Since launching our regular question and answer feature with Michael Barry last week, we have had a huge response from fans writing in with all manner of cycling-related queries.
This week Michael has answered the pick of the bunch from Team Sky's winter training camp in Majorca, where he has been getting some hard miles in before returning home to his family in Girona for the festive season.
Question: Considering this is the end of Team Sky's first season, how will you be looking to improve the team's results in 2011? Also, one of my favourite short films of the year was your descent of Port de Balès. Do you have plans for other short films in the future? Thanks for a great year. Simon Connellan, via TeamSky.com
Michael Barry: Thanks Simon. I'm pleased you enjoyed the film. I've got some ideas for different short films so I'll likely put together a few more of them as soon as the season gets going. The team's results and performance will surely improve in 2011. The squad has been strengthened and there is more depth in the roster which will surely lift the performance. I think we've also learned from the mistakes made last season which is obviously crucial in progression. Now that we are all together at our first training camp, it is evident the team is closer, which should make the biggest difference once we get to the races. Merry Christmas.
Q: Michael, you are true legend. With Jez Hunt on board, will you be given the opportunity to ride for a stage win this year, or is your role too important as road captain? Cheers. Ronnie Beem, via TeamSky.com
MB: Thanks Ronnie. Jez is extremely experienced and one of the best domestiques in the peloton. He'll be a big asset to the team, especially in the early season Classics where a veteran's experience is vital. Overall, we'll both be there to support the leaders and continue with the roles we've had throughout our careers. When there is an opportunity to go for the win, we'll seize it.
Q: I go out regularly with a group of like-minded cyclists and we are all in our sixties - one guy is an ex pro and another an ex elite. Although I can keep up with them while descending and on the flats, they always drop me on the climbs. Can you provide me with some advice as to how I can climb a little better? Many thanks. Philip Hurd, via TeamSky.com
MB: Hi Philip, In the hills, power to weight and gauging the effort are key. So, you want to be light but strong (you don't want to be carrying much fat) and you want to start the climb at a speed that you know you'll be able to sustain to the top. Otherwise, you just have to dig in and suffer. Best, Michael
Q: I see a lot of Team Sky are riding the O-symmetric chain rings. Do you feel they make a difference, and what tooth count do you and the boys use? What size frame do you ride? Also would just like to say I love the Team Sky website, and yours as well. I love that you give us a view of what happens behind the scenes, on the road and the mechanics, since I am a mechanic. Keep up the good work. Jamie Brock via e-mail
MB: Thanks, Jamie. I ride a 58 cm Pinarello. Most of the riders are using 52x42 oval rings and in the high mountains we use 52x38. The oval rings are particular to the individual. Some guys can't produce power with them while others find they make their pedal stroke more efficient. I find they work well and make a difference.
Q: Is training at the camp tailored to an individual or is this more aimed at general fitness/stamina? Peter Roberts via facebook
MB: Hi Peter, The training at the camp at the moment is more general as we are all building out foundation for the season. The camp gives us the opportunity to ride together, chat, learn a little about each other, and grow as a team. My roommate Alex Dowsett, a new addition to the roster and a neopro, was saying to me last night that after a week of long rides with the team he now truly feels like one of the boys and fits in. On the longer rides we seem to bond as a group - this is probably the most important aspect of the camp as it is where the team comes together and grows.
Q: Which young riders should we look out for next season? Which riders do you consider to have great potential? Please give details of Team Sky riders and non Sky riders. Bryan Cherry via facebook
MB: This is a tough question as there are so many good up and coming riders in the peloton, so I'll focus on our team and the riders I know well. The team has signed several young riders who I think will become great pros. Dowsett is one, Appollonio is another. They both have a good attitude, seem to fit into the group well and are talented cyclists. Stannard and Swift both look very good at the moment and seem to be coming into the season in great condition. Swifty looks far more powerful and balanced on his bike while Ian looks leaner and stronger.
Q: How many bikes do you own? Harry Lennon via facebook
MB: I own several but I have a few that I ride often: My Pinarello Dogma training bike, a mountain bike, a custom city-bike that my father built me, and a road bike with full mudguards and bigger tyres for the wet weather and days when I feel like riding on the dirt roads.
Q: Considering how easy it is to build a bike below the UCI weight limit on bikes (for example many can be built as low as 5kg). Given the choice; would you remove this limit, or change it at all? Dominic Allinson via facebook
MB: I think the weight limit is a good idea. I've seen too many super light bikes and parts break, which often ends in serious injury. I would rather ride a slightly heavier bike that I feel confident on than a super light bike that I don't trust.
