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'I went from just starting to ride a bike to the London Paralympics in two years'

Mullingar’s Damien Shaw talks his hopes for Rio 2016 and this year’s An Post Rás.

Shaw (left) with model Rozanna Purcell, David McCann, former Rás winner, Sean McKenna and Eoin Morton at the launch of the 2015 An Post Rás.
Shaw (left) with model Rozanna Purcell, David McCann, former Rás winner, Sean McKenna and Eoin Morton at the launch of the 2015 An Post Rás.
Image: Pat Murphy/SPORTSFILE

DAMIEN SHAW IS a walking advert for the saying: ‘It’s never too late to start ’.

Like many of us, the Mullingar native admits he was too caught up with the countless responsibilities attached to everyday life to think about keeping fit for a period of his life.

Having represented Ireland in cross-country at U19 level, he allowed his interest in running to slide but took up cycling in 2010 in the hope of losing some unwanted weight.

“I was getting heavy and I had to do something about it,” Shaw told The42. “I was too heavy to run so I tried cycling and within two months I was winning races so I decided to keep with it.”

Shaw, a fireman by trade, was bitten by the cycling bug almost instantly and before he realised, his new hobby had become much more than a handy way to stay healthy.

He pinpoints the decision to apply to become a sighted pilot on the Irish Paralympic team as a turning point.

That was the making of me as it exposed me to high level competition,” he says. “I went from the lower levels of just starting to ride a bike to being in the London Paralympics in the space of two years.”

Shaw teamed up with James Brown (visually impaired) and the pair booked their place in the 2012 Games before going on to win bronze in the Road Time Trial.

With a little over 18 months to go until the Rio Paralympics, Shaw is hoping to qualify for the second time but if he does so if will be with a different partner.

His new stoker Peter Ryan was a talented hurler before suffering sight loss at the age of 19, and Shaw believes the duo can go far.

“He has a lot of potential. We’re starting the process of qualifying now and there is a competition in Wales at the end of the week. From there it’s the world championships in Holland.”

James Brown and Damien Shaw celebrate with their bronze medals Shaw (right) with James Brown at the Paralympic Games in London. Source: Sport the library

On a domestic level, Shaw left Aquablue with Bryan McCrystal and Joe Fenlon in order to embark on a new challenge in December. The trio were joined by Roger Aiken, Ali Macauley and Chris Reilly to launch a new racing team — ASEA.

He admits it was a tough decision but the opportunity to work with the American-based company was too great to turn down.

With the 2015 An Post Rás (17 May – 24 May) fast-approaching, Shaw is aiming to peak at the right time and better last year’s finish as overall winner of the blue jersey for best county rider.

“It’s the pinnacle of Irish domestic racing We have a very strong team this year so if I could do the same and one of the team to maybe take a classification jersey or a stage win, it would be great.”

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Ben Blake

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