Maciej Staroniewicz

Discipline: Off Road, Volunteer,
Gender: Male
Date of Birth:
Born: Poland
Lives: Dublin
Team: Epic MTB

Maciej StaroniewiczHaving been involved since 2013, Maciej (Max) Staroniewicz has stepped away from his role as cross country (XC) coordinator on the Cycling Ireland Off-Road commission. Despite standing down, Staroniewicz still very much enjoyed his time on the commission and his passion for the sport remains unbridled “cycling is still definitely number one in my spare time” he admits.

Staroniewicz did cycle competitively in his native Poland, but it wasn’t until he came to Ireland 11 years ago that he really started to take the sport seriously. When he arrived he joined Epic MTB and from there onwardsbecame gripped by mountain biking.

Richie Byrne was running the Epic MTB spins when Max got involved, and he had a significant impact on Staroniewicz in the early days “Richie had a huge influence on me in my first couple of years, and then our paths kind of went separate ways for a while, but at the beginning he was definitely a huge inspiration to me”. Robin Seymour and Martin Grimley are two other names that Staroniewicz singles out as having a strong influence on him during his time involved with Irish cross country cycling.

His involvement with the Off-Road commission began when former XC coordinator Fergal Kilkenny stepped down. This left his seat vacant and Staroniewicz, who had been racing on the scene for a couple of years at this point, decided he would take up Kilkenny’s post “there was nobody there who wanted to fill that role. There was no volunteers at the time, and I was really into racing and I thought it would be sad to see nobody taking over from Fergal, so I decided to do it myself and I put myself forward” he explains.

The first races under his tenure were in 2013, and the Epic clubman had plenty on his plate in his new position. In this role he had to coordinate the XC calendar, organise national series events, find clubs to host these events, help find ways to promote the sport, play a part in the selection process for the high performance teams and lots more besides.

Often, as Staroniewicz points out, if a club had already held an event in the past he wouldn’t need to offer as much guidance, although if new clubs or people are involved they may need his assistance “it really depended where it was and if they had done it before” he explains. More generally, Maciej had to be on hand to help anyone who had any cross country queries in the country “if anybody needed any help or advice, they would contact me and I would do my best to help”.

One of Staroniewicz’s favourite things about his time on the commission was all the people he got the meet and work with “I’ve worked with people from Northern Ireland, from here the Republic, from Dublin, from the west. So I’ve made friends from all over the country, and I think that was probably the thing I enjoyed most”.

He has also gained great satisfaction from some of the successful events they have organised, which he hopes has helped kept riders involved in the sport “seeing that you have 100 or 200 riders coming to an event and they have great fun. They go out and they say this was great I want to do this again, they stay in the sport”.

In fact, the National Championships that took place in Bike Park Ireland that Staroniewicz helped to organise stands out as one of his highlights from his time in the sport in Ireland “There was no club as such involved. There was the guys who run Bike Park Ireland, and there was myself so there was a lot of work around it, but we pulled it off and I think it worked really well. I got huge satisfaction out of running that event” he recollects.

Getting new people involved and keeping them in the cross country cycling community has been a difficult task Staroniewicz concedes, and he believes this is the biggest issue facing the sport in Ireland going forward “it is a struggle these days to get more people into the sport, and I think compared to where the sport was four or five years to where it is now, unfortunately there isn’t a huge change”.

As he points out, the arrival of enduro racing initially caused some consternation amongst the Irish XC community, “enduro completely changed the dynamics of the scene. A lot of people that raced downhill and cross country decided that they wanted to do enduro, so the initial year or two were quite difficult to get the numbers and get the interest in the cross country”. This has changed again recently with many of the riders who defected to enduro coming back into the XC fold, but the problem of attracting newcomers still remains.

One of the reasons why the sport has this issue is because many of the current events are too challenging for beginners as Staroniewicz mentions “at the moment the entry level to the sport is quite difficult, to go from not cycling at all to racing cross country is a major leap”.

Staroniewicz believes the solution to this problem lies in introducing more events into the calendar especially for newcomers to cross country “what we don’t have is smaller family friendly events that would be run around the country…I think we just have to reach out to the general population through those really easy to get to family friendly events”. However, he is also still mindful of the fact that they have to maintain the challenging elite events in Ireland and not reduce the difficulty of those races, as it is hugely important to “cater for all different riders”.

As already referred to Staroniewicz will not be on the Off Road commission going forward having left his post in September. The advice he has for the people still working on the commission is to continue trying to work together for the greater benefit of Irish XC cycling “I think it’s time to work together as a community so my advice to anybody taking over would be to work with everybody, listen to everybody, take advice from as many different people as you can”.

The desire to have more free time is partially why Staroniewicz has left his post “between travelling to events, spending time doing the admin work, it is a bit of a sacrifice of your own time. In those four years, I put a lot of my personal goals on hold. I couldn’t travel abroad to race myself as much I would have liked to, and I think the time has come that I want to do that while I’m still in good form and good shape”. One of the main ambitions he now has is to go travelling around Europe, but as he adds himself it’s still “to ride my bike of course”. Maciej Staroniewicz may have left the Off Road commission this year, but he will continue to remain a prominent figure in the Irish mountain biking community for many years to come.

Written by Graham Gillespie

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