le metier: the interview

michael barry

michael barry

those of us not in the peloton often view your job as amongst the more glamorous in the world. is it glamorous from your side of the saddle?

I wouldn't call it glamorous but we are fortunate to being doing what we love. We spend a lot of time in hotels, suffering in the rain and wind and sacrificing for the job. But that sacrifice and the suffering makes the good moments richer. I think any cyclist can feel this and knows it, whether they are professional or a cyclotourist. That feeling of elation is unique and almost addictive.

in his foreword, christian ends by saying that 'it's the best job in the world.' is that as true now as it was when you started your career?

Any person who gets to do what they love and have dreamed of since childhood would say they have the best job in the world. There are hard moments where I have questioned my choice to race professional, especially when injured severely, but I have no regrets and love it as much today as I did when I was a kid. In fact, today I have a profound love and respect for the sport which has come with maturity and experience.

did you find that writing le metier helped you understand why it is that you do what you do?

Yes. Ideas developed and it helped me understand why we sacrifice and why we are so passionate. To me, that is what is intriguing about cycling. There are so many elements in cycling that, when combined, make it unique and mentally and physically stimulating. A bike can take a human to another place where he can discover life on every level as all of the senses are engaged.

michael barry

assuming that, as we all feel, there is a drudgery part of the job, which of the four seasons would that be for you?

Whenever I have to ride the hometrainer. I don't mind the rollers but the hometrainer is tedious and something I try to avoid.

was the choice of images entirely down to camille, or did you collaborate?

Yes--it was more or less down to him to shoot what he thought would tell the story. We had ideas we worked on together but he edited it all and I left the photo side of it to him. He had the eye for it which I trust will capture the story.

did you have imagery in mind while writing?

Yes. While writing I visualize the experience, and the moment, so that I can describe it honestly.

have you felt the necessity to change teams in order to keep it fresh, or are commercial and contractual considerations of higher priority?

michael barry

I change teams when I feel I need to grow. I promised my mother when I left college to pursue cycling that I would quit cycling the moment I stopped progressing. Part of the process is changing teams and environments when I begin to stagnate.

how difficult is it to encapsulate in words, the wide variety of experiences that cycling brings over the course of a season?

The more I write and experience the easier it is. I see the race and the life from a different perspective now than when I was a kid, which makes it easier to convey the true story of the cyclist and pro cycling.

who's idea was it to break down a season into the four by which us mere mortals abide?

Both of ours. It made sense. The cyclist's season never really ends but is structured within the four seasons. The goal was to capture all of the contrasts within the cyclist's life and the racing season.

reading the last section, where you're winning a stage of missouri, was there still that breathless, 'heart in the mouth' feeling while writing (because there certainly was while reading)?

Yes--and thanks. My emotion comes out when I write and I try to convey that to the reader.

michael barry

in terms of being one half of le metier the book, and perhaps to an extent, writing blind, how much of a 'buzz' was it to see the completed book in your hands?

It was wonderful to see it complete as it all came together as we had imagined two years ago. Camille and I wanted the book to be something we could be proud of --it was key the end result was what we had envisioned.

will there be a 'le metier' two?

I don't think so, but Camille and I are working on some other projects and I will certainly write another book in the future.

you have not only an enviable reputation as a cyclist, but almost to a similar degree as an author. will the latter take over as breadwinner when the former comes to an end?

Who knows. I enjoy both. I always hope to make a living doing what I love.

michael barry

do you enjoy the degree of fan adulation that you receive?

I respect the fans but I don't get high off of it like others might. I was an intense fan as a kid and still am.

professional riders seem to vary mightily in their regard for the tool of their trade; the bicycle. in what way do you regard it: simply a means to an end, or just as much an end in itself?

We have a shed full of bikes and my Dad has collected vintage bikes for decades--so I have lived with some great bikes since I was a kid. Often my race bike feels like a tool while my winter bikes and city bikes hold more meaning. On some level, the ideal bike is the city bike, or a bike used daily. I love my race bikes for their technology but a good training bike, or commuter is just as beautiful because it is simple, efficient and well used. To me, that is good, ideal, design.

camille's images show you training either alone or in tandem with david millar. does this necessitate a reasonable degree of mechanical knowledge in case of problems, or was the following car just out of shot?

