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40th Anniversary Interviews - Kevin Monaghan

posted 1 May 2016, 11:35 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 3 May 2016, 01:18 by Site Admin ]
(By Shay O'Toole)
Continuing the series of interviews to mark the club’s 40th anniversary, this week’s “victim” is one of our longest standing members. Kevin Monaghan joined the club many years ago and in the following interview he tells us about his love of cycling. 

PRO:  How long are you a member of Lakeside Wheelers?

Probably longer than I should admit! I joined the club back in 1986 – wow that’s thirty years ago now - when it was called Mullingar Cycling Club. I’d been doing a bit of cycling on my own and had done the Cooperation North Maracycle in 1986.  I wanted to take it a bit further so enquired about the cycling club.  Someone – and I can’t for the life of me remember who – advised me to call to the Post Office and look for a lad called Joe Duffy.  And I did.  Needless to say, Joe did a number on me and before long I was kitted out in club gear and started saving for my first real racing bike.

PRO:  What attracted you to cycling?

I suppose it comes down to the fact that anyone can do it and equally due to the fact that you get back from cycling what you put into it, something you can’t necessarily say about team sports like football.  I played team sports in primary and secondary school and really enjoyed it.  I also did a bit of running at that stage but hated every stride of it!  After school I played a bit of football but didn’t like the difference between that and what I’d played in college.  I did nothing by way of sport for a few years and lost my fitness.  When I decided to do something about it, I looked around at different sports and cycling took my fancy.    Seán Kelly and Stephen Roche were making headlines on the continent and I began watching a bit of cycling on Channel 4, Phil Liggott was a fantastic commentator. I bought a cheap second hand bike and started to commute to work and do a bit in my spare time and got to like it.  A colleague in work did the Maracycle in 1985 and was raving about it.  He convinced me to do it the following year.  I upgraded to a slightly better bike, did a bit of training and sure enough I did the 1986 Maracycle.  After that I was hooked.

PRO:  During your early years you had a major success on the racing circuit...tell us about it.

Calling it a major success is probably stretching it a bit but I’ll take it!  After joining the club I started training with the crew.  We did a good winter’s training, meeting up with the Maye brothers from Clonard for long Sunday training runs.  By the time the 1987 season came around we were ready for racing – or so we thought!  My first race was the Beechmount Cup in Navan on Sunday 1st March 1987.  I remember thinking to myself on the way out the road on the first lap with about two hundred riders around me “what the hell have I let myself in for?”.  It was tough going but I made it to the finish albeit about 20 minutes down on the winner.  The following Sunday we raced in Maynooth and I finished in the bunch, a big improvement!  

The third outing was the Markievicz Cup in Sligo.  Joe Duffy and the late great Billy Smyth brought us down to Sligo and managed to convince the organisers that we should have a better handicap than we deserved.  We were let off ahead of the Senior B group, worked like demons around the two laps of Lough Gill and three of us, my club-mate Dermot Reynolds, Athlone man Andrew O’Connor and myself managed to stay clear of the elite riders.  When we turned the corner at the bottom of the hill on the finishing straight, I was third man in the three-man group.  I attacked and managed to get a gap and hold it to the line.  I didn’t raise my arms or anything – I think I sprinted for another 100 metres beyond the line!  And that was it, silverware in my third race.  Victories in bike racing are like hen’s teeth. I only had one other win – an evening race in Castlerea – and a couple of minor places.  But thankfully, I don’t measure success in terms of results.  It sounds clichéd but the reward really comes from taking part, the races, the training, the good company, the craic.

Kevin Monaghan on extreme left at the start of the 1987 Markievicz Cup in Sligo. His Cook Electric team mates are Leo Farrell centre and Dermot Reynolds far right.
Kevin Monaghan on extreme left at the start of the 1987 Markievicz Cup in Sligo. 
His Cook Electric team mates are Leo Farrell centre and Dermot Reynolds far right.

In more recent years I would regard the work I did with my friend and fellow cyclist Paraic using cycling to raise funds for charity as a far bigger success than any race win. The Spring Spin charity cycle raised in excess of €320,000 for charity in its seven years – something I’m very proud to have played a part in.

PRO:  What are the biggest changes you have noticed in the cycling scene over the years?

