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One Of Ireland's Top Cyclists Has Enjoyed An Unusual Career

One Of Ireland's Top Cyclists Has Enjoyed An Unusual Career
By Conor Neville
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It's seven years since the Rás has been won by an Irishman. One of Ireland's top riders today is Mullingar's Damien Shaw - a man who didn't sit on a bike between the ages of 16 and 26.

A former cross-country runner at U19 level, Shaw only got back on the bike in 2010. Since, then his rise has been astonishing in it's speed.

I went from age 16 to age 26 without really getting on a bike. I did my first race in July 2010 and in the space of two years, I was at the start race in the Velodrome for the Paralympics. 2013 was a big year. I probably won a lot of big races then. I think I've just been good at listening and taking on information.

Shaw acted as a 'sight rider' for Irish paralympion Andrew Fitzgerald (a sighted pilot is required for a non-sighted rider) The pair earned a bronze medal in London. Naturally, they are targeting another medal in Rio.


An amateur, Shaw's day job as a fire fighter impacts heavily on his training regime.

I'm a retained fire-fighter. I carry an alerter and unless the alerter goes off, I'm quite free to do what I want in the confines of Mullingar. Essentially, within a 10 minute radius. I kind of fit a lot of my training in within a stationery bike and in the gym. If I get time off I can move off and train elsewhere.

By and large, it confines you to the area which is the most demanding part of the job.

The Rás has a much more international feel these days. Back in the 90s, Irish riders were utterly dominant, winning every year. However, since the turn of the millennium things changed, and Irish riders have won just three times, Ciaran Power in 2002, David McCann in 2004 and Stephen Gallagher in 2008.

Shaw is sceptical about Irish cycling ever returning to the glory days of the late 1980s. Even nowadays, the name of Sean Kelly looms large when and Irish cyclist travels abroad.

I dunno if it's ever going to be close to the 80s and early 90s. You had two of the top riders in the world who were Irish. On a domestic level there's a lot being done by Cycling Ireland and you only have to look at the national championships last year, you had a 19 year old winning the time trial and the road race.
Different times, look, Kelly is known everywhere. The second you mention you're Irish and you cycle, his name won't be too far away. Dan Martin is very special as well but you'll probably never be seeing what Sean Kelly and Roche have done.

This being an interview with a cyclist in the 21st century, inevitably, the question of Lance Armstrong and his admission he'd dope again if he was back in 1995.

I am fascinated by the story and I've read all the books. I think what he said yesterday, he was just being honest when he said he felt he needed to take that to compete. And you just have to appreciate the honesty more than anything.

While, the consensus  remains that the scene has cleaned up a fair bit now, Shaw admits to having suspicions about several of the cyclists he has ridden against over the years.


There are so many ways and means (of cheating) Yeah, I wouldn't say there have been any obvious examples but there have been cases all right. And you'd be surprised, even at lower levels. It's a bit ridiculous but that's just people's character more than anything.

There's nothing really obvious but you do hear stories afterwards.

The Rás runs from 17-24 May this year.

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