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Monday, 29 September 2014

About time!

Right! I’m finally going to say something. I’ve had all these good intentions to start putting my thoughts out there then I think, who cares! So I’m going to pretend someone is reading this.

I’m typing this from a slightly damp Mallorca and i’m just off the back of training block and I’m not panicking about doing nothing today.  I’m going to keep this blog pretty self centered but its hard to as there is a lot of exciting stuff happening for Irish cycling out here. I’m saying nothing though, don’t want to step on any toes.

A shed load has happened since I last said something on this blog so I’m going to pick the bigger bumps in the road to talk about.  This year for Grace and myself was a chance to taste the American lifestyle.  At the end of last year things just happened, it seemed like we barely had to try and we were in Denver. The main reasons for the move to Colorado were the altitude, a contract to race with US based team United HealthCare and the opportunity to relive history and train with Andy Sparks on the Colorado Springs track. Grace managed to get a secondment from her firm Grant Thornton in Dublin to their office in Denver Colorado which was perfect. I’ll not lie though, we had a few obstacles to get over to get ourselves established in the states but it only took a couple of weeks and we were in the groove.

Grace didn't have much time to settle in, she was working flat out from day 1 but as we came to see, thats just the American way.  In my case though it was all self motivation. I was in Denver in January and snow was normal at this time of year, lots of snow!  With the help of Andy Sparks we got a car sorted for us to get around and he sorted me out with a turbo trainer.  The funny bit, other than 1 week on the LA velodrome I did most of my prep for the 2014 World Championships on a turbo trainer, thank God for external hard drives, I watched a serious amount of movies mid interval!


An awesome view from our apartment balcony in downtown Denver.



The 2014 World championships are weird in my memory.  Its pretty cool that I almost arrived at the same place on the podium but doing a totally different thing.  It was sad to be standing on the second step as opposed to the top one but my prep was far from perfect so I had to be content.  This might seem like cheesy plugs but at the races all I have to do is think about doing the best race. Grace gives me the positive mental state, Cycling Ireland get the best staff and support in place and my equipment sponsors are the best. Felt, Bont, Giro, USE and Oakley give me all the best kit, my job is simple really!  One thing that does stick in my mind is the lack of buzz after I won the Silver.  The Gold the previous year was huge and my phone barely stopped ringing for a month. It’s funny the difference one place makes. 



This photo was taken just before I went solo and gained a lap on the field 




This one, taken 15 minutes later.



I’ll leave it there for now, call back soon to find out my take on criterium racing state side, Commonwealth Games and what I'm doing right now.


M

Monday, 17 March 2014

Taiwan to Denver...thinking!

I’m typing this from the air. The chair in front of me is up my nose and the guy beside me has his elbow wedged in-between my ribs. This is the life! I’ve just completed the Tour of Taiwan minus the events of last year! My team mates did well and I did as well as I could.

Seriously though, I’m happy. I’m homeward bound to see Grace and I have all my bones intact, such a different story to 12 months ago.

I’ve done a lot in 12 months and a lot has happened. I’ve learnt a few life lessons and I don’t think I would be in such a good place right now if the past was any different. I’m generally a more grateful person and I have Grace to thank for that one. If I was left to my own devices I'd probably be popping happy pills and my cheap weighing scales would be reading “ERROR” at the shear horror of my ‘plates of meat’ maxing them out! Scary thought!

The leg break really opened my eyes to the fact that you can’t plan anything, you have to plan but you better have a plan B or be prepared to roll with the punches. 2013 was a twisted year, I had my best year on a bike and a few miserable dips off the bike, in real life! I was flicking through my photos when I found some photos of Joe McNally. It just keeps hitting me that he’s not around, not on this planet anymore! I’m on the road a lot and I work off memories and past experiences. There is still a side of me expect to see Joe when I head back to Dublin...I don’t know what to say about that right now.

I’ve won 3 World championship medals, a world cup gold and a European bronze, in the year and I’m still the same dude doing the same things. Funny because if you told me that 2 years ago that would have been it, retired, adios, au revoir, ciao! Obviously its not, i’m still here, living on airline food, energy bars and the odd burrito and I’m grateful doing it! The miseries I talk about above shaped my life for the better and I’m just happy doing what I’m doing. You never know whats around the corner, I’m just grateful that I might get to see it.



