Club champ, city champ, State Champ, National Champ, World Champ, but most importantly, champion of our hearts, Barry Wicks has taken the next step in his lustrous career and moved to California. The longtime Kona cycling superstar will be missed this season around the Pacific Northwest cycling scene, his gracious personality lends to those around, a good human experience. On the bike, he’s a powerful lanky wizard of a shred master with a smile that can pierce corners and sparkle dust crowds. Off the bike, ditto.
Bicycle Paper: So Barry, Why the move?
Barry Wicks: My wife Sarah is a souped-up scientist, and was recruited by a big time BioTech firm down in the Bay Area called Genentech. It was an awesome opportunity for her, so we decided to go for it.
BP: I saw on your blog that your attacking gravel grinders and endurance races this year. What led you to do those types of races and will we see you at any OBRA or Washington events this season?
BW: I made the transition away from “traditional” XC events a few years ago. I was looking for new challenges, new adventures, and at Kona we where also exploring new markets and ideas that we thought were cool. It all started with BCBR (BC Bike Race). It almost killed me, but in the end Kris Sneddon and I where able to pull off the win, and we haven’t really looked back since. It’s been awesome. The gravel races are pretty rad too. Back in college when I raced for Oregon State, we put on a road race that had a 5km gravel section every lap. I thought it was the coolest race ever. Now that gravel racing is becoming a “thing” I am excited to participate in it. It’s an area with lots of potential, and opens up whole new routes that people maybe didn’t think about before.
BP:You’ve been a big part of the Northwest cycling scene, what events or rides will you miss the most?
BW: The first race I ever did was the Mudslinger in Corvallis, Ore., so that race holds a special place for me. I also really enjoyed racing at Ski Bowl coming up as a junior. I wish there was still a race series there. It would be the perfect venue to host a U.S. Cup these days. The riding up there is awesome, and Petr Kakes always did a good job of producing an awesome event.
BP: As a “Bendite,” what was your favorite loop or ride in or around town? Like if you have three hours to bang out glory times, what trails are you shredding?
BW: I really like the Mrazek, Farewell, Skyliners, Whoops to Phils combo. It gets you up high and out of the busy zone, has rad views, and by the time you get back to town you feel like you have ridden long enough to stop for a beer at CFC.
BP: How about in Washington, where is the secret stash?
BW: Most of the riding I have done in Washington has been in Bellingham. It’s pretty great. I want to check out Leavenworth, though. I hear it is great.
BP: Put on your Kona team manager hat for a minute, what are you looking for from up and comers these days? Basically, what skill sets should a developmental cyclist be working on to attract a potential factory team like Kona?
BW: What I look for in athletes is a self-driven individual that is passionate, interesting, and self-motivated. We have athletes that travel all over the world and do amazing things. Basically, we like to empower our athletes to pursue their dreams and ambitions, whatever those happen to be. One of our riders, Cory Wallace, spends half the year traveling around South East Asia, Australia, Mongolia and everywhere in between. He always finds amazing races and adventures to do and he sends in the coolest reports from his travels. We also have Spencer Paxson, who is taking aim at the World Cup circuit, going after the traditional cross-country (XCO) format. We are lucky, Kona allows us to have a large amount of autonomy in deciding what we do with the resources we are provided. I think we do a good job of telling interesting stories and racing well. That’s what I look for in athletes, an ability to tell a good story and the drive and ability to live their own adventures.
BP: When you where a wee racing lad, what where your favorite races and events, those that stand out in your mind?
BW: The Sea Otter Classic was always huge for me. I remember climbing into the back of a station wagon in the dark, driving all night, and ending up in the sunny, bicycle fantasy land at Laguna Seca. It is a pretty overwhelming experience the first time you see it. Coming from rain dreary Oregon to this bright, sunny wonderland was rad. Look out for the poison oak there, though. It is gnarly.
BP: Do you remember any amazing or ridiculous training methods you used to employ for physical, teenage greatness? Did you have a coach through any of those years?
