Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast’s Mark O’Kane is a young Irish mountain bike talent who is knocking on the door of a breakthrough season.
Sixth overall in both the Gravity Enduro Series and First Tracks Enduro Cup in 2018 – highlighted with a fourth at Rostrevor – O’Kane has shown both speed and potential.
Joining CRC Belfast for the coming race season, the 20-year-old is hungry to turn the pace in podium results during 2019…
Listen: Audio Interview
Mark, congrats on the CRC Belfast team deal, with race season just around the corner you must be looking forward to the year ahead?
Mark O’Kane: “Yeah I feel like it’s going to be a good year. I’m really happy to be a part of the new team like this and I know it’s going to be a great benefit to have their support entering the race season.”
How did the deal come about, when did you get the call?
“Towards the end of 2018 a guy within CRC mentioned that he’d put my name forward for an enduro team that was in the pipeline. That was initially the first time I’d heard of it. But then after a few emails and phone calls everything sort of fell into place and now here we are, ready for 2019!”
Although only just launched, what are your initial impressions of everything?
“Honestly, I’m really impressed with the setup and the equipment we’ve got from Chain Reaction Cycles Belfast. The Vitus Sommet is so nice. The team is super good too – there’s a good mix of riders across the board and I think it’s going to be a good year’s craic. It’s nice to be a part of a team like this. We’ve all seemed to gel pretty quick and that’s been really important, which is one of the main things.”
For 2019 what are your racing focus?
“This year I want to push for a few more podiums in the Under 21 class. The category itself is tough and stacked with talent, but I know I’ve the speed to get inside the top three and get some top results out there.”
The Under 21 class is arguably the toughest out there. Pushing for wins could also mean the overall too. Why is it a category that’s become so competitive?
“I think the sport of mountain biking has grown rapidly during the last few years and as a result more and more young people are getting into it. That’s just driven the competition and level upwards. Everyone is training a lot and working hard to progress – we all want to get faster and be the top riders in the years to come. I guess that’s why it’s pushed the Under 21s forward so much.”
Will investing in more MTB facilities help riders progress?
“Definitely. The new trail centres have helped too. Also, now that there’s more trails popping up all the time means there’s more places to go ride your bike and experience somewhere new. It’s all really good to see more places like Rostrevor setup in different parts of the country.”
We’ve got riders like Kelan Grant, Jacob Dickson and Greg Callaghan flying the flag on the world stage. Are they the ‘carrot on the stick’ in seeing what’s possible?
“We’re only a small country, but it definitely gives you confidence to see what they’re doing. We can all see what they are achieving from training on the trails that we all ride and so that makes you think that there’s no reason why we can’t strive to get there too. Watching what they’re doing really does encourage you to get that bit better all the time.”
What races are you looking forward to most in 2019?
“I’m a big fan of the steeper trails so some of the Gravity Enduro Series rounds and the First Tracks at Rostrevor are the ones I’m really looking forward to the most. I feel that’s where my strengths lie and where I can deliver my best results.”
Rostrevor will host the Irish Enduro Championship in June – what will it mean to put in a good performance there?
“I managed to finish fourth at last year’s round of the First Tracks Enduro Cup in Rostrevor, which pushed me on for the rest of 2018. Now that we’ve also got the Irish Enduro Championship there for 2019 there’s even more at stake. I’ll definitely be fired up for that one and giving it 100 per cent to get my name out there more.”