M

17/3/14

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

Hey folks,

Okay okay...I know I said I'd update this thing a little more often and never did, my bad!

Where to start since my last blog? A lot has happened and it has been in a similar trend to the rest of my year; up and down! The European Championships finished with me getting a bronze medal! I really pulled that one out of my hat as my prep was awful, but guess it turns out that all those Omniums I did pre Olympics didn't go to waste. At this point my memory is a bit rusty! From what I remember I headed straight back to Mallorca and used the Velodrome and sun wisely, next stop was Manchester, the home of British cycling.
European Track C'ships Bronze
European Track C'ships Bronze
With the usual routine of travelling a mere formality these days I was soon in Manchester and getting ready for another jam packed race weekend. On my cards was, 4k pursuit, points race and scratch race. Obviously going into the weekend the scratch race was my main event but as in life things change. First up was the pursuit qualifier and I wasn't at the races at all. Halfway through it was in trouble and reverse gear was engaged! No bueno! With the 4k done and no chance of a final, immediately followed the points qualifying! I don't know why I do it as it's just unhealthy! I started that heat with the sweat of the pursuit still pouring out of me and it hurt! Somehow I qualified, I won a sneaky sprint which placed me 10th out of 10 qualifiers, close! The day was average so far and I was in danger of becoming average at everything but the points race final soon turned that around. I still felt pretty rough and the race was a battle of will because I was close to packing it a few times as the speed of the guys early in the race had me under pressure. Thankfully I hung in though and at about half distance the other guys were not so quick and I started feeling better. Honestly at this point I can't really remember exactly what happened but I won the last 3 sprints by the fact I was off the front and charging for home. I need to thank David Muntaner who had the strength to ride with me and pick up points. Without him there and riding with me the Olympic champion Hansen would have won the race.

The points race result really lifted the pressure and the next days scratch race was more enjoyable. The problem was I'd left my legs on the track the previous day and my result was crap! I can't even remember it was that bad! I was soon heading home and I had a couple of weeks to be there and enjoy the normal life again. As with a lot of my details I can't really remember what I did but I hung out with Grace as much as I could.
World Cup Gold
World Cup Gold
Before I knew it I was back on the road again, next stop Ghent, cycling mecca! With the decent results I'd picked up, I'd got an invite to the annual Ghent 6 day track meeting. This was awesome, stuff I'd read about in magazines when I started cycling and now I was one of the lucky few!! I got myself there early so I could ride the track before race day and my first impression were "what the f**k!"... It's a mini track, 166 metres around and the banking was seriously steep. You could nearly lie on it and be standing up if that makes sense! As most of you know my race came to an abrupt end on the first night. I'd done a few races and shown my partner Marc Hester how rusty I really was. It was a shock to the system, the extra g force, the extra leg speed was killing me. Unfortunately I never got time to adjust and I was back on the deck again! In a blink of an eye I had went from mid exchange to sliding along the track in agony. I rarely moan and whinge but this hurt! I'd hit my hip that I broke in March and my leg was totally dead, agony! I made a pathetic attempt to get back on my feet but it was never happening, I was stretchered off to hospital. Thankfully X rays showed nothing broken but I was in a bad way.

As I type this three weeks later, I'm still feeling the effects! The race didn't go the way I had imagined but it could have been a lot worse. From what I've been told Luke Roberts crashed 10 mins after me and broke his femur and collarbone. When I heard this I stopped whinging!
What happened next was a reminder that life goes beyond cycling. While I was feeling sorry for myself in Ghent I got some bad news from Grace, her father Joe had taken a turn for the worst. I got myself to the airport and on the next plane home. Joe had been battling cancer since the start of the year. A battle that I was convinced he was winning. He did everything he needed to and along with his wife Breda they were doing an awesome job. They'd totally changed their lifestyles around, educated themselves and learnt nearly everything about the disease. From alternative to conventional they worked out what was best for them and ran with it. Joe never missed a day at work and very rarely said a thing about the disease he had. I am heartbroken to say that after a peaceful last few days on this planet Joe McNally passed away. He had all his family with him and it's something I will never forget. I regret never telling him how I felt, he was my best pal and I owe him so much. Himself and Breda gave me help and encouragement when there was no one else willing. The saddest part for me was that life goes on:-(
R.I.P Joe McNally
R.I.P Joe McNally
Within 2 weeks I was back on a plane and heading for a UHC team get together, the first for the 2014 squad. I reckon I was pretty mellow and was just going with the flow. It was great to catch up with everyone again though. Some of the guys I hadn't seen in 12 months!!! In this time, the team has gone from strength to strength; there's a new UHC women's team for 2014 which just shows UnitedHealthcare's commitment to the sport, along with all the other sponsors. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in this season. I owe the team a lot for keeping me on, especially given the current state of professional cycling.

