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INTERVIEW: Greg Callaghan – Your 2018 Irish Enduro Champion!

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Clinching the 2018 Irish Enduro title, Greg Callaghan stormed to victory in wet and muddy conditions at the National Championships in Djouce Woods. Overcoming a Whistler jet lag, a crash and a slow front wheel puncture, Callaghan held his nerve in testing conditions to win what would be the first official Cycling Ireland National Enduro Championship on record.

Going head-to-head with cousin Killian, it was his fastest times on the final three stages of six that ultimately sealed the deal for the Cube Action Team rider. With the national sleeve assured for 2019, it was time to catch up with Greg and learn how his championship-winning day really went…

 

Listen In: Audio Interview

 

Congratulations Greg on winning the 2018 Irish Enduro Championship, you’ve got to feel good about that!

Greg Callaghan: “Thanks very much, it’s cool to win it. I was very proud to have won it a couple of years ago and was disappointed not to win it last year. But now that it’s become an official title I was determined to try and become the 2018 champion. I’m really looking forward to wearing the national sleeve next year.”

How was your day – after a steady start you seemed to have the legs for the finish by taking the final three stages?

It was an eventful day because it started out stressful. I was still suffering with jet lag from Whistler (Canada) and woke up at 10am with a phone call from Rob Davis asking where I was, so it was a mad rush to get to the track on time. Once I got going it wasn’t much smoother as I had a slow front wheel puncture during the first three stages. I pumped it up hard to start each stage but was losing a good bit of pressure by the bottom. Also I had a crash on stage two, which added to the stress levels because I knew Killian (Callaghan) would be close. In the second half of the day I got my finger out and cracked on more. Little did I know how close the times were because we were level going into the final stage.”

 

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A slow front wheel puncture made for an eventful day – PC: Schwalbe Tyres/Anthony Smith

Is it tricky racing blind like that, not knowing times at the end of each stage?

“Yeah, especially when it’s a wet race where you’re slipping and sliding around because it means you’re not carrying a lot of speed and it’s easy to lose time. You finish each stage thinking the time was terrible but then you have to remind yourself that everyone else is in the same boat. You’ve also got no idea what the other guys are doing so you just have to keep pushing to the finish.”

Race conditions varied a lot from practice due to the rain. How difficult is it to adjust from a dry practice session to a wet race?

“Djouce can be a funny one because when it is very dry the dirt feels like marbles and the ground surface is very loose and not so predictable. While the rain wasn’t ideal, it actually made the conditions more consistent. As strange as that sounds you knew the corner was going to be slippery and so were prepared for it. Overall it wasn’t too bad, fun once you got into it.”

It was great to see yourself and Killian go head-to-head for the title. Do you enjoy that type of battle knowing that due to the short nature of the stages the times will be close?

“The battles at home are always crazy. Over a short two or three minute stage the racing is always close and intense. It’s really about who has that all-out speed on the day. On a 10-15 minute Enduro World Series stage fitness and so many other things come into play, whereas on the short and powerful stuff it’s about who’s got that top end speed. I think that brings a lot of guys to the front too and as a result you get close racing — it’s kind of nerve wracking to be honest, you can’t make a mistake racing at home.”

 

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Djouce marked the first official Irish champs for Enduro MTB – PC: Schwalbe Tyres/Anthony Smith

Djouce marked the first official Irish Championship for enduro, how important is that for the direction of the sport?

“It’s been great to see Cycling Ireland get behind enduro and recognise it as an official sport. It’s only been about six or seven years since enduro was introduced into Ireland and to see where it is now and how much it has grown is awesome. It’s the leading mountain bike discipline in the country and it’s a credit to Niall (Davis) and his crew to have brought it from nothing to where it is today. It’s great to have that sport here because it’s a country that suits enduro with the trails and hills we have.”

You last wore the national sleeve in 2017, what does it mean to have the opportunity to wear it again in 2019 – it must be kind of like a wearable trophy?

“It’s cool, it really is. The Irish are famous for supporting their own and so it’s cool to have that on me at all times. The year I wore it everyone always said it was easy to pick me out on the track because there was a big Irish flag coming at them. Even if people don’t know me, the support I get just from wearing it is incredible. They see the flag and cheer for me anyway and that means a lot when racing abroad.”

Finally, with two back-to-back rounds in Spain and Italy set to finish out the 2018 EWS season, what’s your thoughts leading into them?

“I’m pretty motivated to end the season on a high because I feel it’s not been my best by any means. The overall is tight ahead of me so potentially with a good score I can jump a few positions in the standings. It’s just how the EWS is at the minute, one mistake or mechanical on a good day can drop you down the running order so much and that’s kind of been the story of my season. I’ve been strong all year and ticked all the boxes but on the day little things have put me on the back foot. At this level you can’t be doing that, so I’ll be trying to pull out all the stops in Spain and Italy.”

 

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A big thanks to Schwable Tyres and Anthony Smith for the use of the images.

 

 

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Robert Lynn
robert@freewheelin.ie

 

 

 

 

 

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