BW: I came from a pretty traditional sports background. I played soccer for 13 years, traveled to Europe to play with the U.S. development team and everything, but got burned out. When I was over there I discovered mountain biking in the traditional sense. I started reading everything I could about it, and entered my first race the next year. Pretty soon I caught the eye of Erik Tonkin, and he took me under his wing and really showed me how to properly race my bike. He had a pretty impressive roster of guys racing for the S+M team back then, and I really learned a lot with those guys. They got me on a road bike, taught me about training, race craft and showed me what it took to be good. It was definitely the school for hard knocks, though. I remember going to Erik’s house one weekend for a training camp and just getting so thrashed from the group rides I was sick for a week after. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger though, and I learned a ton from those guys.
BP: Being that you are a superstar of the sport, what has been the defining moment in your cycling career? If you really don’t define by moments, what event or result put you on the path you ride today?
BW: There have been milestones for sure. The first time I beat Tonkin at a local race, the first Norba podium, the first National Title. It was a rapid progression for sure, but to me it all made sense and was just the path I took. I remember when I first got signed to Kona, too. That was probably the moment I realized I had what it took. The year before I had been traveling the circuit as a privateer, literally sleeping in farm fields and scrounging tires from behind race trailers at events, so getting on a factory team was a dream come true. I got all the tires I could need and a hotel bed!
BP: You inspired a good number of youth in your days racing the Norba and OBRA circuit. Who where your role models in cycling both growing up and now as an adult?
BW: The guys I really looked up to back then, Tonkin, Shannon Skerrit, Geoff Kabush, are all still guys I am inspired by today. My favorite riders now are my Kona boys though. Watching them fight and race and be the best is inspiring, especially since I get to see it from the inside.
BP: Who was your favorite teammate of all time?
BW: Kris Sneddon has been my longest standing teammate, and I would say has been the best guy to be around. I have had lots of great teammates, though. When I started, it was a pretty amazing program. Tracy Mosley, Fabian Barrel, Kabush, Peter Wedge. Eventually we got Ryan Trebon, and then there was a year when Roland Green came back to Kona. It’s been an awesome career with Kona. It’s a legendary program, and its a true honor to have been involved with it so long.
BP: I noticed teammate Spencer saying on the Kona blog that he was looking at Rio 2016 for the Olympics. Did you ever shoot for the stars? How did that begin or end?
BW: I made a push for that, around 2004 and 2008. Adam Craig was going for it hard, and asked me to go do a race with him in Puerto Rico to try and get some UCI points. I ended up beating him at the race, so his plan sort of backfired, but that sort of kicked it all off. Then I began racing the World Cup circuit, and really went after it for a couple of years. It never panned out, but those years spent on the World Cup circuit where awesome. I also spent three winters racing ‘cross in Belgium, that was a real eye opener, but there where a couple of years there when Trebon and I where pretty unstoppable on the domestic circuit, and I think its because we where happy we weren’t in Belgium. Spencer has a good shot at Rio. He is the right age, has the experience and talent, now he just needs to put all the pieces together and make it happen. He can do it.
BP: Do you have a go-to joke? Lets hear it if you do.
BW::A guy walks into his kitchen with a duck under his arm. His wife is standing there and he says, “I want to show you this pig I’ve been kissing.” His wife looks at him and says, “That’s a duck, not a pig.” And he says, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
BP: We are going to miss ya up here. Will you miss us?
BW: I will. I like Bend and all the people up there. California is pretty good, though — shorts and jersey in January is pretty nice.
BP: If you had to rank the cycling racing disciplines in order or else you would be dipped in hot lava with your puppy, all while your wife watches from a protected sealed glass room, how would you rank XC, enduro, road, ‘cross, gravel grinder, DJ, DH and singlespeed XC? That’s eight hot disciplines right there.
BW: Trying to rank bike riding is stupid, I just like bikes.
Well, there you have it. Looks like Barry is onto the next chapter. So let’s get on with ours. This year when you’re out racing the Mudslinger, Gorge Roubaix, Pickets Charge, Cascade Cycling Classic or even shredding your local track, try Riding like Barry. Let the wind blow through your hair, smile real big and go with the flow. Good luck to the Wicks!
Chad Cheeney is a Bend native and recently moved back after spending the past 16 years in Durango, Colorado. A wearer of numerous baseball caps, Chad is what you could call a top secret cycling pastor, spreading the good word wherever he goes. Riding, racing, loving and laughing is what he knows and his wake is shredderville. He also believes that John Elway just might be the best quarterback in the world.