I’ve been cycling in one form or other for thirty years now.  When I started off I didn’t know anything about the sport and went almost straight away into racing, having to learn the hard way as I hadn’t come up through underage and junior ranks.  Cycling was on a high in Ireland the year I started racing what with the Stephen Roche triple success in 1987.  That brought a big influx of underage cyclists into the club which was great.  Those lads did really well under the stewardship of Joe Duffy, Seamus McGowan Billy Smyth and others and before long Team Cook Electric, as we were known, were being represented at senior, junior and underage level.  There was a slump in the early to mid-nineties and the racing scene all but disappeared in the club.   When the club was reborn later in the nineties as Lakeside Wheelers, the emphasis was more on leisure and touring cycling, which suited me fine as my racing career was over by then!   The sport has enjoyed a huge resurgence in recent years and it’s fantastic to see such huge membership in Lakeside Wheelers and to see so many new clubs springing up everywhere.  
Another change that has come about – and one that’s not so welcome - is the increase in the volume of traffic on the roads and the consequential risk to safety.  More cyclists and more cars can make for more problems but it needn’t be so.  We all need to share the road and respect each other’s right to be there.  The club has very robust protocols to ensure that club spins are as safe as they can be.

Another great change is the number of sportives available for club riders, especially in recent years.  Back when I started out there was very little by way of organised leisure/touring events.   The only one there was (Maracycle) got me into the sport. Today there are sportives almost every weekend and you don’t even have to travel too far to get to them.

Bike technology has also changed a lot and for the better. There have been three generations of frame technology since I started racing, steel, alloy and today’s carbon technology.  Coincidentally I’ve only ever had three proper racing bikes, a Raleigh made from Reynolds 531 tubing back in 1987 which I rode until 2005 and is still in the shed (on a turbo trainer), a Tifosi that I bought in 2005 with an alloy frame and a carbon bike that’s only two months old.7

PRO:  You are still very much involved in the club. What do you enjoy most, helping at races or working on the website? Why?

That’s a bit like asking if you’d prefer to be hanged or shot!   I like to do my bit for the club even if it means having to try to interpret the PRO’s notes and post them on the website! Seriously though, keeping the website up to date is a good way of keeping the club profile high and I enjoy it.  It would be dangerous to admit to liking helping at races, otherwise you run the risk of being invited for coffee and having the saddle subtly applied by the usual suspects – no need to mention any names here!

PRO:  Where do you see Lakeside Wheelers in the future?

I’d never have dreamed all those years ago that Mullingar Cycling Club/Lakeside Wheelers would have upwards of four hundred members.  Who knows what the future holds?  We’re blessed in Mullingar to have such fantastic cycling infrastructure available to us.  The Royal Canal Greenway and the Old Rail Trail are brilliant, safe and family friendly cycling routes and have the potential to make Mullingar and the midlands a real centre for cycling.  I would love to see Lakeside Wheelers and other local clubs take full advantage of these any future cycling amenities that come along.  Naturally it would be great to spawn one or two more professional riders although Paraic & I claim Damien Shaw as our discovery in Spring Spin 2010!

PRO:  What bike do you ride?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve only very recently invested in a carbon frame bike.  It’s a Look 675 Light.  I love it – sorry I didn’t do it years ago.  It’s got me back into wanting to go out on the bike so who knows, maybe I’ll shortly be back in action on Sunday and Wednesday spins.  I also ride a Cube MTB, which my family bought me for Christmas a few years back.  I love a bit of off-road cycling but must admit it’s gathering dust since I bought the new road bike!
Three bikes over thirty years
Three generations of bike technology cover Kevin's thirty years in the cycling game

PRO: Any cycling goals?

Just a few at this stage in my cycling career...
  • To get back into some decent shape and do justice to this new bike.
  • To ride the Tour of Flanders sportive in 2017 – my son Mark and I were to do it a few weeks ago but called it off after the ISIS terrorist attack in Brussels.
  • To get as many miles ( I still think in old money ) as I can on the cycling island of Mallorca.  If you’re a bike rider and reading this and haven’t already done so, get out there for a week’s cycling – it’s pure cycling nirvana!
Thanks for sharing your story Kevin and best of luck with the new bike. By the way, stay close to your phone as it is almost “saddle” time again with the Criterium and Two-Day fast approaching!