As Orwell's star female rider, Michelle Geoghegan makes the move over to Holland to join her new cycling team, Moving Ladies and prepares for her first big race of the season, the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad next week, we catch up with her and ask her a few probing questions about her cycling career to date. Last year, Michelle won the National Ladies League and narrowly missed out on a medal at the National Road Championships. She moves on to greater challenges in 2010, racing in UCI ranked events during her first pro season abroad.
What made you take up cycling and what was your introduction to cycling?
The car broke down. Only messing! Well I had been doing some running and was training for a marathon when I got a stress fracture. I used the bike as a substitute for my long runs and immediately loved it.
Did you do any other sports previously?
Yip. At school I was mad into soccer and basketball. Then a few years ago I got into running before finally taking up the bike.
Why did you choose to join Orwell Wheelers?
Only the best, eh!
Your first big win?
The Boot Inn.
What result/performance are you most proud of and why?
Defo the Boot Inn. A close second was racing in Belgium when my sister and mother were over visiting. I got into the break that day so it was kinda cool for them to see what it was all about. The Mammy was in charge of handing me water bottles as well – didn't get one all day but it was hilarious watching her try!
Other cycling career highlights?
Nothing could top the Boot Inn.
What was it like racing your first big race/tour (Tour de l'Ardeche)?
It was a brilliant experience and I learnt a lot in those 5 days of racing. I was kinda nervous on the morning of the first stage and then team manager Richie McCauley gave us our team talk and then I felt sick! Lining up with the best teams and some of the best riders in women's elite cycling was pretty cool. The parcours of the race was tough to say the least – mountains!!! Singing "the bear went over the mountain" in your head for hours – new respect for the groupetto!! It was also extremely hot!! I didn’t drink enough on the first day and completely lost my appetite for the rest of the race. Force feeding yourself pasta isn't much fun and I was pretty much running on empty for the remaining stages. It's amazing what you will put yourself through for that can of Coke at the end of the stage!!! Luckily though I have the memory of a goldfish so I signed up for more of the same this season – lots more.
Describe your career lowlights? (Worst cycling experience/s)
Easy - getting rolled over by a van. (Ed. Note : Michelle was involved in a serious crash during the Leinster Three Day 2008, when there was a touch of wheels in the bunch resulting in her suffering a badly broken ankle and three months off the bike. During her recuperation, she demonstrated her tenacity by continuing to train one-legged on her turbo trainer.)
When things go wrong (Or 'the one that got away')?
I like to learn the hard way so too many times to count!
What's it like living and racing in Belgium?
It's pretty cool. They love their cycling over there. The racing is brilliant – always 70-80 plus riders in the bunch with crowds along the road shouting on the riders. Because the style is kermesse racing, the races comprise laps of a short 5 to 6km circuit around a town so the atmosphere is usually pretty good. You will have the obligatory bad music and bumpers at the start/finish line which will never be far from a café/pub. The bunches nearly always include some of the Belgian and Dutch pro teams as well as the Belgian club teams. The races are hard and fast which is all good. Life in between the races is pretty dull though. Because there is so much racing at a high level you are doing little or nothing on the days in between racing. Flicking between the two English channels on the telly gets old fast but ya gotta do what ya gotta do! I also developed an addiction to Master Crumble (a muesli cereal with massive chocolate chunks) – so good!
Well the courses here are a lot more interesting than those in the kermesse races in Belgium and there is usually a bit of banter in the bunch which beats angry looking Belgians screaming at you in Flemish – ask Orla, think she still gets nightmares about it!
Who's the best rider that you have ridden against?
Eddie Lynch every Friday for our bashing sessions!
Who are the biggest influences in your cycling career?
Well I would say Paddy Doran my coach, the likes of Orla Hendron and Valerie Considine on the Women's Commission and everybody in the club because I would probably never have raced here or anywhere without them giving me a hand and opportunities.
Any other inspirational cyclists?
Well for me it would be the likes of Siobhan Horgan and Jenny McCauley who have shown that Irish women can compete at the top level of the sport of cycling in whatever discipline.
Favourite present day pro-riders?
Well in the men's peleton I think Jens Voigt is the dude. He is a machine! Give that man a cup of coffee and there is nothing he won't do! Then I have to say having been on the receiving end of Emma Pooley's climbing ability in France I think she is pretty cool (although I would have happily nudged her into the ditch at the time if I hadn't been so far behind busily blacking out!)
Present racing bike?
Carbon frame with Campag group set and Zipp 202 tubs (love them!).
Race day nutrition (Breakfast - mid race drinks - recovery etc)?
I can't eat porridge (childhood scarring) so I usually have pasta and a bagel for breakfast. Then a bar and a few gels in the race and depending on the length of the race and the temperature, a couple of bottles of a carb and isotonic drink, protein drink after and then usually just stuff myself for the evening.
Typical day's training?
Usually 4/5 hours out on the bike and that might include some kind of session like sprint, strength, threshold or VO2 all as prescribed by the one and only Paddy Doran.
How has your training differed this winter as you prepare to race abroad full time in 2010?
I spent more time on the bike this winter and worked more on my position on the bike with Paddy. Last year I was still getting back after a crash so I was doing a lot of swimming (anyone watching my butterfly might say it looked more like drowning) and I didn't have much of a season of racing in my legs so it was a more gradual careful buildup. I was able to do more strength work this year and better threshold sessions.
Do you use a power meter?
Yeah – I got my hands on a second hand power meter this year. I would definitely recommend them.
Do you believe in gym training for cyclists?
Well I wouldn’t really do any gym work. I do my strength work on the bike. I would have done some circuits alright.
What do you do to relax after a hard day's training/racing?
Eat and sleep.
What do you love most about cycling?
Hmmm – love lots of things. Love being out for hours thinking about nothing. Love racing and seeing how much you can put yourself through. Love that complete physical tiredness that you get. Love eating.
What advice would you give to a first year racer?
Just go for it.
How can they then turn good performances into good results?
Race and race some more.
Best cycling book(s) you have read?
In Search of Robert Miller by Richard Moore
A Dog in a Hat by Joe Parkin
Favourite cycling holiday destination?
Favourite tea stop?
Don't do coffee stops.
Most enjoyable Tour (non racing)?
The only one I've ever done was the Gerry Brannigan Randonne so I'll go with that one.
Tell us a bit about your new team for 2010- Moving Ladies in Holland?
Well, they're based in Holland and have a really good race programme so I can't wait! See www.movingladies.nl.
Will you get paid/expenses?
Nope. Expenses around the races are covered by the team and there is a local guy who houses the foreign riders but no €'s. I see lots of beans and crackers in my future!! J
What are your big goals for 2010?
Well first I want to make it onto the team for the big races. The team does a lot of UCI ranked races so I want to do as many of those as possible and see what happens.
Tell us a bit about your first big race this year- Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (formerly Het Volk), on 27th February 2010?
Yeah it's pretty cool to be doing that as my first race of the season! It's around the 125/130 km mark starting and finishing in Gent (Belgium). The second half of the race takes in a lot of cobbled sections and some cobbled climbs hitting max gradients around the 20% mark – should be fun! It is only the first race of the season though and I certainly won't have peaked for it but at this stage I just can't wait for the racing to start.
Meanwhile a pub quiz to raise funds for Michelle's season will be held on Tuesday March 9th at Uncle Tom's in Windy Arbour. Further details to be announced shortly.