Today I was announced as BBC Northern Ireland's sports personality of the year. It has been a crazy 2013...World Championship Gold, World Championship Silver, European Bronze, World Cup Gold and 2 National Golds!! I want to thank BBC NI for this award, it is fantastic recognition for everything that has happened in the last year and also for the sport of cycling which has been going through a resurgence in popularity. I'm really looking forward to 2014 with the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and hopefully the Giro d'Italia.

I've said it before but I'll say it again! I hope to keep this blog updated regularly next year, let you guys and gals know what happens when it happens!

Merry Christmas folks and have a happy new year! 

M

19/12/13

Friday, 18 October 2013

Hey guys and gals,

Breaking radio silence again! It takes a lot of mental effort for me to do this for some reason, no idea why. I actually love doing it once I get started; giving a little insight into what I do feels kinda good. As I sit and type this I have about 5 hours until I’m racing which I’m looking forward to. It’s the points race qualifier and its 80 laps (I think!) and the best 12 riders get through to the finals at 9pm. Hopefully I’m not one of the unlucky 4 who get shafted!

The last few days have been…..different! Instead of focusing on all the small things I’ve been trying to shift a cold I picked up last week. It started as a sore throat and within a few days it sounded like my voice box was right between my eyes, buried in my head!! I can breathe through my nose now which is a bonus.

Last week I spent some time in Mallorca going through the same routine I’ve been using for the last few years. Honestly, I’m not where I want to be fitness wise but then again I did break my hip this year! Not an excuse but its funny the little roller coaster I’ve been on this year. At the time I was worrying about career ending stuff but now I just worry about the usual stuff and the injury is almost a distance memory. I say almost, I still get the gangster limp every now and then. That’s just laziness though.

Enough of the history, the future is where it’s happening! I gonna hop on the rollers for a bit, get some lunch then head to the track. I’ll keep you posted at some point, depending on how wrecked I am.

Enjoy, 



M

18/10/13

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Road to recovery Part 2

3 months I reckon; it took me a whole 3 months to get to the point where I could do most things normally. At this point the Irish road race champs were on and I went up for a look. This really gave me a boot on the backside. I really missed it, seeing the guys getting stuck into racing made me want to be there. Hats off to Matt Brammeier by the way. Luckily I was at the point where I could train but I was at square one. My numbers were saying all the wrong things, heart rate up, power down, body weight up, every sort of number was wrong, proper baby steps.

I got about 2 weeks into my training plan when the team asked if I could do the tour of Portugal, this was the rocket up my ass that I needed. I was back training already but when I got that news I spat the Jaffa cake out straight away and got serious. Let’s be honest now, I've never been that skinny in my life but I had to set a new KG PB to even consider racing, especially in Portugal. My next few weeks flew past, I went to Mallorca with Grace for a training camp/study camp/honeymoon!! The weather was great and just what I needed, I went training and Grace went studying and there were no other distractions.

