Archie Ryan: Ireland’s next cycling hope making up for lost time

One of Ireland’s most promising young cyclists has recovered from a lingering injury and moved to the Netherlands this month to chase major results. Archie Ryan is currently signed to the development wing of the top-ranked Jumbo-Visma team and is determined to make up for lost time after missing much of last season.

“I will based in Sittard, in the south, near Maastricht,” he told the Irish Times. “A lot of the international guys stay together there, the team likes to keep the devo [development] guys close. So I’m moving there, and will then head to the team training camp in Spain in mid-January.” The camp is due to start on Monday.

Ryan came to the team’s attention back in 2018 when, as a 17-year-old junior rider, he beat the world junior cyclocross champion plus the rest of an international peloton to win the hilly final stage of the Junior Tour of Wales. Reaching the summit of Tumble Mountain first highlighted his strong climbing ability, as did his third place in the final general classification.

Jumbo-Visma subsequently offered him a contract with its youth team for 2020 and 2021. It was a huge boost, not least because its WorldTour wing is one of the most successful outfits in professional cycling. Last September it won the Vuelta a España for the third year in a row with Primoz Roglic, while in July it took second overall in the Tour de France with Jonas Vingegaard.

Ryan’s first year went well with several strong performances. These included sixth and seventh on stages plus a fine eighth overall in the 2020 Ronde de l’Isard. However the flare-up of a long-running knee issue last spring complicated things and he only had five days of competition.

“It’s my ACL,” he explained. “I think it is something genetic. My mum’s had issues, my twin brother also had knee issues. So it’s just one of those things.”

Ryan’s last race was the Istrian Spring Trophy race back in March 2021. He withdrew from the event on stage two due to the knee problem, and was sidelined from competition thereafter. He consulted the experienced physical therapist Gerard Hartman and together they were able to rectify the issue.

“I’ve been doing strength training for the past four years trying to sort this problem and hasn’t been working. So we’ve taken a slightly different approach. It’s been brilliant – Gerard has sort of fixed me, thankfully. It’s feeling 100 per cent now. Fingers crossed this is it, and that I am sorted for life.”

The Jumbo-Visma Academy had sufficient faith in Ryan to offer him a one-year contract extension. He has worked hard over the winter to be able to repay that trust, and has set high goals for the season. “Specific targets in 2022 will be the Baby Giro and the Tour de l’Avenir,” he said, referring to the youth version of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France respectively. “They will be the two A races for me. To put it simply, they are the standout hilly Under-23 races where I feel I can perform.”

“I have a one-year extension for 2022. But I do still have a another year under 23 after that,” the 20-year-old explained. “Obviously, the goal is to go to World Tour at some point, which would be amazing. But if I need to do another year Under-23, I’ll do that. There is no rush. I’m just playing it by ear.”

The Wicklow cyclist is one of Irish cycling’s big hopes for the future. Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche retired last October and while the country currently has several strong professionals in the peloton, including Sam Bennett and Eddie Dunbar, Ryan and others represent the next wave of talented riders.

Providing he has no further injury issues, there is reason to believe he too will be clocking up big results in the coming years.


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