INTERVIEW: Get to know Ashlin Barry - the rising star of American cycling

With examples of riders like Remco Evenepoel and Joshua Tarling stepping out of junior category with level to win big professional races, it's only natural big teams are looking at ways to get into favor of young talents as early as possible. And junior category is a bottomless pit of rising stars such as rising American star Ashlin Barry.

The 17-year-old was one of those names you may have heard of already before entering the junior scene, often referred as 'the next big thing' coming from overseas. With two overall victories at Green Mountain under his belt (the biggest U19 stage race in United States) as still just a U17 rider, there were big expectations of how would Barry compare against the best European prospects.

But as it turns out, there was no need to worry about Barry's adaptation to European style of racing, as the American took exactly one race day to already raise his hands in the opening stage of Tour de Bocage. And he didn't stop there, reaching onto the top of FirstCycling junior ranking by the beginning of June. CyclingUpToDate reached out to the American to get to know him better.

CyclingUpToDate: How did you get around to cycling?

Ashlin Barry: "I have been cycling for pretty much my entire life. I started with a variety of disciplines including track, mountain bike and cycling. In the off season I would also do all sorts of other sports such as Cross-country Skiing and running. Then only two years ago I started racing on the road."

"My parents both raced professionally and lived between Boulder, Colorado and Girona where I was born. My family then moved to Toronto, Canada a few years after I had started school to be closer to family."

CU: In youth categories, we have seen the flag of Canada next to your name. What led you to make a switch to US ahead of this season?

AB: "Going into my first year racing internationally as a junior, I made the decision to race under a US racing license. There were a number of reasons. My mom raced for the US National team for 16 years and had a great experience. I feel really fortunate to be a part of a supportive program. US Cycling is working hard to bring back their development programs to help kids get to the highest level. So far, it has been fantastic– Gavin Mannion is great as a DS, and I have been learning a lot from him. There is a team house I’ve been staying at in the Netherlands, and we have great support on the mechanical and care side."

CU: As for your junior debut, the expectations over here in Europe were high. And in that regard, you certainly delivered. How did you enjoy your first racing block overseas?

AB: "I really enjoyed it. It was an amazing first experience with a lot of learning opportunities. It was my first time racing as an U19 in Europe on the road, but it wasn’t my first time racing in Europe as I had raced on the track in Apeldoorn a couple months earlier, and also in 2023 with EF-ONTO. In that regard, it took some of the pressure off for me as I knew that I was physically capable of competing with a lot of the best guys. To win the first UCI race I started was an incredible experience. I didn’t expect to perform at that level so soon."

CU: Back to the US for Nationals, you took both road and time trial title. What does wearing the stripes and stars mean to you?

AB: "To represent the country, with the national team or in a championship jersey is a really special feeling and something that I don’t take for granted as I realize it’s a privilege and honor that comes with a level of responsibility."

CU: You've just completed Trofeo Saarland with 5,3,4,2,2 in stages and 2nd overall. What was missing for that victory?

AB: "I was really happy with my results and consistency in Saarland. It was a bit disappointing to come just short of the win on a few of the stages and to be only two seconds off the winner on GC. The bittersweet ending was finishing second on the last stage, as if I had won, I would have secured two more bonus seconds and the overall win."

CU: Would you do anything differently in retrospective?

AB: "Although there were some things I could have done better to make up that difference, there are still a lot of positives I can take away from the race. My team raced very well across all the stages, supporting me, which allowed me to perform at my best and I felt like I made improvements in my ability to lead the team and make important decisions during the race. I’ve made some improvement in terms of race ability and if I can continue to perform at this level, and improve with hard work, I’m confident the wins will come."

CU: My friend tried to convince me that you are a sprinter, but we have also seen you rock on the time trial special, attack in the classics and do well on the cobbles. So what kind of rider is Ashlin Barry?

AB: "I’m still figuring it out myself, to be honest. Based on numbers, I think my physiology is really well rounded. I’m still improving a lot on my race ability which is helping me convert my physical strength into actual results. I feel that where this has shown best so far is with sprinting and time trials. I feel really comfortable in hard, tactical races but last week in Saarland I took a big step up in showing my ability to position in sprints and execute my plan in a time trial. I still definitely see space for this to improve as I continue to build experience and adapt to the different style of racing in Europe."

"Now my biggest weak point is probably on longer, steep climbs. I seem to be really strong on climbs up to 10 minutes or so, especially when repeating them in races but struggle more when the climbs are less punchy. I am currently living and going to school in Toronto and I don’t have access to any climbs longer than one kilometer to train on. Long term, I think I have the physical ability to climb well, but I don’t see it becoming one of my biggest strengths."

"Right now I am just focused on improving at everything and that when I make the step out of junior the answer may become more clear."

CU: With this profile, you could do well in the cobbled classics. Are races like Paris-Roubaix appealing to you?

AB: "Yes, Paris-Roubaix would be one of my dream races to win. I think the really hard, classics style races seem to suit me well. If there were four races I have dreamed of winning the most they would be the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Milano-Sanremo and the World Championships. Any of them would be a dream to win."

CU: Recently, we have seen big junior talents like Jørgen Nordhagen and Albert Philipsen signing big contracts already after their first year in juniors. How do you view this trend?

AB: "I think it makes sense to have a secure contract coming out of junior either in a U23 or world tour team to allow time to develop before having to perform at the highest level."

CU: Since last year, you current team (EF-ONTO) is affiliated with the American WorldTour team EF Education-EasyPost. Are there big teams knocking on your door as well?

AB: "Yes, I’ve had discussions and offers from various teams but haven’t made any decisions or contract agreements. I’ve been really happy with the support and atmosphere at my current team and I hope that can be replicated and the program will continue to grow in a positive direction in the coming years."

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