Barry, 36, came out of retirement at the start of last year and surprised many by claiming one of the biggest honours on the domestic cycling scene, winning by a margin of almost three and a half minutes but this year, he has played down his chances.
“Realistically I don’t think it’s possible for me (to win),” he admitted. “If I got a stage win out of it I’d be happy. It’s not very realistic to aim for anything more than that. I’m going to be a marked man, I’ll have number one on my back and because I won it by such a big gap last year, I can see myself being marked out of it so we’ll have to have a few different cards.
“I don’t know yet how my form will be. I’ll only find out tomorrow but obviously, I won the race in Minane Bridge a couple of weeks back and there’s been a couple of other results I’ve been building up with but I’m on a later programme this year because I’m gearing more for the Rás next month.”
Barry will be riding for ‘The Edge’, a team he founded last year upon his return to the sport and together with Micky O’Reilly, Cathal McCarthy, Mick Fitzgerald and Kerryman Sean Lacey, they boast one of the strongest line-ups for the four-stage event which finishes on Monday next, back in Killorglin.
“It’s a solid team,” he said. “Fitzy (Mick Fitzgerald), Micky Reilly and Sean (Lacey) are all going well. They were first, third and fifth on Sunday in Carrick-on-Suir so we’d be looking for them to be very active. I know Sean is hoping to do well, so he’ll be up there.”
On the challenge ahead, Barry believes the strongest assault for the yellow jersey will be made by one of the two Dutch teams in the race. “Without doubt,” he stressed.
“They’ve been up there now the last couple of years. Last year they had two stage wins and three in the top 10 and they’ll be back this time around for another crack at it.”
Like last year, the crucial stage is tomorrow — a 130 kilometre-stage that goes from Killorglin to Ventry, before finishing atop the category one climb of the Conor Pass outside Dingle.
“That could decide it,” Barry said. “The first day is about not losing the race, about leaving yourself in a position where you can pounce the next day, but the Conor Pass and the day after yeah, that’s where it’ll be won and lost.”
This year’s race comprises of teams from Ireland, England, Wales, Isle of Man, Holland, France, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia and with 491 kilometres to be navigated over 27 categorised climbs, it promises to be one of the toughest editions of the race in recent times.