Callaghan raring to be 'unleashed' on the world's mountains after refreshing home runs

The Dubliner stripped back some of the structure from his training routine and set out to enjoy his bike during lockdown.

Callaghan during a training session at Glencullen Adventure Park in Dublin.
Callaghan during a training session at Glencullen Adventure Park in Dublin.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

AS WINTER CREPT off on its not-so-merry way, Greg Callaghan was prepared to throw himself fully into the flow of a new season.

That wonderful feeling of a fresh start was all around. With a new team bringing him onto a new bike, the new decade was to be a chance to recapture some of his very best form.

Of course, as the meme goes, plans and 2020 are utterly irreconcilable. However, Callaghan’s craft demands him to literally adapt to terrain and rapidly whip himself to changes of direction.

The Dublin mountain biker has pushed himself as high as third in the world rankings on the Enduro World Series, making a name for himself with impressive tour victories in Australia, New Zealand and – in consecutive years – much closer to home on Carrick Mountain.

Before the winter off-season Callaghan was signed to a new team in Unior Devinci Factory Racing. His former colleagues in Cube bade him farewell after a 28th-place World Series finish with an incredibly warm press release – a form that usually makes an art form of professional, steely and curt language – hailing him as one of the world’s best enduro riders and thanking him ‘for amazing years traveling & racing around the world’.

Every good journey requires a stint at home too. The pandemic put a hold on Callaghan’s globe-trotting itinerary, but at least left him well-placed to keep working on his own time as he has been able to spend recent months in the Dublin mountains. His Rathfarnham root homestead and Three Rock’s trails within reach.

We could all curse the Coronavirus, lamenting disappearing paths that had seemed unshakable before us, but Callaghan has used the time to strip away structure and simply enjoy his sport.

“For the most part, pretty ideal place to be stuck, to be honest,” Callaghan, a Red Bull ambassador, tells The42 over a Zoom meeting this week.

“The positive side is it’s given me more time to gel with the bike and get used to the change in equipment.

“Back in March I was already chomping at the bit to get the season going. When you’re feeling good you want to race more than ever, because you want to show how good you feel. The more time that goes by, the more I want to be unleashed in a race.”

Recent weeks have seen the 28-year-old return to a structured training regime for a physically demanding sport, but lockdown had more than enough time for everything. Time to sit through The Last Dance, give the body a quality rest and also get on the bike for no reason other than to enjoy being on the bike.

“I got back to training, but it was more just for fun and doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

“Training because I want to train not because the plan says so. Maybe setting myself challenges on the rowing machine or doing cross-fit things. Stuff that doesn’t necessarily fall into the plan of a bike rider, but it makes me stronger and it’s enjoyable.

“I started doing quite a lot of virtual racing. That kept my competitive side satisfied as well.”

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greg-callaghan-feature Enduro mountain bike rider and Red Bull athlete Greg Callaghan takes his local trails at Glencullen Adventure Park by storm as he returns to training. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

The Dubliner was was reared around two-wheeled sport. He lists off a catalogue of relatives who raced either on motorbikes or self-propelled, counts Joey Dunlop as his sporting hero and his cousin Killian also placed in last year’s Enduro top 50. He followed his father onto a motorbike as a kid, but switched to downhill racing at 15 and took up Enduro at 19.

The competitive edge he mentions, along with a touch of searing honesty, recently brought Callaghan to describe his more recent form as ‘two pretty poor years, to call a spade a spade’. 2020 was to be a reset in itself for him. But on top of a new bike, new colours and altered setup, he has taken himself back to basics.

“It’s been a great chance to pause, reflect and come at things with a fresh perspective.

“That time training gave me what I wanted and gave me a chance to remind myself why I got into it, what makes me enjoy training, what I respond to. There’ll definitely be some changes to my approach after this.

“The last couple of years were tough, it’d be easy to look at a results sheet and think, ‘maybe I’m just off the pace’. But I know I have the speed, I have all the pieces of the puzzle to be winning races.

“It’s just a matter of putting those pieces together on race day.

“I feel I’m in as good a position as ever to put those pieces together. Just looking forward to getting the chance to do it.”

Source: Greg Callaghan/YouTube

The ability to enjoy his time on the bike may well prove crucial as this is a year with  precious little clarity on what pieces are needed on race day. The pandemic brought a screeching halt to the season as it was set to get under way in March. Enduro will go again with a start in August in Switzerland.  Cancellations, chops and changes mean some events have fallen away and some will take on a very different guise. The Chilean Andes, for instance, will be a very different prospect in spring than the southern hemisphere autumn.

greg-callaghan-feature Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

This weekend’s rain might bring a little familiar mud to splash around in after a hot summer gave Callaghan a dry track to play with, to test and enjoy himself.

“I’m normally not home as much this time of year. I normally do most of my riding at home in winter, in the the mud, so it’s been nice to see the trails when they’re dry.

“I didn’t know they were ever dry.”

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Sean Farrell

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