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Dublin: 7°C Thursday 22 October 2020

The best Irish cyclocross rider in history aims for a 19th title this weekend… who is he?

Meet Robin Seymour.

Source: Cathal Noonan

HE’S A THREE-TIME Olympian, 20-time Irish mountain bike (MTB) champion, 18-time cyclocross kingpin, by far and away the country’s best ever purveyor of all the off-road cycling disciplines, but Robin Seymour is hardly known outside his hometown of Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow.

This Sunday, Seymour, 43, will aim for his 19th ‘cross’ title when he takes to the start-line in Ward River Valley Park in Swords and realistically, only an utter disaster would prevent him from achieving that, such has been his complete domination of it over the last two decades.

He has ridden professionally in the UK for many years but he’s back home now, earning his crust at Expert Cycles bike shop in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, the team he’ll ride for this weekend.

Not only has he ridden at an extremely high level, finishing 28th and 30th in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens respectively, he has been one of the driving forces behind raising the profile of off-road cycling here.

From a time when he would plan a race, plot the course, lay out the markers, take the entries and then single-handedly demolish a field of maybe only a handful of riders, he could hardly have envisaged then seeing the sport where it is now.

Robin Seymour Seymour in action at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO

“I rode for so many years and 20 people would be there at the start and there’d be only three races on the calendar a year.

“How things have changed; this year we had to cap the entry for a race in November and then we had the underage and women’s races on top of that. That was never the case before.

“Every year MTB and ‘cross’ are getting bigger; we’d have had 130 or 140 last year at the races but this year the numbers have doubled and that’s just in Leinster.

“It’s the same story in Ulster and Connacht has a great scene for it now as well. There is a whole list of races from September right through until January and they’re always well attended.

We’ve a load of juniors and youths coming up now too and they’re really working at it. It’s great for the future of the sport.

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Robin Seymour Source: Cathal Noonan

Mountain biking and cyclocross differ in the sense the latter races are held on shorter, lapped courses with several types of terrain, be it pavement, trails, mud or grass. They’re explosive efforts using different bikes, are more spectator friendly and usually last between an hour and 90 minutes.

Mountain biking events are much longer and could last up to half a day, and are usually raced on less varied and longer courses.

Seymour has only been beaten a handful of times in 20 years in either discipline at home, and the one man who has edged him, defending champion Roger Aiken, won’t be racing this weekend as he’s preparing for the An Post Rás later in the year.

Still, Seymour knows he’ll be beaten at some stage but he’ll just enjoy it as long as the hunger for competition is still there.

“I’m still enjoying it after all these years,” he said.

I said after winning my 20th MTB title last year that I’d draw a line under that. I’ve won 18 cyclocross titles now and I’m chasing more. I like round numbers.

“At 25 years of age you’d relish the challenge of chasing a fella of 43 like me but I enjoy the racing and the winning.

“It’s the preamble I don’t enjoy so much, everyone asking me the same questions, when will I retire, will I win. I nearly preferred when I was racing professionally and I was getting no results at all!

“But coming home and being at a high level has helped raise the standard here. Guys know what they need to do to beat me and the gap is closing all the time. Still, I want to get to 20 titles.

“So if I could get a 19th I’d have to go off and try to win 20th title then, wouldn’t I?”

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