‘Nice to meet you, Sir.’
Dromore lad and Banbridge CC star Mark Downey needed to remember his Ps and Qs as he came face to face with one of his “childhood heroes” last month.
That was if he could compose himself enough to speak at all after fearing he perhaps had come across a little creepy when he got the chance to race against cycling legend (and Knight of the Realm) Sir Bradley Wiggins.
“I was warming up and I kept looking over at him,” Mark told the LEADER. “I think he knew because he kept looking at me as well and I had to look away quickly.”
When he wasn’t star-gazing, Mark was racing at round one of the prestigious Revolution Series in Derby against a host of the world’s top cyclists.
The 2012 Tour de France champion Wiggins teamed up with Mark Cavendish to win the Madison time-trial event and racing against them were Downey and his Irish counterpart Fintan Ryan, who managed to finish 16th out of 21 finishers - not bad for the new kids on the track.
“We knew from watching those guys that they were good but we didn’t realise that they were that super human,” he said.
“It was absolutely brilliant to race alongside them. Racing with Bradley Wiggins was surreal.
“I was talking to him afterwards and he is such a gentleman. He’s really down to earth and didn’t really know what to say.
“I just asked him if it was good to be back on the track and then he asked us how we had got on.”
Downey, normally a road cyclist, was keen to stretch his boundaries as his career continues on the rise.
“Any time we race, it’s usually a championship event so it was nice to go over there with no pressure on us and just get used to the atmosphere,” he said.
“We were just going over for the experience of racing with those world class cyclists.
“Whenever I go to race in our road races, I’m not nervous but whenever we go to those track events, I do get a bit nervous because it is all very unfamiliar. I had said to our guys that we need to be going to these events and getting used to racing in them. Once we do that, it can only be to our benefit.”
Becoming familiar with racing on the world stage could well come in handy for Downey, who looks like he could well have what it takes to reach the top.
He’s now targetting a place at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Banbridge Cycling Club teenager certainly has the cycling world at his feet and, mingling with the stars, his career seems to be full of endless possibilities.