Ryan, congratulations on being January men’s individual winner of the Studio Velo KOM Challenge on Strava with175,921 feet (53,620 meters). It was quite a gripping battle between you and your rival Brian Toone of Alabama, really coming down to the last day. Only 362 feet (110.3 meters) separated you two at the end. You both had training for the upcoming racing season as motivation, but did the KOM Challenge contest add an additional incentive to what you accomplished?
I actually went about training in January similar to the last two years. The weather in Ireland had been poor so to get the good time in on the bike going to Gran Canaria makes sense. Over there, there are very few flat roads so any training you do will be hilly my nature. That meant that my normal riding was giving me a huge ascent count for the month (more than any other month I plan for the year). Having said that, when I got home, I was 8,000m+ ahead of Brian - a few recovery days on the trainer and some bike issues meant that he passed me on the penultimate day - so, yeah, I changed my training on the 31st a little to include a lot more climbing. It was close indeed!
KOM Challenge: You spent the month of January riding in the Spanish Canary islands, probably enjoying some good weather and great food. Describe a typical training day or two on Gran Canaria?
While I was riding in the Canaries, I still had to work - which for the period was 3 days per week. I'm a software consultant so a fast Internet connection is really all that I need to work. Two days per week are recovery by standard (so an hour or so on the bike) which is perfect for working and then I fit the rest of my job around the training days.
I tended to do a lot of 3 day on, 1 day off blocks there. The first day would be 3.5-4 hours with mostly Threshold type work, followed by two longer sessions with most climbs at tempo/sweet spot or in a group if there is one going. A typical day would be getting up at dawn (which at the moment is around 7:45) - breakfast, a bit of web/work stuff and then out the door by 9:30. Depending on the day's riding it could be 3 or 4 pm by the time I get home. Then eat, rest (snooze if I can), eat some more and then work/relax depending on how I feel for the rest of the day. It really is just cycling, working, eating and sleeping!
KOM Challenge: Riding there is a bit different than in your native Ireland, isn’t it?
The main difference is the climate and the length of the climbs. I live in on the south side of Dublin (Ireland) which has many great climbs close by, but the longest is around 15 minutes. In GC, there are climbs of every type - up to an hour and forty minutes for me. Also, training in the warmth (18-25C) makes recovery a lot faster than in Ireland at this point in the year - around Christmas in Ireland it was impossible to ride outside on the road - so it was just rollers/indoor trainer.
When you get up each day to a warm home and blue skies, the motivation is always there to train hard, even if you are a little tired. If it is grey, raining and very windy - getting in 5 hours can become a chore.
KOM Challenge: How did you become part of the Low key Hill Climber’s team? They’re based in San Jose, California – that’s a bit removed from Ireland. What’s the connection?
For the last few years I have spent a chunk of my winter in California - firstly due to work commitments, now, a little more due to the great riding conditions. The Low Key Hill Climbers run some great events out there and it was those guys that introduced me to Strava - so I just signed up with them.
And speaking of the upcoming racing season, tell us a bit about what’s on tap for you? Who are you riding for? What race’s will you be participating in?
This year is the first year I am focusing on road cycling. In the past I was a mountain biker and probably 50:50 between road and MTB last year. I enjoy the longer, tougher races and especially stage racing so it was a pretty logical move for me. This year I'm riding for the Giant Kenda Pro Cycling Team based in Taiwan. They mostly focus on the UCI Asia Tour races (mostly stage racing) and I look forward to riding some of the tours like Tour de Qinghai Lake - it will be at races like that that the many meters of climb I have put in will come to help me. My first race in Ireland will be at the end of February while racing in Asia should start at the beginning of March.
KOM Challenge: The Studio Velo KOM Challenge on Strava woman’s winner was Melanie Spath, also riding on Gran Canaria – we suspected you knew one another, which you confirmed with a link to your blog post on you wedding. Evidently neither one of you were cyclists when you met – how did you two hook up and what led you (both) to pro cycling?
When I finished college (Computer Science degree) I started a software company - we had a launch party and Melanie was a friend of a friend. We hit it off straight away. I had come from a basketball background (with a little martial arts) and she had come from martial arts so there was some commonality in sporting interests. Over time, I got into riding bikes and once I upgraded my bike, which she inherited, she was hooked too. I guess it is pretty unusual to have a couple racing at a high level that were not racers when they met... :)
Ryan, thanks for making it an interesting January – we wish you the best of luck this coming season. You can read more about Ryan on his blog.