Xeno Young

Discipline: Road, Track,
Gender: Male
Date of Birth: 9/11/1999
Lives: Lisburn, Co. Down
Team: Powerhouse Sport

Xeno Young2017 was a year in which Xeno Young proved he is one of Irish cycling’s brightest upcoming talents. His last year as a junior was one to remember, the highlight being when he won a silver in the individual pursuit at the World Junior Championships in Italy last August. That was the second major medal he had won that summer, having won a European U-23 silver in Portugal a month prior to his World’s exploits.

This season sees Xeno out of the junior ranks and ready to test himself against the best under 23s and senior riders in the world. The Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April will be a landmark moment of the Co. Down teenager’s 2018, where he will compete in the road race, TT, and the individual pursuit.

Young first took up cycling after watching it on TV, "I was watching the Tour de France actually, and just sort of thought it looked fun," he remembered, "I probably only started cycling because of seeing Mark Cavendish on the TV, which is quite funny because he is going to be racing at the Commonwealth Games, so that'll be kind of weird!"

Xeno was also a promising rower growing up but he chose to focus on cycling as he felt he had a better chance having a career in the sport.

“There’s no money in rowing. You can’t make a living out of it basically. You can’t become a professional rower” he explained.

It’s the competitive element of the sport that Xeno thrives on, especially on race day. He said he loves trying to push himself in training, but it’s not until the real thing that we get to see the best of him as a racer; “it’s funny, I find on race day I have so much more energy than in training”.

As already alluded to, the 18-year-old races both on the road and track, although he doesn’t find striking a balance between the two to be much of a challenge; “I think you can do so much with quite a bit of track training on the road anyways” he suggested, “and especially with doing the time trials, they kind of go hand in hand”.

Of course, it was in the individual pursuit that Xeno picked up his two silvers last year. He is unsure why exactly he is so adept at this particular event, but suggested that his rowing background may be factor in why he has flourished at the discipline, “I remember when I was under 15 actually at a rowing event: the Ulster Championships, and it was a three and a half minute race indoor. That was what so much of my training was when I was younger. It was short things in rowing, so maybe that sort of helped me”.

Reflecting back on his European success last summer, the Powerhouse Sport rider recalled the anxious build-up to the race, “I remember not getting much sleep the night before because I was nervous”.

Xeno obviously overcame these nerves and then in August added another medal to his collection, winning his World silver in Montichiari, Italy. This medal came in a whirlwind fifteen minutes for Irish cycling that also saw JB Murphy also claim a bronze in the points race.

“I think that was probably the best moment of my career because JB had gotten the bronze medal literally like five minutes before it,” said Young looking back, “his race was the race before mine, and I was like I had to one-up him! That was a great moment especially between the two of us because we’re really good mates”.

Indeed, striking up friendships with his teammates has been crucial in helping Xeno to alleviate some of the pressure that comes with elite level racing; “it helps you relax, so like leading up to a race you’re kind of getting scared, but you got your mates there and that makes it alright”.

Xeno’s dad also plays a significant role in his cycling with him running Xeno’s cycling team Powerhouse Sport, which is also a cycling clothing company. Furthermore, the Lisburn native finds that the dynamic of having his dad involved works fine, “Yeah I think it’s good, him and another dad are both involved in it, and I think the other one plays more of a manager on the road, while my dad wouldn’t be as involved in that side of it”.

At the time Xeno spoke to Cycling Ireland for this interview, he was away in Spain at an Irish team training camp. This is ahead of a season where Xeno will no longer be in the junior ranks and naturally his training regime has been adjusted in preparation for competing at a higher level, “I’ve done a lot more training and a lot more miles, just to get used of the longer miles that they’re racing, which I think is the biggest step up…I've been doing really long rides recently. I actually even did one on New Year's Eve. It was seven hours I think”.

There can also be a lot of downtime for the riders when away on training camps, and Xeno has opted to try and get away from just watching Netflix and make use of some of this time by making YouTube videos updating people on his training, “that takes a lot of the spare time away and sort of makes it a wee bit more fun," said the teenager.

For the Commonwealths in April, the Northern Ireland competitor will be hoping to compare himself against some of the English and Welsh riders that he knows, as well as against the World's best. After that, this season is about making an impact so that as Xeno said himself he can “make a living out of cycling and get on a big team abroad”.

If his 2018 is anything like his 2017, few would bet against him making this ambition a reality.

By Graham Gillespie

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