Rewind 12 months and Tom Barras was watching in awe at the Tour de France roadshow rolling by his doorstep like the rest of us.
As the peloton zoomed through Arthington, the 36-year-old web designer embraced the French fanfare and cycled back to his Headingley home exhilarated – but unaware that he could yet experience a similar atmosphere as a rider.
Following a colourful 15-year career in professional cycling which had seen him rack up more than 100 race wins across the world, Barras was riding part-time with Wheelbase Altura in 2014.
Seemingly with his biggest races behind him, his performances managed to catch the eye of UCI Continental team NFTO however. He signed to once again become a full-time pro for 2015.
Now with just days to go until the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire, he is part of NFTO’s eight-man lineup for the highly anticipated spectacle which is expected to attract a crowd of more than a million from May 1 to 3.
“It’s not something I ever thought I would compete in. This time last year I was riding for Wheelbase and building two little businesses,” he said.
“I’m the only Yorkshireman in the team and it goes through Laycock where I was born and where I live now in Leeds. I literally know every road – those are the roads I’ve trained on all my life.”
Hailing from a Yorkshire cycling family, his father is none other than three-time British national champion Sid Barras. He won 380 races in a distinguished career.
Growing up during Sid’s hayday, Tom witnessed a golden time for British road racing – a climate he feels eluded his own generation of cyclists.
Tom, like many other aspiring British road racers, felt he needed to leave the UK to pursue a career in professional cycling. After graduating from Loughborough University in 2000, he spent several years racing full-time in Belgium.
“After six years I realised I was never going to be a world beater,” he said. “I set up my web design company in 2007 and started building my empire.”
Splitting his time between his web design and coaching sidelines and cycling, several contracts with pro and amateur cycling teams since his return to England followed, as did 27 race wins during a boom time for the sport.
Now riding in an NFTO team including former World Tour rider and Australian national champion Steele Von Hoff, he will act as a support, or domestique, to the team’s big hitter as they bid to surprise a Tour de Yorkshire field that includes the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins, sprinter Marcel Kittel and Team Sky.
He said: “I don’t see myself as a Tour de France rider but, on my day, if all the stars line up and we pull together, there is a chance one of us can get a result.”
A milestone late in his career, NFTO is Tom’s 10th UCI professional team – something he hopes to mark with a memorable race around the Yorkshire roads he knows so well.
“It’s one of the biggest races in the world which is finishing a mile from my house – it’s massive,” Tom added. “If this is it and Tom Barras stops racing on May 3 and I race that, I finish on a high.”