As a child, Tom Barras would wedge his head between the barriers at the side of race tracks and watch as his father, Sid, and the peloton breeze past, writes Nick Westby.
It sent a current of electricity through his body that still coarses through his veins today.
Because around three decades on, Tom Barras and his father are side-by-side again as director-sportifs (joint-managers) of Yorkshire-based continental team NFTO Pro Cycling.
Sid was a three-time national champion in the 70s and 80s, while Tom also rode as a professional for 15 years, riding for 11 teams in a hand-to-mouth existence. Four months ago, he was offered the chance by NFTO’s backer John Wood, an ex-military man from Wakefield, to join his father to help shape the fortunes of a team that with a sustainable business model hopes to join the sport’s elite one day.
“I was really enjoying my time as a rider with NFTO. I’d had a win, which at 37 was nice,” says Headingley-based Barras. “A job like this wasn’t something I ever saw myself doing but the opportunity came up in September. It was an honour to be asked because it means the boss recognises I have the attributes for the job but looking at my age, it was just something I couldn’t say no to.”
One of his first jobs was signing Josh Edmondson, the 23-year-old Leeds cyclist who lost his way after stepping straight into the Sky spotlight, but for whom there remains high hopes. Next week, Edmondson will be one of 11 riders Barras leads around the White Rose county on the first full-scale reconnoitre of this May Bank Holiday weekend’s Tour de Yorkshire route.
On Tuesday, NFTO will recreate stage one from Beverley to Settle, Wednesday stage two from Otley to Doncaster, and Thursday, Middlesbrough to Scarborough.
“We’ll cover every inch of the course so the riders know every turn, climb and cross-wind,” says Barras. “NFTO’s Ian Bibby won the Dimension Data jersey for the most aggressive rider at last year’s Tour and that was huge for us. Next week is an opportunity for us to enhance our chances of repeating that feat, getting in a break or getting a guy on the podium.”