The next month of training and avoiding my usual feast of food flew past and before I knew it I was in Lisbon. Back with the team felt great and meeting the people I'd last seen months ago. It felt great but at the same time I would chuckle at myself and think "what the hell am I doing here!". It was what it was and I did the best I could, I tried my best to help the guys and survive and surviving is exactly what it was. I hammered myself but it all came to an abrupt end halfway through the race. Let’s just say I decided to let the bunch go ahead of me on a climb and I'd catch them on the way down, my usual involuntary climbing technique. This time though on the way down while playing with the team cars my front tyre rolled off. Picture this, 50-60kph on a slight downhill, going round a corner at a 45 degree angle and boom, it felt like someone had pushed an ejector button. I'm happy to say I bounced up straight away, my recently fractured hip took a good thump, helmet was a write-off and a good chunk of my skin is still in Portugal. After getting back on my bike I soon realised I was in pain. My hip/back were in agony and every bump I hit hurt even more. I had a banging head ache as well as my heart rate being close to my max. I had no other choice, I had to pack the race. Something I hate doing and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. With my race over I just got home as fast as I could and paid another visit to SINI! I'm sure they're thinking "what’s this fool up to now!". With a forced week of R&R I had time to get my head together. There was no other racing for me with UHC so track was my focus. Once fit, I got familiar with the free weights and carried on some of my rehab moves. On top of this I focused on shorter harder efforts for the Irish criterium and track championships coming up, I had a whole week of specific prep.
Time to blow the dust off this stuff! 
Time to blow the dust off this stuff! 
I turned up at the Crit champs in Cork city in average form. I was hoping for the win but at the same time was motivated to make it a hard race. Fair play to Blarney CC who put on a good, safe race and hopefully there will be more of the same in the coming years. There was 40 plus guys on the start line and there was drizzling rain in the air. I was in no mood for a crash so I went to the front from the start and stayed there for most of the race. With the odd bit of drama which I managed to avoid, there were soon only 3 of us left. Paidi O’Brien, Mark Dowling and myself. We rode consistently until the last few laps then tried to sort out the winner. It came down to the last few hundred metres and Paidi got me pretty comfortably. I hadn't my usual sprint and Paidi was the fastest man on the day, second for me and Mark was 3rd.
Criterium in Cork city.
Criterium in Cork city.
The Irish track championships are something I always like to do. Honestly, if the Sundrive track had a roof on it and training could be guaranteed I'd be there year round. I hate being this one off face but that's the way it is. I'm busy enough racing abroad doing the best I can elsewhere. Anyway, back to the races. I entered the Scratch and pursuit which are the races I like best. I was tempted to do the kilo but I just hadn't done any training tailor towards it and it would probably hurt me more than help me. First on the program was the 4K pursuit, I qualified fastest by a comfortable enough margin which set me up nicely for the final. It took place and couple of hours later and I won it. I should scrap that word comfortable because it was far from it. Anyone who says they like pursuiting and enjoy it is lying! They might enjoy the outcome but there is nothing enjoyable about the process.

Next morning was the scratch race, a straight final and a chance to show off my rainbow bands. It felt weird and slightly uncomfortable but the people at the track seemed to enjoy seeing them. It’s definitely a rare sight in Ireland. I thought the race was pretty good, there was some aggressive racing and I just raced the race instead of trying to show off. There was only half a lap to go when I knew I was going to win and it felt nice. It was nice to know that I was back in decent shape and I was looking forward to building on it.
First trip out in my World Champion stripes!
First trip out in my World Champion stripes! 
Next stop was Belgium and the international Belgian open which was taking place in Ghent. I haven't been on the Eddy Merckx track since I had first ridden on the velodrome. If my memory serves me right it's been 6 years! It felt funny because there were things everywhere that I started to remember, things that I had total forgotten or else choose to banish to the back of my brain. I got one day on the track before the racing started and it felt good/weird. It was nice to feel the speed again but there were parts of my legs screaming at me, bits that have been sleeping since February!
The racing started at 1pm the next day and my race started at 3pm. It was cool to be back in a lower stress environment but with a lot of the same faces you'd see at a World Cup. The Belgians are always friendly and the Dutch would always have a chat. There was also a big group from British cycling and they are........they are the same as always; professional and business like. With a solid warm-up and a bit of track time before the race I was ready to go.

First up was the scratch race and another chance to show of the rainbow bands. Unfortunately I didn't show them of the way I wanted too, I raced aggressively and got out of the bunch but my recovery wasn't what it was 6 months ago. I got away with a group of 5 lads but was on the redline, I cracked and went back to the bunch. Those guys got a lap and would end up racing for the win. It’s a good lesson to learn for heading into the rest of the track season - don't be soft!!! I finished the race at the pointy end though and was 5th or 6th in the sprint for the line, 10th place when the dust had settled.

