A Sequim High School athlete got to enjoy a unique experience earlier this month, when SHS senior Liam Barber joined Team USA cycling in the Junior Tour of Ireland in July in a six-day road cycling race that tested the more than 120 cyclists participating in it from all over the world.
For Barber, participating in the under-18 international race wasn’t just his first exposure to major team cycling like that, it was also his first time in Europe and his first big trip traveling more or less on his own. “It was an incredible experience from start to finish,” he said.
The incredible challenge of such a high level race was one that Barber said he was more than willing to embrace, and while he didn’t place as highly as he would have liked, he still took a lot of positives away from the experience and is looking forward to getting back to this race and doing better in it next year.
“These are some of the best riders in this age group from all around the world,” Barber said. “I think that all things considered, with this being my first big international race, I held up well.”
The stages were long, with the overall race totalling a little over 540 kilometers (about 335 miles). The shortest stage was about 48 km (a little under 30 miles), with the longest being listed as 124 km (about 77 miles). The long distances coupled with some tricky courses — steep hills and tight village streets were both typical experiences according to Barber — made it a difficult race to ride, but Barber welcomed the challenge.
“This definitely made me a better cyclist,” Barber said.
According to Barber, the visuals of the Irish landscape made it an even more memorable experience. “There was one stage where we started in Ballyvaughan and rode up into stony hills, then down right along the coastal cliffs back into the town,” Barber described. “I’ll never forget those views for the rest of my life.”
During their down time, Barber and his teammates spent time exploring the area around them. Based out of the western town of Ennis, Barber said he spent a lot of time exploring abbeys, castles, and other nearby towns while he was there.
“The difference between what towns are like there compared to here is huge,” Barber said. “There was one day we were walking somewhere, and I realized the stone wall I bumped into was probably hundreds of years old. That kind of history is a lot to take in.”
Now that he’s home, Barber is getting ready for the state time trial championships in August. He’s getting ready for that with lots of local rides, as well as participating in a weekly race over in Kent. Barber is planning on participating in the Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon in June of 2020, hopefully using that to prepare for next year’s Junior Tour of Ireland.
Of course, it’s also almost time for Barber to go back to school, and Barber says he is very much looking forward to his senior year.
Barber also wanted to make sure to thank everyone who supported his journey to Ireland, having fundraised in the area to make sure he could be a part of the trip. “A lot of people made this experience possible,” Barber said, “and to those people, I just wanted to say thank you. This meant the world to me.”