Dromore man David Montgomery isn’t expecting too much from his debut at the 2016 Cyclo-Cross World Championships.
The former Banbridge Academy pupil, who was recently announced as a rider for the An Post-Chainreaction team for 2016, is off to Belgium this weekend for one of the biggest races in his promising career so far.
Having raced the Zolder circuit earlier in the CX season, Montgomery knows the pitfalls that await as he races in the Under 23 category.
“I have nothing but the desire to do my best,” he said. “I’m there to give it my best shot but a bad start has you losing 40 places.
“The chain came off when I raced Zolder earlier in the year and I lost over a minute. Punctures happen, crashes happen and in a sub-one hour race, there’s little time to rectify things like this.
“I’m just hoping for a straight forward test of ability and no bad luck. I was four minutes behind the leader with a dropped chain at the same course on a World Cup race earlier in the year so to meet that with the higher competition at World Championships or exceed it would have me satisfied.”
Preparations for the event haven’t exactly been straight-forward, however. In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Montgomery found out Ireland were even intending to send a team to the event.
“It was a welcome relief to get the call up,” he said. “With nobody being selected last year (in fact I think Roger Aiken may have been the last rider to go in ‘07 or so) and nothing solid from Cycling Ireland at the start or middle of the season, it was touch and go.
“Although we’d been asking about selection from September, we didn’t get official confirmation until around two weeks before the event. This would be ok if it was always sure that a team would be going, it was just the composition of the team that was in doubt, but to have no idea whether a team will be sent or not right up until two weeks before the event, it’s far from an ideal procedure.”
The young cyclist was meanwhile busy riding in the CX World Cup series over the winter, an experience which has been an education.
“Cyclocross is a crazy sport,” he said, “something that needs to be seen in person in Belgium to be understood.
“Racing World Cups is like rolling up to the Tour De France on my own, riding round trying to get results.
“This is my first year doing any racing outside of the UK. Often GB are close enough to the top of sporting worlds, so competition further afield wouldn’t be a massive step up, but in the races I’m doing, GB would have a full team there and are still struggling to get in the top 30 in an elite race or top 50 in a U23 race.”
Once the cyclo-cross season reaches its climax, Montgomery will be all set for the road-racing season, when he will be racing for his new Irish professional An Post-Chainreaction team.
Racing for biggest cycling team in Ireland brings its own pressures.
Montgomery and his new team-mates though, have already been working hard to withstand the expectation, putting in between five and six hour days on the bike. And even with such a hectic schedule, combined with media responsibilities, the local man says it’s been a ‘brilliant’ experience so far.
He said: “I rode with a Belgian team last year and with the language barrier and general lifestyle/culture differences it was never really enjoyable.
“To be on a mostly Irish team this year is fantastic. They’re a really good bunch of guys and I think the strong team atmosphere will help us all when the races come.”
He is remaining tight-lipped about any specific aims for the season.
“Cycling, by it’s nature, isn’t the most organised operation, so at this stage of the year I don’t know my race program for the season,” he admitted.
“National Championships are always a solid target in the season so I’ll be hoping to make the podium (at least) in the Road Race and TT events. Being a part of the team will be a massive step in the right direction. The high level races I will get to do will stand me in great stead for selection for any Irish teams in Nations Cups or Euro/World Championships.”
Montgomery is the latest in a line of top level cyclists to come out of Banbridge Cycling Club. And he has a strong motivation powering him on to greater things.
He is currently on a leave of absence from studying Sports Science at Loughborough University. And he admits that his long term aim is ‘to stay out of the library for as long as possible.’