It’s been a great year for Irish mountain biking with riders excelling both at home and abroad. We’ve seen top six results in the world, World Master Champions crowned, a clatter of international success had and podium champagne sprayed.
In honour of such MTB greatness (and in no particular order), this is our humble salute to 10 of those who shone bright and won big during 2018…
Greg Callaghan – Irish Enduro Champion, 6th Enduro World Series
Sixth in the Enduro World Series, Irish Enduro Champion and selected as a Fox for the Red Bull Foxhunt sees Greg Callaghan remain as Ireland’s leading MTB rider. But for the Cube rider’s exceptionally high standards, 2018 was probably not as good as it could have been, especially when you finished third in the 2017 EWS. With his eyes set on the big prize this year, a shaky 23rd at the opening round in Chile set the tone for the year ahead. He bounced back the following weekend in Colombia for fifth and looked to put round one behind him.
However 19-12-13-23 results followed as he battled mistakes and unforeseen issues. But dig deeper in the results and his speed was always there – he just needed a number of things to go his way. Getting back on track for the final two rounds, he finished 10th in Spain and in Italy was in contention for third. At home, winning the Irish Enduro Championships will see him wear the national sleeve in the EWS for 2019, while riding as a Fox with Gee Atherton and Loic Bruni in Rostrevor was a serious weekend’s craic.
Jacob Dickson – Irish Downhill Champion, 38th UCI Downhill World Cup
Riding for Giant Factory Off Road, Jacob Dickson was Ireland’s sole campaigner in the Downhill World Cup. Promising results during his 2017 rookie season had him itching for big things this year. But, like many riders, he fell victim to the brutal boulder gardens at round one in Croatia and was forced to sit it out due to a hand injury. With a six-week window until round two, Dickson recovered, but lacked seat time heading into what would be a hectic schedule.
Finishing top 50 at Forth William in Scotland he chipped away at things, building pace to card 33rd at Mont Sant Anne. Away from the World Cup circuit Jacob squeezed in plenty of racing. He successfully defended his National DH title at Bike Park Ireland, finished second at Whistler Crankworx and carded 29th for Ireland at the UCI World Cup in Switzerland. Signing off 2018 with a win in China clearly shows he’s back on pace and already thinking bigger for 2019.
Colin Ross – World Masters Downhill Champion, Red Bull Foxhunt Winner
At 35 years young, Colin Ross has enjoyed what’s arguably his greatest racing season to date. World Masters Downhill Champion, a National title in DH and winning his fourth Red Bull Foxhunt ensured there was little left to be done for the Vitus Bikes rider in 2018. His crowning moment of course was taking the world title in Andorra on one of the steepest and gnarliest tracks around. The championship – a culmination of a lifelong dream – is even more remarkable considering Rosco almost never made it to the start line having been involved in a freakish training accident at Forth William that left him hospitalised.
Kelan Grant – 55th Enduro World Series
Fired up for his first full season on the EWS, Team CRC Mavic’s Kelan Grant jumped in the deep end for round one in Chile with vengeance. A bunch of punctures robbed him of a decent result, but he did manage a top 30 time on stage five. One week later in Colombia he claimed his first set of points with 49th before going 10 places better at round three for 39th. The highlight of his season came in Italy with 36th as he inched ever closer to the top 30.
However, just when things were looking up, Kelan was on the back foot when he crashed out of Whistler with a shoulder injury. Timing meant there was no time to heal up, so he was forced to soldier through rounds seven and eight for an eventual 55th overall. Bad luck then struck again at the Red Bull Foxhunt when a broken chain straight off the start line denied him the chance to defend his #1 plate.
Leah Maunsell – Irish Women Enduro Champion, 3rd EWS Women Under 21
At 19 years old, Leah Maunsell is already regarded as Ireland’s leading female enduro rider. At the Irish Championships in Djouce, the Kona rider was untouchable winning all six stages to take the title. That 94-second margin of victory is all the more impressive when you factor in that she was also dealing with a leg injury and four fractured ribs. Joining the EWS at round five, Leah was right on the pace too. Claiming three runner-up results at rounds five, seven and eight, she ended the series with a third place championship medal.
Gareth McKee – Irish Cross-Country Champion
Setting the benchmark in Irish XC MTB, it’s been another remarkable season for Gareth McKee both at home and on the international stage. At the National Champs in Castlewellan, the Cycleology rider successfully defended his crown, claiming a commanding four-minute margin of victory. With four wins from five starts, McKee also took the XC National Points Series (NPS) to cement his dominance at home. Abroad and McKee was equally fearsome carding many notable results on the Irish squad. A 48th place result at the European Championships at Glasgow ensured a place at the UCI World Championships in Lenzerheide, where he finished an impressive 83rd.
Robin Seymour – UCI Cross-Country XCO World Champion (Male 45-49)
A powerhouse in Cross-Country MTB, Robin Seymour headed to the UCI World Masters Championships in Andorra last July with winning intentions. Already a two-time champion he took to the start line of the Male 45-49 category favourite to make it three and didn’t disappoint. Back at home a month later he returned to the Da Cooley Thriller after a five-year absence and dominated, claiming victory in the 50-kilometre race by 12 minutes.
Dan Wolfe – 95th Enduro World Series
With a big pre-season of training under his belt, Transition’s Dan Wolfe began his EWS campaign with high hopes – and rightly so. In alien-like conditions at round one in Chile, he showed strongly in the anti-gravity dust for 43rd. Then in contrasting Colombian mud the following weekend, glimpses of his true potential shone with the 22nd fastest time on the final stage for an eventual 41st. Unfortunately a serious elbow injury back in Europe ultimately derailed his year and the chance of becoming a regular top 40 guy or better. But the show must always go on and although he couldn’t race, he could entertain by becoming a regular Instagram contributor for the Enduro World Series account.
Glyn O’Brien – First Tracks Enduro Cup Champion
In the First Tracks Enduro Cup Glyn O’Brien proved the rider to beat in 2018, storming his way to the title. Showing his younger rivals a thing or two, Glyn was on the pipe from round one, landing on the podium. At round two he hit his stride and despite consistent challenges was never headed as he swept the remaining three rounds to sign, seal and deliver the championship in style. A third place result at the Red Bull Foxhunt – his first podium since the race was last held at Cavehill in Belfast – proved O’Brien is just as competitive as ever.
Scott Wallace – Gravity Enduro Ireland Series Champion
Winning the Gravity Enduro Ireland Series capped off a memorable 2018 for Expert Cycle’s Scott Wallace. A model of consistency across the five rounds, Wallace never strayed from the podium, while collecting two victories along the way.
View this post on Instagram
Ohhh yeah!! 2018 PRO MENS ENDURO SERIES CHAMPION! Stoked to win the series for the second year in a row. Not the best of races for me today but happy to get 3rd behind @emmetcallaghan and @greg_callaghan. 📸 By @avdlphoto 😍 @yeticycles @enduraofficial @silverfishuk @expertcycles
Of course it’s hard to cut this list short at just 10 with so much talent out on track. The next generation of riders are already coming through with 15-year-old duo Chris Cumming and Oisin O’Callaghan tearing it up in Downhill – both claimed podium results at Crankworx, while Cumming also won the iDMS overall at Rostrevor and a national title.
Another standout performance was Jack Devlin who won the Ulster Enduro Championship, while guys like Ronan Dunne, Drew Armstrong and Harry Byrne had moments to saviour too. All told, if 2018 is anything to go on, next year is going to be full gas…