Rás winner reflects on momentous week

Overall winner Daire Feeley of the Cork All Human/Velo Revolution team receives the trophy from race organiser Ger Campbell and Minister for Sport Jack Chambers Pic : Lorraine O’Sullivan

I realised I might hang on…when my teammate patted me on the back and said: ‘You’ve just won the Rás!’ 

Fresh from becoming the first Irish rider in 14 years to win An Rás Tailteann, Mote Park’s Daire Feeley sat down with Dan Dooner to look back on an unforgettable week…

DD: Congratulations Daire on becoming the first Irish winner of the Rás since 2008. Has that sunk in yet?

DF: It hasn’t sunk in yet; I’ve been kept busy this week replying to messages and I’ve had a number of interviews with newspapers, radio and even RTÉ. I’ve been very busy but I’ve certainly had worse complaints!

First Irish rider to win the Rás since 2008…when you look at it like that, it really puts it into perspective.

DD: When did you realise the yellow jersey wasn’t coming off your back?

DF: It was only really with 200 metres to go in the final stage that I realised I might hang on. There are so many variables and a lot of them are beyond your control – crashes and things like that. It was only in those last 200 metres when my teammate came up and patted me on the back and said: ‘You’ve just won the Rás!’

DD: There were tears shed at the finish line. What was going through your head in that moment?

DF: I didn’t get a chance to think about it once I crossed the line because I was swarmed by people. I think that happens for a reason though…probably a good thing I haven’t had a chance to think too much about it because it could be a bit overwhelming!

DD: Where you aware of the support and reaction in Roscommon when you crossed the finish line?

DF: Well, I went in to get diesel in Casey’s on Tuesday morning…

DD: Did you get a discount?

DF: (Laughs) No I didn’t…I must get on to Jim (McCausland, Casey’s manager) about that! I went in to pay and people were asking me for photos and things like that…it’s just absolutely mental so it is. It’s some feeling when you do get a chance to think about it.

DD: The trajectory of you career had changed in recent years. Has your decision to come home now been justified?

DF: Look, with high performance sport in general you need a number of things in place in order for you to perform and if those things aren’t there you can forget about it. It’s all about results and the environment I’ve been successful in is this home environment with a team (All Human Evolution) who are basically like a family to me. Without that it just doesn’t work. I had my professional licence at the start of the year, and I just didn’t have that infrastructure in place and that environment and as a consequence of that I just didn’t perform. I decided to take a step back from it and thankfully I did because this result would not have happened otherwise.

DD: We talk about so-called amateur athletes in this county all the time from Roscommon footballers to the O’Rourke sisters and now you. Tell us a bit about the training you’ve had to endure though to make it to this level.

DF: Whether it’s elite level amateur racing here in Ireland or professional level, the commitment level required is exactly the same. Right, I’ve had a job on the side of that which supports me financially and I’ve had sponsors come on board but the training is exactly the same. You’re talking in the region of 20-30 hours a week not just on the bike but strength work too. It’s everything you put into your mouth. Everything you do revolves around your sport and if it doesn’t then you’re leaving a lot on the table. It doesn’t matter what the sport is, it’s a full-time commitment.

DD: What does a normal day for Daire Feeley look like?

DF: It obviously depends on the time of year but the bulk of the work is done in pre-season through the winter period. You look at your performance like a period so you have to build that base. The better base you have, the higher the peak you can reach. Training 20-25 hours a week and then the nutrition is very, very important too. An average training session of 5-6 hours could burn 5,000 to 6,000 calories so you have to eat as hard as you train at times and recover.

DD: Sounds like winning the Rás would have burned off enough calories for a night out. Did you manage to celebrate last weekend?

DF: No, I actually haven’t. I got into the car and went straight home after the race because the crowds were beginning to build in Mote Park and there was a big bonfire in the middle of the road down there (for his homecoming).

DD: How did coming home to that feel?

DF: Ah, just coming in the road and seeing all the locals there is an incredible feeling, and it puts a light on it, so it does. The socialising side of things usually takes place in the off-season around December, and you do need that escape too…but I’d be lucky to get four nights a year!

DD: Could you have imagined winning the Rás back in the early years when you first started out with Donamon Dynamos?

DF: No, certainly not. I suppose when you’re in secondary school you have a number of different distractions: you start going out, you discover women and socialising…thankfully I started to settle into the cycling at the age of 17 though.

DD: What was the turning point?

DF: Himself (dad Noel) bought me a brand new bike and I said to myself ‘Jesus this man is spending a couple of grand on a bike for me, so I better start doing a bit’. I started going out every day, ringing him to collect me from school early. My club cycling had started in a similar way when I got a bike one year for Christmas – another financial commitment from the man himself! On St. Stephen’s Day there was a 10k cycle on in town run by Donamon Dynamos and it all took off from there really. I started going out with them every Sunday morning for a spin to Ballyforan and they’d have to push me home because I wasn’t capable of completing the distance at that time.

DD: It didn’t stop with the 10k Christmas cycles though…

DF: It all took off from the Dynamos, but I remember the Rás coming through Roscommon town a number of years ago (2017) and I thought to myself that it would be lovely to compete in that in the future. Little did I know I’d end up winning the race…so yeah, it’s crazy so it is!

DD: What’s next?

DF: What’s next? Well apart from work, there’s about 20 bins of turf to be filled! Look, cycling is a sport where one individual wins the race, but the general public don’t know that a lot of that is down to the team. I have a great team around me and I owe them a twist so I’ll be in their debt for the remainder of the year. If they’re in a position to get a result, then I’ll be giving them every bit of energy I have. For them to sacrifice their own results over the five days last week…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay them. Look, we’ll take each week as it comes but after the week just gone, this season has certainly been a massive success and I suppose my cycling career has been a massive success because of this. We’ll savour everything we can get from here on it.