He's Ireland's brightest young rider but Ryan Mullen is after medals, not praise

Sir Dave Brailsford is among those eulogising over the 20-year-old.

Mullen has been preparing for the season in Belgium with his team mates.
Mullen has been preparing for the season in Belgium with his team mates.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Updated at 07.00

SUCH HAS BEEN his meteoric rise to the brow of Irish cycling, Ryan Mullen admits his achievements of the last twelve months came as a surprise but now, as the countdown to the 2015 An Post Ras begins, he is determined to go through the gears and step-up his game.

Last year, Mullen, who was born in England and schooled in Wales, became Irish road race champion as a 19-year-old and then showcased his burgeoning potential by claiming silver at the U23 World Championships, falling agonisingly short of gold.

The rider who pipped him to the post – Australia’s Campbell Flakemore – was snapped up by BMC Racing and many expected Mullen would begin this season riding for a World Tour team as well.

However, Mullen is pragmatic, fully aware time is on his side, and has instead opted to honour his contract with the An Post-Chain Reaction team as he continues to learn his trade as an apprentice under the tutelage of Sean Kelly.

“I don’t really get involved in the hype,” Mullen told The42. “I didn’t really speak to any other teams because I wanted to do my two years with this team, it could be longer I don’t know.

“I want to improve myself as a road racer and this is the best place to do it but I’m just keeping my head down, remaining focused and training hard in order to achieve the best results.”

An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly Team Launch 2015 The An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly Team have been in Gent, Belgium for the last few weeks Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Mullen has been clocking up the miles alongside his team mates at their training base in Belgium and the 20-year-old will split his time between riding on the continent and representing Ireland on the track.

It’s a congested, unrelenting itinerary with the An Post Rás at the forefront of the schedule. The 2015 edition begins on 17 May in Dunboyne and Mullen is hoping to be on the start line of Ireland’s premier cycling event for the first time this year.

“The sport is thriving back home and although it was huge back in the 80s with Sean [Kelly] and Stephen [Roche] at their peak, there are a lot of young guys coming through now and it’s an exciting time and this year’s race promises to be a really exciting one.”

Following on from the hugely successful staging of the Giro D’Italia twelve months ago, the Rás will feature finishes in Carlow, Tipperary, Newport, Ballina, Drogheda and Skerries as organisers seek to exploit the sport’s surge in popularity on these shores.

“When I go home there are 40-50 cyclists out and it’s great to see. I always wanted to become a professional cyclist, it’s all I’ve ever known and hopefully there will be a new generation to come from this boom we’re seeing now,” Mullen added.

“Yet cycling is a funny sport. There is a lot of competition so you need a lot of commitment, courage and hard work and some luck along the way. It’s not always the strongest guy who wins the race or you can crash and anything can happen. Before you know it you can be out of the race through injury.”

Mullen has certainly experienced the highs and lows. Half a year after the heartbreak in Spain, the young sensation admits he still has sleepless nights agonising over the 48 second margin which saw him miss out on gold but the experience has strengthened his resolve.

“I’m extremely proud to represent my country and if I don’t achieve my goals then I’m hugely disappointed,” he reveals. “It’s only natural for me to spend 4-5 hours a day on the bike or in the gym maintaining muscle mass because there is always an end goal.

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Ryan Mullen breaks away to win Mullen is hoping to improve his results on the road this year after landing the national title in 2014 Source: Ciaran Fallon/INPHO

“You get up in the morning, have your breakfast and check the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s lashing rain, you just have to man up and get out there to train.”

Mullen will have the opportunity to go one step further when the U23 World Championships take place in Virgina in September but you get the feeling he’s targeting more than just one podium finish this year.

Sir Dave Brailsford – the mastermind behind British cycling’s recent successes and Team Sky’s manager – is among the high-profile names eulogising over Mullen and his raw talent.

Already an established time trialist and now an integral component of the An Post team, Mullen’s stock continues to soar every time he takes to the saddle but by his own admission, the hard work is only just starting to ensure he fulfils his potential.

“It’s really special to be riding with these guys and doing what I love but they all have their eye on the team as well so you can never take your eye of the ball. Only hard work will get you there.”

Originally published at 21.00 on 11 April

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Ryan Bailey

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