The next day I had the pursuit and it was a slightly different format, fastest man wins, no heats just one race. In hind sight I was kidding myself, I had a schedule of 4mins 24-28 secs in my head and even though I watched nearly everyone struggle to break 4.30 I still though I could do better. Wrong, very wrong! Halfway through my pursuit I was looking to see how long was left and that's never a good sign. My cadence was dropping and I was giving it everything just to keep moving, painful! Once I broke the beam I'd clock 4.31, disaster! Once I cooled down and took stock it wasn't that bad. Far from what I wanted but only 2 riders went under 4.30 and they were solid, Huizenga and Cornu. I ended up finishing 5th.

With my racing done I watched the Madison while packing my bikes, reflecting on my weekend. It wasn't the outcome I've been used to but it's definitely motivated me to get my finger out and train even harder.

Next stop........I've no idea! 


M

10/11/13

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Road to recovery Part 1

Hey folks!

I thought it was about time that I said something! Its been so long that I'm not really sure where to start.

I just had a read of my last extract below and let me tell ya, that was a long time ago. Since then I've broken my hip, recovered, got married, got back on the road and picked up a few more national titles on the track. From reading the last blog I reckon I was 24hrs away from crashing and breaking myself! Little did I know how my season was gonna turn around.

Lets just say I had an experience in Taiwan after breaking my hip, there was a lot of obstacles that I had to figure out. Thanks to a few people in the right places I was able to get the surgery done, flights booked and home as soon as possible. Once home I was so relieved, the flights were a disaster - so uncomfortable, moving the slightest was a challenge. The initial weeks home were all new to me, after worrying about blood clots for a few days it was the basic things that were so hard. If I was a horse I'd be shot for sure! If Grace wasn't there with me I really don't know what I would have done, I'm willing to put money on the fact that I was even more of a pain in the ass to live with. She said nothing though and helped me with everything, and I mean everything!!!
An X-ray from when I got home, still freaks me out!
An X-ray from when I got home, still freaks me out!
With the weeks ticking passed I started to get a bit more mobile but I was becoming lazy! Half of me wanted to be back racing yesterday and the other half was happy to sit, eat and sleep! The 2 most depressing things were seeing a whole road season tick past and watching my left leg shrink! I would have a mini panic every now and then but I soon snapped out of it and got on with it. As soon as I could move my leg I got in the pool. First off I used the rehab suite in the Royal hospital, Belfast. I juggled that with a lot of time in SINI in Jordanstown, I would have been lost without their direction and would probably be months behind in terms of recovery. As I sit here and type this now I'm still not fully fit if I'm honest, walking down stairs is uncomfortable and I find myself doing a fall/run down them,works though!

As I went through the motions of rehab and trekking to SINI and back Grace and myself had a brainwave, what about getting married! Feel free to laugh, we still do. Express weddings are us! There was a few factors going on in our lives that made our decision easy, not to mention being nearly 4 years engaged. It just seemed the right thing to do and for all the right reasons it made perfect sense. All the people we wanted to be there were there and I loved every bit of it.
This is where I have to thank Grainne Brookfield, she never once thought we were a couple of nut jobs; she entertained every idea/u-turn/decision we made. The day itself was awesome, I look back and smile. It went from an idea to done in 3-4 weeks and I wouldn't change a thing. Our ceremony was a simple one in Joe and Breda's garden (Grace's folks). It was perfect, just what we were looking for and we owe them one, a big one! I'd like to thank everyone who turned up and made it the day it was. Grainne and Mike (her loving husband:)) put on a brilliant show that night and Joe showed us how awesome he is on the guitar. In my eyes the whole thing was perfect.
Wedding Bells...Me and my wife Grace
Wedding Bells...Me and my wife Grace
Call back soon and I'll fill you in on how my return to racing goes.

Cheers, 

M

7/11/13

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

HOLY MOLY!!

What a whirlwind! A LOT has happened since my last blog! I won two silver medals in the Glasgow world cup, signed for United Healthcare pro team in the US and I became World Champion!!

