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Ryan Mullen: “The ITT in Richmond is my biggest goal”

Cycling was an important part of Ryan Mullen’s family before he was even born, with his father riding as an amateur in Ireland for many years, so it wasn’t a surprise that Ryan got hooked early by this sport and began watching the Tour de France from a young age. When he turned 12, he started riding together with his father and the steps forward from that moment on came very natural, with Ryan Mullen embarking on his first road season in 2008.

The signs were more than encouraging, considering he won his first ever road race with an impressive display, leaving everyone behind and taking a solo victory. One year later, he got selected to represent Ireland at the European Youth Olimpic Games in Finland, another cornerstone in his career, which has been on the rise ever since, with Ryan Mullen confirming his huge potential in the individual time trial, a discipline in which he clocked up many noteworthy results.

As it goes, the young Irish cyclist came second at the European Championships in the Juniors’ race, before notching up his first big victory, in the Chrono des Herbiers, a result that got him a contract with IG-Sigma Sport, where he continued to make steady progress. His performances didn’t go unnoticed and in the following season he signed for An Post Chain Reaction. During his first season with the Continental squad managed by Kurt Bogaerts, Ryan Mullen took the U23 time trial title, as well as winning the elite road race, an astonishing feat which brought him even more into the spotlight.

Then, in September, he came as one of the favorites at the start of the World Championships in Ponferrada, but missed out on winning the Under-23 time trial title for just 0,48 seconds. It was a big disappointment for the Irishman, but he eventually got over it and came back stronger from this, confirming that he’s one of the brightest talents on the U23 scene and scoring another string of strong results, including the national time trial title in the elite ranking and a third place in An Post Ras, despite being hit by injuries and crashes during the first months of this season.

Now entering in a very busy period of the year and fully focused on the last weeks of the season, with the Richmond World Championships being the climax of his preparation, Ryan Mullen took some time recently to talk for Cafe Roubaix of his 2015 results and future goals. You can read all about it in the following interview.

– Ryan, you’ve been part of An Post team since 2014. How much did it help you to develop?

Being a part of An Post Chain Reaction has been amazing for me. I’ve been given a great racing programme and I’ve learned so much about cycling in the last year and a half. We ride a lot of the high level races and it’s helped me develop so much. Without the racing programme and the structure and support I’ve received I wouldn’t have got the results I’ve had today. Having Sean Kelly and Kurt Bogaerts as mentors helped smooth my transition from having no experience in UCI road races to medalling in the World Championships last year. I’m very grateful for their help.

– Since then, you’ve had your share of wins and defeats. Which would you say that was your top moment?

I would say my proudest yet most disappointing moment was definitely finishing second in the World U23 ITT Championships. Although I lost out by 0,48 seconds, it is something I will never forget and I’m very proud of that result. But at the same time it took me a long time to get over the fact that I was a blink of an eye off being World Champion. It was a huge moment for me in my career and it was the result of a lot of hard work that both myself, my team and my national federation put in. I was hugely disappointed I couldn’t win to repay them for all their hard work, but at the same time I am very proud of my silver medal.

– Were there any positives after that?

Yes, after that defeat in Ponferrada, I can say there were many positives. I learned to appreciate that in the future every little detail counts. But more importantly it made me realise that I have the potential to win this race one day. It put belief in me.

– Did you get any offers to turn pro at that moment?

There was interest from teams directly after the race. But I made the decision to stay with An Post for one more year so I could further develop myself as a road rider. I feel that at the moment, I lack the skill and experience of a World Tour racer, which was a big deciding factor in me wanting to remain at Continental level for another year.

– How would you rate your 2015 season so far?

This season is starting to go a little bit better for me. It started terribly. I was massively fatigued and run down from a hard winter on the track with the national team where I went to South America five times in the space of 10 months. I didn’t get any rest after the Road Worlds, I went straight in to a track camp. Things didn’t go to plan with crashes and injuries. I went to the Track World Championships in Paris and was below my expectations in getting seventh in the Individual Pursuit. After that, again, I didn’t have much rest as I was straight into the road season. It took me a long time to get going and I went without a single result for the first half of season. I began to doubt myself and my confidence was at an all time low after crashing out of the U23 Tour of Flanders. I had a bout of tendonitis for two and a half weeks after that, so I missed a huge block of racing and training. I came back with nothing. My team were understanding and still gave me good quality race days to build my fitness again before the summer.

– What meant for you to shine again at the Nationals?

It was huge for me to go back to the Nationals and win the Elite time trial. I was ill at the time with a stomach bug I picked up coming back from the Bake games, so to still pull off a result meant a lot to me. I really wanted to win the Elite time trial this year. I consider it one of my proudest moments in my career. There was pressure on me to perform on a hard course, with a little bit of jet lag added in to make things more difficult me for. I’m more proud of the Elite time trial title than I am of my Elite road race victory in 2014.

– How were the European Championships in Tartu?

The European Championships went pretty okay for me. I’ve just started back after my break and I was very happy to finish where I did. I came to the Championships hoping for a medal again. I was one second off bronze. It is disappointing for me to lose out by such a small margin again, but the bigger picture for me is the World Championships. After my break I lack road racing and that’s where I get my fitness and strength for the time trials. So to be so close with so little preparation is good for my confidence. Now everything is being built towards going one better in Richmond. But I know it isn’t going to be easy and I’m not for one second going in to the Worlds thinking I’ll get things for granted. I know it will be hard and I’m going to fight for it.

– So the time trial race in Richmond is a big goal for you.

The individual time trial in Richmond is the biggest goal of the year for me. Nothing else matters for me apart from a result there. I have some demons to put to bed. The course looks good. I won’t get a good idea of it until I ride it. But on paper it looks easier than last year. We’ll see how it goes. I have a good programme till then which should bode me well for any course no matter how hard it is.

– And besides that? Any other targets you have for 2015?

I would like to show myself in a road race at some point this year. I feel like every road race I have done this year has purely been training for a different event. I have a lot of road races this month, so to get a result in one of them will make me very happy.

– Where do you see yourself in a couple of years? What races would you like to win as a pro?

In a few years time, I’d like to be in the World Tour. I want to stay focussed on time trials. I think it is somewhere that I have the ability and physique to achieve results. It’s something I don’t want to let slip away. In the long run I would like to become a GC contender for week-long stage races. I know I’ll have a lot of work to do to get there, but I think with the right training, diet and attitude it should be achievable for me. If I had to name one race I want to win as a professional, it would be the World Time Trial Championships.

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