As part of a new series entitled ‘Faces of the Future’, we’re taking a look at the personalities, ambitions, and palmares of some of the young and talented cyclists you might not know much about, but you’ll be hearing lots about. Our first is Irish neo-pro Ryan Mullen.
The 2016 lineup of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team is currently making final preparations for this season at a team training camp in Spain. The youngest of those present is new signing Ryan Mullen, who has inked a two year deal with the team after racing with the An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team.
The 21 year old Irishman is one of the best young time trialists in the world and, all going to plan, will be a contender for major victories in the years ahead. Here’s what you need to know about him.
1. He’s best known for narrowly missing out on a World’s win
Mullen finished second to the Australian Campbell Flakemore in the world under 23 time trial championships in Ponferrada in 2014, losing out on gold by a mere 0.48 seconds. He has also had other near-misses; fourth in the 2014 individual pursuit at the track world championships and fifth in the 2015 European championship time trial.
However he’s also taken some solid wins too. Victories include Elite Irish national time trial and road race crowns plus the 2013 Chrono des Nations for under 23 riders.
Unsurprisingly, he’s probably best known for going so close to a world title. “I had many, many sleepless nights after that,” he said told CyclingTips. “It was pretty disgusting, to be fair. I literally went over every corner, every straight in my head thinking where I could have found half a second.
“To be honest, I don’t think I could because if I had pushed any harder in any of the corners I would have decked it and if I had gone any harder on the straights, I would have blown up.
“At the end of the day, as I said before, the best guy did win. Everyone rode the same conditions, nobody had an easy TT. I obviously wasn’t good enough on the day to win it.”
Looking back, he believes he would certainly have been given WorldTour contract offers had he won. “But I think if I had been offered it I definitely wouldn’t have taken it at all. I was too young and needed another year before stepping up.”
2. He’s likely to get another chance of winning the Under 23 gold
Mullen’s near-miss in Ponferrada stuck in his mind for a long time afterwards. He’d hoped to return last September and take gold, but admits he was too cautious in wet conditions and had to be satisfied with 11th, 49 seconds off the winning time of Mads Würtz Schmidt.
However, unexpectedly, it seems a rule change has handed him another chance.
“I read recently that WorldTour riders can ride the under 23 worlds. That would be pretty cool. It is probably going to be on a motorway in the heat. It is definitely not going to be raining, it is definitely going to be flat and there is definitely going to be wind, so win win win!”
3. He’s done his homework before heading into his first WorldTour season
Mullen’s Cannondale Pro Cycling team had a get-together in Aspen towards the end of 2015, and is now finishing the first proper training camp. He’s pleased with his winter and how he’s been feeling in Spain.
“The camp has been great so far. I really enjoyed it. There were some really good efforts in a controlled environment.
“As regards racing, I start in Mallorca, the four days at the end of January, and then I have got a three week block of training before starting the semi-Classic stuff and then all of the European stuff. I’m down for Roubaix and week-long stage races.
“It is not a heavy racing schedule. Up until the nationals, I think I have 24, 25 race days. It is a lot less than last year, but it is higher-level stuff. The idea is to bring me on gradually.
“Basically every two weeks I have got something, and I will have two weeks in between them. I can do a race and if I get my head kicked in, then I can go back to the drawing board for three weeks, train on that and then do the next race to see how I have improved.”
4. He’s already got a nickname at his new team
As the Cannondale coach Sebastian Weber points out, Mullen has wide shoulders for a rider. He explains why this is. “I used to be heavily involved in rugby. I am known as the rugby player of the team. It is because I am a big f**k!
“My nickname at the camp pretty much became Hercules.”
However he rules out any notion that he would dominate any training camp arm-wrestling matches.
“I am actually as weak as a kitten!” he laughs. “I’m just big.”
5. He’s a got a very specific choice in movies
“I love any history movies, anything based roughly on a true story. I just find that interesting. I am pretty big into all the recent movies along those lines. Inglourious Basterds is kind of based on the war, but it has a fictional twist to it. Fury was awesome.
“I recently watched Django Unchained, which is also based on previous events in the past. I watched The Revenant the other day.
“To be honest, I hate the fictional stuff. Star Trek and that sort of sh*t doesn’t do it for me…”