We very rarely ride with a follow car. I like the independence of riding alone, or with other cyclists. Having a follow car takes something away from the experience.

have you a preference for the opening classics or the grand tours?

michael barry

Both have their unique qualities that make them great. It is hard to compare two beautiful things that both have their lovely and terrifying qualities.

david millar is on record saying that training is carried out with compact chainsets and mudguards. does the same go for you?

Yes. We are both from the same school. My dad set up my winter bike that way when I was a kid (some of my winter bikes, or as he called them 'treaders' had a fixed and mudguards) and he still sets them up for me today. He has a knack for putting on mudguards. He put Dave's on for him as well.

assuming you know, generally speaking, how aware is the contemporary peloton of the history of the sport?

Fewer and fewer riders care about the history of the sport which probably mirrors the young generations in modern society. But, the champions still have great respect and knowledge. Wiggo, Cav, Armstrong--they all devour the history. They know the past champions, their results and how they achieved them.


michael barry is a fluent and descriptive writer, bringing to life that which we often wish we had the opportunity to do in the world of cycling. however, if we accept the proposal that a picture is worth a thousand words, le metier has arguably raised the standard of what is achievable when two collaborate on a chosen theme, one which they comprehend so well. it's easy to throw out rhetoric and state that le metier would not be the triumph that it is had michael barry's words been paired with images from other than camille mcmillan. but nonetheless, that's probably true. in this case, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, and they're each pretty good on their own.

barry and mcmillan quite obviously have an empathy that perhaps only they understand, but it would be remiss of me to have interviewed one without the other. the following is camille mcmillan's words on the subject of le metier's imagery, and just a tad more.

camille mcmillan

camille mcmillan

what were you looking for in the images for this book and do you think you found it?

I was looking to tell a simple story of a complex life. Yes, I found it, and now there are aspects I wish to explore further.

how much influence, direct or otherwise, came from michael?

We would talk at length about the themes and the narrative of Le Metier. Michael did his thing I did mine. Michael made his edit and I made mine. The pictures and the words work together because of our dialogue.

what makes a photo black and white or colour? and i don't mean whichever film is in the camera.

Brian that's a big question and you have stopped my stock answer. But in short; The light, the environment, an emotion. If I want a more graphic image... there are many reasons....let's not forget digital and thats another and wider debate!

i asked michael if writing the book helped him understand why he does what he does. does your photography provide you with a similar insight?

Photography makes me look at things which in turn helps me find new things. However photography does not answer the question of why I need to make images.

do you need photography more than photography needs you?

camille mcmillan

I'm compelled to make images and photography is the best way for me to do that; it gives me a great deal, so yes I need photography. Photography is a tough thing to master! It has never made me feel like it needed me.

does the combined heritage of cycling and those grainy black and whites influence your own work, particularly in relation to le metier?

I grew up with old imagery of cycle sport. Coppi, Merckx, Baldini etc They are part of my childhood so yes they are in my mix of influences... However, I did not set out thinking Le Metier should be like old school L'Equipe press pictures, I never think about taking another style for a project, I'll leave that to others.

much of your recent work has been highly inventive and, dare i say it, progressive. are you intent on pushing the envelope, so to speak?

Haha If I am an envelope...then yes I will push the envelope.

would the book's photography have been different had the writer not been michael barry?

camille mcmillan

Haha, is this a trick question? Michael and I wanted to tell a story. With another writer / rider that would tell a different story.

is the medium of the book, in general, the ideal showcase for your work?

Yes I love books. However some of my work is best on the wall.

following on from that, is cycling the ideal subject?

Yes. I don't know if I am more obsessed with cycling or image making. There is probably a metaphor with chainrings, chains and wheels, but maybe I won't go there now.

michael intimated that the two of you may work together in the future. is that a happy thought?

Yes indeed, we have very different heads that complement. Creatively we get to some good places together.

le metier

is there a likelihood of a camille mcmillan book without someone else's words?

Yes that is something I am working towards.

you're no longer rouleur's 'man about town'. what's next for mr mcmillan?

Haha. For now i'm just 'man about town' but I am open to offers.

i am indebted to both michael barry and camille mcmillan for the foregoing, and to matt ward at cyclevox for having accepted my mission impossible.

michael barry

le metier is available to purchase at a cost of £35 for the regular issue. a limited edition, signed issue with a screen printed slip case, is available for £100. both can be purchased from


posted tuesday 11 may 2010

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