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Introducing... Mark Downey

25/08/2014
Introducing... Mark Downey
One of Ireland's top track riders, European silver medallist, Mark Downey shares his cycling journey with us. 

My Rider Profile – Mark Downey

My name is Mark Downey, I’m eighteen years old and I live in Dromore Co. Down.

I was the type of child that was open to trying new hobbies so at a young age I took up the sport of cycling. My dad and I would take to the roads together on the tandem and I really enjoyed it so I began to take up cycling competitively.

I participated in my first race when I was eight and I still to this day remember what it like. Lining up at the starting line having those prerace nerves and the adrenaline going through my body I thought to myself from the star I would just goes as hard as my body will allow and try and leave all those competitors behind! That decision was wrong, there were four other participants in the race and I managed finish a worthy second place. The winner of the race was Daniel Runciman of my same club - Banbridge CC, who since became my new rival for the next two years of my mountain biking career. However at the age of nine I got my first road bike and that’s when I really got the cycling bug.

I remember going on leisurely spins with my mum and dad just wanting to constantly race them for the whole hour of cycling. I was so enthusiastic to get going and mark my territory.      

At the age of eleven I then competed in my very first Irish Championships, at this event I won the gold in the Time Trial and criterium but only placed silver in the road race, behind the victorious Shane O’hara. Little did I know this was the start of another rivalry through my youth cycling career. Here is a picture of Shane just pipping me to the line, from then on seeing this picture made me strive to do my best and become stronger in my age category.


I continued my path through the youth ranks very successfully winning numerous national titles and the only year I didn’t achieve a gold medal was in the U13 category when I simply wasn’t as strong as my rivals. When I was in the youth ranks it was all about making friends and just having fun with the race in the middle of it. I never took the racing too seriously as I was still at such a young age and for young youth riders today I would advise them to keep enjoying it and having fun because at the end of the day its only a bike.


Below is a photo collage of some of the memories throughout my youth career. The photo on the left it is taken at the starting line of the U12 Ulster championships which I ended up winning a silver medal.


The middle picture was the final moments of the U14 Irish Criterium championships, clearly my expression shows my delight at getting gold!


The photo on the right would be my most memorable moment of my youth career - representing Ireland at the Youth Olympics which was an amazing opportunity as a first year U16 travelling to the best racing in Europe. Unfortunately the trip was not a great success for me as I was struck down with a bug and was not able to perform to my best, however that was a day in which I learned a lot within the sport. You cannot control the uncontrollable and I just had to battle through the race knowing that I wasn’t at my best, yet I was determined to learn as much as possible and take the experience in my stride.


  

But then it was time for a change I was growing up and it was now time to race with the bigger boys as a first year junior. Although it was a huge step up from youth to Junior I was willing do what I needed to do and get stuck in.  My first year in the category my dad offered me a lot of wisdom. He was a former Olympian at the 1986 Olympics in Los Angeles and i took onboard everything he had to say as it would only make me the better rider. I continued working hard and picking up some great results such as winning the Ras Donegal and Stage one of the Junior Tour. All my effort and determination was rewarded when I was offered a place on Cycling Ireland Summer Track programme for the World championships in Glasgow. I absolutely loved riding on the track and it was showing I had a natural flair when I qualified by lapping the field. Seeing my name at the top of a world championships leader board really was something special and a moment I will never forget. I went in to the final race to go out and chase a world champions medal however after my exploits in the qualifying round I had taken a lot out of my body and only managed placing 15th in the final results which I was truly disappointed with. However when I sat down and revaluated that I was racing some of the best in the world I thought I was the luckiest person ever to be given such an opportunity. I came away from worlds track in great shape and a few more great results later in the year I got me selected to represent Ireland at the World Road Championships.


This was huge experience for me going to an event were I would see my idols cycle past me and to be living in the same environment and eating dinner with some of Irelands most talented cyclist - Dan Martin and Nicholas Roche this was truly surreal. Although this trip was more for experience than getting results, I finished 48th in the Time Trial which was really disheartening.  It was time to move on and up to a bigger and better 2014 season.

I had a very slow start to the 2014 season which meant not as much training at the start of the year in building for my goal in July the European Championships. I had based my whole year round it which meant not as much road races or endurance in the legs. I was resting to keep my body fresh as I could carrying no injuries until when I really needed to ramp the training up. After completing my school studies this allowed more time to train and focus on my goal. I was invited to Cycling Ireland camps in Majorca where we would follow a strict training programme in getting us ready for the Europeans. I worked hard and was very motivated in everything I was doing because at the end of the day I was going to the Europeans to get a medal and that was all I knew. We arrived in Portugal and the work had all been done in the preparation camps, now it was just a matter of resting and giving it my best.


All of this hard work and commitment paid off in the end. The race included an insane pace where I had also managed to crash I thought my chances were slim. But to find out I won a silver medal was surreal and standing on that podium getting the medal around my neck it finally sunk in just what I had accomplished. A emotional moment of goose bumps and tears – never to be forgotten. Working towards something that meant so much to me I was not going to let the crash get me down so after a hard fight I got back on my bike with so much support from the crowd it really gave me the push I needed to just keep going.


I can’t thank everyone enough at the Irish Cycling Federation for giving myself and all my team mates the opportunity to perform on the world stage and with all the hard work from the coaches ..... I was so proud to a part of such a strong community of workers.


I also would like to thank my family and friends for supporting through-out this year, it has truly been inspirational and it was your support that kept me going. Just coming home and letting the medal sink in seeing how much it meant to everyone was such a good feeling.


However the season isn’t just over yet, I also managed to justify myself that I still have the road legs by pulling the Irish National Time Trial championships out of the bag which again was a very proud moment in my career. The track was a priority for the year but to win this after the track is a dream come true and it just keeps getting better and better.


Until next time,

 

Mark Downey

 

 

 

 

 

 

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