?
Barry Miller: Just by chance really, the team I was riding for in 2013 did a little trip to Sweden in the spring. I did some good rides there and won a small stage race at the end of the trip. After that a Swedish club invited me to come back later in the summer and guest-ride with them. So I went over in late July and spent the rest of the season there racing. I did some good results and was in the right place when they put together a continental team for 2014.
PEZ: Then ‘Team Bliz-Merida’ for this year, again in Svenska?
2014 and Firefighters-Upsala CK was a complete disaster. Almost from the beginning there were problems with everything from sponsors to equipment to races….
It was a shame because it was a very talented roster and it actually ended the careers of some of the riders. We hardly raced and everything pretty much shut down after the Tour de Fjords in May. Without races it’s impossible to make the result sheets – which is what you need to attract a team. So I was in a bad situation but I knew I wanted to try and stay in Europe. Bliz-Merida had seen me racing in Sweden before so they approached me. It was very low-budget but they made every penny count.
We had a top racing schedule all over the UCI Europe Tour, very good equipment and material, even a little apartment for the foreign riders…it was everything I needed to succeed and that was all I was after.
PEZ: Swedish culture can be pretty conservative – especially for a dude from the US.
It can be but I didn’t have any problems fitting in over there. My teammates all told me I wasn’t like a “typical American.” I’m not sure what that means, I’m just me!
But it’s always been a strength of mine fitting into different cultures. We had six different nationalities on the team this year. It was something I really enjoyed experiencing, getting to know each country’s different personalities and customs.
PEZ: Give us your palmarès for 2015.
I started the year 3rd at the Volta Denia in Spain in February. I had a top-20 stage and top-25 overall in March at the 2.2 Volta Vicentina in Portugal. Then in July I was 3rd at the Vastboloppet and 2nd on a stage of the U6 Cycle Tour, both in Sweden. At the end of July I was 4th on a stage and 7th overall at the 2.2 Podlasie Tour in Poland, then 7th at a really hilly Norway Cup the beginning of August. In September I was 3rd at the Tre Berg race in Sweden, and then 4th and Best Amateur at the 1.2 Reading 120 in the USA to end the season.
PEZ: The lows of 2015?
The second half of the spring was difficult. A couple of us couldn’t shake some sort of lung infection we picked up in Portugal in March, and my form started to drop off and by June I really needed a break. Once I had a break I came back strong for the second half of the season. I learned from some mistakes I had made with my training earlier in the spring, and this time I was able to hold my form and maintain it from July all the way through September.
PEZ: The highs of 2015?
Overall it was really important to be able to put 2014 behind me and bounce back. I’m pleased I was able to do a full season riding consistently at a high level, on the podium from February through September. The Podlasie Tour in Poland was maybe the break-through for me. That’s where everything clicked and I figured out the positioning, how to stay in front without wasting energy, the crosswinds and all of those nuances that Americans typically struggle with in Europe. It was a high-quality field including CCC-Sprandi’s Tour de Pologne squad.
For me that was the turning point where I proved I had adapted to European racing and could show my real ability. The Norway Cup a week later was important too, because I confirmed my climbing ability in what was definitely the hardest race of the year. Then in September, on the podium at Tre Berg on roads I trained on nearly every day, and of course the ride in Reading in front of a home crowd under really tough conditions.
PEZ: Tell us about Vastboloppet with it’s dirt roads, please?
Vastboloppet is one of the oldest races in Sweden. It’s a one-day classic of around 180km on a circuit with a hilly dirt section of maybe 5km. It was a really aggressive race of attrition, and one of the only really hot days all summer. It kept breaking and coming back, then eventually the elastic snapped and we had a large move of maybe 15.
From there it was more attacks until finally it was just a group of four of us for the final. I was cramping terribly from the heat and really botched the sprint. It was my first race back from my mid-season break so it was good I could get on the podium and set the tone for the second half of the season.
PEZ: And the Tour of ‘Maroc’?
That was quite an adventure. We arrived in Morocco the night before the first stage straight from snowy Sweden. The next day it was nearly 40 Celsius and a bunch of us really suffered from the heat. Then Stage Three went into the mountains where it was 3ºC and raining…
I’ve never been so cold as I was on the descent into the finish. The roads became slick like ice in the rain and there were huge crashes. There were a lot of circumstances like that throughout the tour. The racing itself was full-on nearly every day. You’d look at the road book and think it should be an easy day, a transition stage then the road would take a turn into the crosswinds and it would be like a one-day classic, or a big long climb on dirt roads would come out of nowhere.
PEZ: Fourth in the Reading 120 in the US – a nice way to finish the year.
That was a cool race. I spent four or five years living there in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania racing the track and training on many of those roads almost every day. I found out from the team about a week before that they were not able to offer me a contract for 2016. It was a huge surprise after what they had told us all season long, and I was really under pressure to make a result. To be able to pull off a big ride there when it really counted, in front of a home crowd and with the torrential rain all day – that was really special.
PEZ: What does the winter hold?
My teammate Hampus Anderberg invited me to stay with him and train in Mallorca this winter. I haven’t been there but I spent time in Spain this year and I really love it. So I’m looking forward to that. We get along well and share the same mentality with our training and approach to the sport, so I think it will be great for both of us.
PEZ: Did those UiV Cup rides on the winter boards ever tempt you to try and get six day rides?
That was my big focus as a U23. When I aged out I started taking those next steps, riding some smaller elite races in the summer. Then opportunities started coming my way on the road. Right now I want to see how far I can go on the road, but I don’t rule out doing some track racing in the future…it will always be my first love and I think it’s very possible to mix some track in during the winter months.
PEZ: Who’s your coach – what’s the ethos?
These days I coach myself. I’ve gotten a great education from a lot of top coaches over the years. Mike Fraysse gave me my foundation and the “old school” approach. More recently Bobby Lea kind of mentored me a bit during my time in the Lehigh Valley and brought me into the 21st Century. Now I train with power along with heart rate and also cadence. A lot of what I do is based off of lactic acid levels and I tend to go for pretty specific workouts. I try to break down the types of efforts needed in different parts of a race and train those different energy systems. That’s the science but then there’s the whole art of listening to your body, resting enough, taking all of the travel to/from races into account, etc., which is something I got much better at this year.
PEZ: And your team for 2016 is?
They don’t want me saying the name yet. But it’s an American Continental team. It’s an ambitious program with a long-term view so it’s very much in line with my own goals. They’re making a big step up in 2016 and I’m very excited to be a part of it.
PEZ: How did you get the ride?
It was a combination of my ride at Reading along with the rest of my results from the year and the experience I could bring from my time in Europe.
PEZ: 2016 is all about. . .
First and foremost slotting into my new team and helping them have success. They have a long-term plan that I believe in and want to be a part of. For me personally, I’m not sure yet as I don’t know the details of my schedule yet. I’m still digesting the move from Europe to USA so it might take a little time to adapt to the different style of racing and get used to things like racing at high altitude. But in general I want to continue the momentum and development from 2015. I think if I can continue to improve the way I did this year then I can win some races and establish a place for myself in the peloton.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.