Cycling: Healthy start for Barras

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SID BARRAS stepped in as manager of the British team Men's Health on the understanding that he was free to take firm control. That was three weeks ago, and as his men approach their biggest date so far, the five- day Travelwise Tour of Lancashire, Barras has yet to get tough because performances so far have been healthy.

Barras said: "In the past I had all the responsibility and none of the power. If you manage teams you have to be able to take control." He was at first wary when he was asked on two separate occasions if he was interested in managing Team Men's Health. Then after meeting Jane Williams, the power behind the team, Barras was convinced.

Riders respect experience, and success. Barras has had it all. Of his 400 victories, 200 came in his professional years which ended 11 years ago. "I was the top British pro for 10 years," he said of the days when he also led the Tour of Switzerland, and won a stage in the Tour of Majorca ahead of names who graced the Tour de France.

Barras has a handful of aces to play in the 482km (531-mile) Tour which opens on Morecambe promenade tomorrow, but a fatherly eye will be cast occasionally towards his son, Tom, who is racing for Middridge.

Barras's charges include the New Zealander Gordon McCauley who tops the Premier Calendar points series for which the Tour is a counter. His team- mate Gethin Butler has also signalled winning form in the Tour of Guadeloupe and last weekend's East Riding race.

A back problem put the former world track champion Colin Sturgess out of their line-up, but his replacement Huw Pritchard showed he was ready by winning a stage in the East Riding race.

Barras will have an old racing opponent, Keith Lambert, among his rival tacticians on the Tour. But Lambert's only serious contender is Jon Clay. Clay has switched from a French stage race to join the line-up of 123, but he lacks team support. Most of his Linda McCartney team-mates are racing abroad in preparation for Britain's premier race, the Prutour, in three weeks' time, so a bigger threat to Barras should come from the Harrods squad headed by Matt Stephens.