In August, Killian Callaghan from Walkinstown in Co Dublin was crowned U21 Enduro World Champion. He is the first Irish person to claim an EWS title. However, it hasn’t been an easy ride for the 20-year-old. Unable to get on a factory team, Killian had to hold down a job, while securing his own individual team of sponsors in order to make it each of the eight rounds of the Enduro World Series. We caught up with him to find out a little bit more about his road to glory.
We hear that you had no idea that you had won the U21 EWS title until you phoned home and your folks told you, is that right?
I usually text my parents when I finish a race because they like to hear that I’ve finished ok. I rang my Dad after the race in Whistler and at that stage I wasn’t sure about the overall championship points. I didn’t know if I’d done enough to win or not. He had it all worked out and told me I’d won the overall championship.
How did you react when they told you?
I was proper buzzing, delighted like!
Just became WORLD CHAMPION!!!!! Dreams do come true!!! Everyone that made this possible Thank you so so much!!! @hopetech @junglemassiv @santacruzbicycles @kennyracing81 @wildernesstrailbikes @mojosuspension @urgebike @fox @westparkfitness @point1athletic #mooneyshyundai #purepowersystems #cabletechservice #reaforkin #alanwhitecars
What were your expectations going into the 2017 season?
My aim coming into 2017 was to be world champion but to be honest I didn’t think I’d even be racing this year. It wasn’t up until the middle of February that I even had a bike to ride let alone have funds to travel and compete in a full season of racing.
How did you go about funding the season then?
Even though I’d no bike I went back training in early December, I couldn’t get a deal on a factory team so by the start of January I’d no bike, no gear, nothing.
With the help of my parents, we set about building our own team of sponsors. I’d do anything to be able to go racing. We sent out loads of emails and managed to get help from Santa Cruz, Mojo Suspension, Hope technology and WTB Tyres to build my bike. Kenny Racing gave me some mint kit too and Urge helmets gave me some helmets. But after that I’d no money to get to New Zealand and Tasmania for the first rounds of the EWS!
I had some very good private sponsors that helped me financially and without them it wouldn’t have been possible to travel this year. Ian Jackson of Pure Power Systems was my very first sponsor when I started racing and he helped me again and a good friend Barry Travers in Cable Technical Services helped me out a lot again this season.
Karl Tracey in Rea Forkin Auctioneers, Alan White Cars, First Auto Finance and Westpark Fitness have all jumped in to help me along the way too. I also set up a GoFundMe page and lots of people were very good to me with donations. During the year I got some help from Cycling Ireland to get to the EWS in Malliau in France.
In January I started working in Mooney’s Hyundai Garage on Longmile Road. Mark and Paraic were so good to me they gave me as much time off as I needed to go travelling to races along with some financial help, they’ve been legends.
After gathering up enough money then it became real that I was going racing.
You only took up mountain biking four years ago? How have you achieved such mega success in such a short time?
Yeah, it feels way longer than that!! Each year since I’ve started racing enduros I’ve set goals for myself. Each year I’ve been putting in more effort and the results keep improving. I think that’s pretty much it. I try to keep it fun and not take it too seriously. It’s not all about training you know.
I think for me anyway I push myself a lot harder and learn a lot more when I’m out with my mates trying new stuff and having fun.
What was your favourite stage of the EWS and why?
My favourite stage was stage 1 in Whistler, Crankzilla. It was 17 minutes long and was unreal. That stage was an important point in the championship as it’s is where I pulled back a lot of time on my championship rivals. I much prefer the bigger longer stages.
What does a typical week look like for you when you’re not racing?
When I’m not away racing I work Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 5.30. My trainer, Chris Kilmurray, usually sends me on a week plan. Mondays are usually rest days. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I do an hour ride before work. I then do my day’s work and go to the gym afterwards. Some Wednesday nights are out on the bike instead of the gym. On Friday I’d either have a mountain bike spin or else I’ll go to the skate park after work. The weekends are spent on the mountain bike. I’d usually two big spins on Saturday and Sunday. My training changes from week to week depending on what race is coming up and what travelling I have to do.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My coach Chris and my cousin Greg have been saying to me: “heels down, eyes up” and I’ve been saying that a lot to myself before the start of stages this year and it seems to work!
How do you spend your free time off the bike?
I spend most of my time working and training. That takes up all my time really. I like going out partying but that doesn’t happen much. If I had more free time I’d love to ride more variation of bikes, like go riding motorbikes, go to the skate park and get out to Ratoath BMX track more often.
What advice would you give to young aspiring riders out there?
Don’t listen to too much bu*****t from the keyboard warriors or the know-it-alls. Take advice from people who have your best interests at heart and listen to advice from older riders that have been there and actually done it.
Try to watch lots of videos on YouTube of stylish riders and when you’re out riding try ride like them.
Don’t start training too hard like going to the gym or getting too serious about racing until your around 17 or 18. Just go out have a lot of fun. Push yourself and your bike riding. Try and ride as many different cycling disciplines as you can, all the cross training helps! It’s not all about one type of bike and being super fit. I think young riders are better off buying a BMX than a road bike. All of the skills, bike control and fun that you’ll learn on a BMX will benefit you a lot more in the long run.
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