Q: Do any of the team prefer using rollers to a turbo trainer? Chris McIntyre and Jeremy Baker via facebook
MB: I prefer the feel of rollers but a trainer is easier to do hard efforts on as little concentration is required. Many of the guys will ride both depending on the type of workout they need to get done. Here, at our camp in Majorca, we have the option to ride either. Rollers are great for spinning your legs and working on leg speed while a trainer is good for increasing the workload or doing specific intervals.
Q: With the poor weather I am forced to use rollers for my training and I prefer them to the turbo. What would be good sessions to do to ensure I'm not loosing any fitness for next year's time trial season? Jack De Bokx via facebook
MB: I'll defer to my roommate Alex Dowsett for this one as he is a TT specialist. Here's what he suggests: "The workout doesn't have to be complicated. I base my workout on the length of time my time trial will take. I'll do sessions of overdistance and underpaced and underdistanced and overpaced. It is obviously best if you ride rollers with some resistance to simulate the time trial".
Q: Which is your favourite race of the season and why? Is there any race that you haven't done that you would especially like to do before you finish cycling? Tony Foord via facebook
MB: Hi Tony, This is a tough question. I love the cobbled Classics - specifically the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix - as the ambiance is incredible and the races have a rich history. The Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France are the nicest stage races. For the most part, I think I have now done virtually every race on the calendar expect for the two new Canadian ProTour races in Montreal and Quebec City. Hopefully, I'll be able to race them in 2011- there is nothing like racing in front of a home crowd on a great circuit.
Q: Who were your hero growing up? Martin Giles via facebook
MB: Eddy Merckx, Laurent Fignon and Wayne Gretzky.
Q: I am interested in what his typical diet consists of. How do you factor in nutrition to your training plan? Brent Nichols via facebook
MB: Hi Brent, after trying many different diets, I find what works best is eating good quality food and having a balanced, varied diet. The key is eating food that is fresh and obviously well cooked. Fortunately, we have a team chef and nutritionist to ensure we get what we need to fuel properly for the races. Overall, it isn't too complex: we eat a lot of whole grains, fish, meat and veg. We try not to consume too much salt, sugar or processed foods, and the quantity is simply determined by how much work we have done on the bike and whether or not we need to lose, gain or sustain our weight.
Q: Hi Michael, at this point of the off season, what data if any, is most crucial to start gathering from the SRM system for your own progress. (base miles, power etc)? Simon Jagassar via facebook
MB: Hi Simon, Right now we focus on our base mileage and the overall workload as we are building a foundation of the coming season. As we get closer to the races, we will pay more attention of the specifics and our rides will be broken down into intervals.
Q: Is putting cling film on your feet useful in the cold? How do you keep your feet warm? Anthony Lake via facebook
MB: Hi Anthony, Having grown up in Canada I froze my feet many times and constantly tried to find a solution to keep them warm. I now wear wool socks, another sock over the shoe and a thin waterproof/windproof shoecover. In the end, it is pretty hard to keep your feet warm when it is brutally cold unless you have boots/shoes with battery powered heaters.
Q: What would you say does Team Sky do better than the other teams? Roy Galvin via facebook
MB: I don't know what all of the other teams do, or how they operate, but I think the strengths of Team Sky are the attitude and the ambiance within the squad. The management staff and riders all work hard towards progressive change, resolving problems and building a nurturing productive environment. Overall, there is a nice balance between technology/science, history, and the love of the sport.
Q: How does a fifteen year old with not much money get into road cycling? Faisal Malik via facebook
MB: Local cycling clubs are always looking out for young riders and should be able help you get started. Other than that, simply get out on the bike and have fun.
Q: Do you prefer to train solo or with team-mates, what do you think the advantages/disadvantages of each method are? Richard Edward Goldthorpe via facebook
MB: Hi Richard, I can't say I prefer one over the other as there are benefits to both. Sometimes, I enjoy the social aspect of riding with team-mates or friends, and at other times I simply enjoy being alone in the environment. With a group there are changes in the rhythm of the ride which can help simulate the race; alone the workload will be greater as my nose is constantly in the wind. Team-mates and friends can also act as sparring partners which can help push me a little harder and give me someone to sprint against.
Q: Does you have a favourite or most beautiful place to ride? Matthew Franklin via facebook
MB: Hi Matthew, I really love where we live in Girona, Spain as there is a nice network of smaller quiet farm roads which lead to the Pyrenees or along the coast.
Q: Are you motivated more than you are unmotivated, or unmotivated more than motivated? Michael Kettler via facebook
MB: Motivated. It isn't often that I don't want to go for a ride. As I get older I appreciate my job, and love cycling, more than I ever have.
We'll be asking Michael plenty of questions again in the new year - so if there's anything at all you'd like to ask him then please do so either via the comments section at the bottom of this article or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org (please put 'Michael Barry Q&A' in the subject line).