The last time I posted up, I was going through a pretty miserable stage. I didn’t have a great experience in London and only for a few key people I wouldn’t be where I am now! I hit my lowest point after I got back from the games and I didn’t cycle for a couple of weeks, I just ate and lay about really. To be honest, the Glasgow World Cup was my decider. It was going to tell me whether I was wasting my time at the track or if I was actually decent. Turns out I’m decent enough! My silver medals in the pursuit and scratch race really spurred me on. That and the fact that I now had a road team slot to train for. The United Healthcare contract came about with thanks to Andy. During the summer, Mike Tamayo, the Director of UHC was in Mallorca where his wife Lauren was training with the US women’s team pursuit. I met him and Hendrik Redant a couple of times through Andy and he saw me doing some nasty training sessions. To be honest he took a real gamble on taking me onto his road team and I hope I don’t disappoint.
Just after the Glasgow World Cup, I had my first training camp with the team in Arizona in November. It was really cool to be handed equipment and gear etc. It’s such a great set up and I walked around for the ten days with my jaw on the floor! The guys on the team were all great and they really made me feel at home. Even though I’m sure they were thinking “who’s this new fred with no results”!!

I was back home for a few days and then Grace and I decided to go to Mallorca to keep me away from the usual festive treats. The weather was great compared to ireland and I got much more cycling in than I would have at home. It was a lot of long steady miles for me, bootcamp for Grace! We spent a lot of time relaxing in Andy Sparks and David Muntaner’s new bar/coffee/bike shop. A really cool place and worth a look if you’re over that neck of the woods. www.cyclingplanet.es




After Christmas, I had my second training camp with UHC in Arizona again. This one was a little different. The team spend a lot of time looking after their sponsors so we had a few cool sponsor days where each sponsor came in and gave us a talk on their products.

Next up for me was Etoile De Besseges. I was expecting the Tour of Taiwan to be my first race with the team but when I was on the camp in Arizona I was told my first race would be in France in a couple of weeks. I literal dropped the muffin I was eating and stepped away from the dessert cart! It turns out it was the best thing for me in the grand scheme of things as I know I wouldn’t have a world champ jersey now if I didn’t hadn't grovelled my way around Besseges.

With Besseges done and dusted I was back home in my own bed with Grace beside me for a whole 2 nights! Then I was back off to Mallorca for some track training. It hurt really bad for the first few sessions but I got back into it soon enough. The taste and feeling of lactate pumping through your body is hard to forget. The time flew by though and before long I was in Minsk. It was -4 but I didn’t see much of it because it was hotel-bus-track-bus-hotel. Pretty much groundhog day until race day. Turns out it was worth the wait!

First up was the individual pursuit. Something that I was super motivated for in training and I knocked out a PB of 4.20 in the qualifiers so I knew I was in good form. I was up against Hepburn, the Aussie, in the final. He had done a 4.18 so for the finals I went all or nothing! I put on a bigger gear and figure I had nothing to lose. I lost! I went 4 seconds slower and he went 2 seconds faster. A lot of people thought I was saving myself for the scratch but to be honest I wasn’t thinking about the scratch. I never go into a race not fully committed and this was no different. So, I did the whole medal ceremony thing and was back on the bike in 30 minutes. I spent the first half of the scratch race trying to cool down! I guess it was a good thing that couldn’t go hard for the first half of the race. After 20 laps i started to feel strong and wanted to get out of the group. I knew I only had one hard hit in me so with 10 to go I said screw it and looked for a lull in the racing. Once i had a gap the field started tp split so I spent my time picking off 1 or 2 riders at a time. With 4 to go I saw Andreas Mueller on my hip. I thought there was a group of guys licking their lips and waiting to rush me on the line. I kicked hard and made life hard for Mueller making sure he had to go the long way around. He cracked before i did, I couldn’t believe it – world champion! I’m still pinching myself a month later!

After I got back, my world went crazy for a couple of weeks, I’ve never heard myself speak so much! It was really great to see how genuinely excited people were for me. Thank you everyone for your support.












I’m in Taiwan now and it’s a smack of reality…….I feel strong but I know I could be in better shape if I spent more time training and less time posing for pictures with my jersey! But, it’s not often you have a purple patch and I’ll take it while I can. I've spent a long time in the shadows. Hopefully I can help the guys out over the next few days and we can deliver a UHC win!
Maybe, just maybe I'll do my best to keep this thing up to date!

Cheers,

M