Patrick Casey Aiming To Take Advantage of 'Massive Opportunity' With Red Bull Junior Brothers Programme
Patrick Casey in action for Ireland at the 2023 Road European Championships (Images: SWPix)
Irish junior rider Patrick Casey is adamant that it's only the beginning for him after he was among the two winners of the Red Bull Juniors Programme last month.
An eight month scouting programme designed to find the next big talents for Bora Hansgrohe's development pathway, Casey secured a contract with Bora Hansgrohe's U19 team, Team Auto Eder, as well as a Red Bull Athlete Partnership that will see him wear a Red Bull helmet in the junior ranks in 2024.
Through Zwift and Strava, cyclists born between 2006 and 2007 had the chance to log their rides on predefined segments and apply to the scheme between February 1 and May 31, with the best of those riders invited to submit an application to the Red Bull Junior Brothers programme.
Twelve chosen riders were then part of a performance camp in Austria at the end of August and on the back of this, Casey and Austrian rider Anatol Friedl have been rewarded with contracts with Bora-Hansgrohe’s U19 development outfit, Team Auto Eder.
While admitting that the contract represents a 'massive opportunity' for him, Casey knows he must take advantage of the opportunity in 2024.
Patrick Casey told Cycling Ireland:
"I'm delighted. There's not really a lot else you could ask for (as a developing rider). I think it's such a massive opportunity, I'm over the moon. The whole package is brilliant, the most prestigious sponsorship in the sport and also a spot on the indisputably the best junior. You're at the place to be and you've got a hell of a partnership to go with it."
"It's the beginning, not the end. Obviously it's a massive opportunity to have and a real vote of confidence - you don't get on that team or associate with Red Bull if there aren't people who seriously believe in you as a talent and one for the future. It's the first step, I haven't really got anywhere yet but it's definitely (put me) in the right position to achieve."
Casey grew up in Yorkshire, United Kingdom, with his mother's side of the family hailing from Ireland. Moving into the junior ranks in 2023, Casey is proud to have represented Ireland in major events such as the Road European Championships last month.
His love for cycling started at a young age, developing into a passion that has brought him to top level of junior cycling. A versatile rider who can climb with the best and mix it up well in time trials, Casey has ambitions for general classification (GC) but knows that he must focus on his development in the coming years.
"For me it started with riding to school, it was always encouraged as a healthier way to get to school and where I lived is in a very rural area - the roads are very deserted - I started around 8 or 9 years old riding on my own to school. From a really young age I've always been on the bike for as transport or messing around with friends at the weekends. I got into a local club and it spiraled from there."
"For the future in terms of what rider type that I am, I'd say GC rider. I'm a capable climber, have good fatigue resistance, a competent time trialist. I think they all go well for that sort of role, but I don't think anyone's ever sure until your junior years or you've had a bit of experience at U23 level. I'd be surprised if I end up being a sprinter! You can't be sure, there's such a small market for those GC guys."
Racing in some of Europe's most prestigious junior races in 2023, Casey admits he endured a season of two halves that included some notable displays on Irish soil - including a round of the Road National Series and Ras Mumhan in Irish colours.
"It's been a year of two halves. I'm not sure whether it was me doing too much or whether it's just the place you're in now in how the junior calendar works now. That first half until June or July was the better half. I did a fair bit of cycling in Ireland. I did Round One of the Road National Series, Ras Mumhan with the national team. That earlier part of the year I'd say probably doesn't suit me as much with the classics and the more flat racing, but I was just a little bit more on it."
"I got to that second part after May and I at the point with the racing where I wasn't on it. If you're not at 100 percent now, someone is. Half the field is peaking and ready to go, so if you're not part of that half quite tough racing. The end of the year wasn't as strong as the start but it was alright."
Despite a challenging second half to the season, Casey concluded 2023 with a first appearance for Ireland at a major championships at junior level, competing in the junior men's road race at the ROad European Championships late last month.
Part of an exciting crop of junior riders rising through the ranks, Casey heaped praise on his fellow Ireland teammates at the championships as well as Trofeo Saarland and Ras Mumhan earlier in the year.
In the Road European Championships, Casey raced alongside Cal Tutty, Liam O'Brien and Adam Rafferty in support of Seth Dunwoody and Oisin Ferrity in a challenging junior men's race along a tight circuit.
"We had a plan going into the race that we were going to look after Seth (Dunwoody) and Oisin (Ferrity) and in the end we got 26th and 30th with those two. It's a solid result, maybe not in UCI points, but a strong performance from those guys. There was a fair bit of crashing going on, Seth and Liam had front wheel punctures. It was a fair bit of work to bring them back more in that supportive role. It was a good team performance, I think afterwards everyone was reasonably happy with how we worked together."
With the 2023 season in the rearview and 2024 bringing fresh challenges and a completely new environment, Casey is relishing the opportunity to get to work as he admits an adaptation period to a new setup, environment, equipment and culture in 2024 is a change that will take some worke. Albeit a positive one.
"It's a bit of a change of environment for me. There'll definitely be an adaptation phase, but it's a step forward in terms of environment, setup and support - new coaches, equipment, staff, nutritionists, physiologists, it's the works! Working in such a professional environment with the other riders is going to take some adapting to. It's a good change."
Find out more about the Red Bull Junior Brothers Programme here.