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McLaughlin hopes 2012 season will deliver lucky break

Posted 20 February 2012

(Sean Kelly shares a moment with McLaughlin, whom he describes as a huge talent)

Donegal man Ronan McLaughlin is hoping to make his mark on home ground when the An Post Sean Kelly team returns to Ireland to defend its Rás crown in three months time.

McLaughlin is one of the quiet men on the team but his work rate is never in doubt and it will be a surprise if his talent does not see him secure a berth on the squad’s five man team for the home event.
This year is the 60th edition of the Rás and no less than four of its eight stages will take in parts of county Donegal including the gruelling ascent on Mamore Gap on the rugged Inishowen peninsula.
McLaughlin is certainly familiar with the climb which lies within striking distance of his hometown of Muff and he is relishing the prospect of putting that local knowledge to good effect.
“The Rás is one of my biggest goals for the year. The first half of the season is built around preparing for it and the Irish guys on the team are all hoping to ride it,” said McLauglin.
McLaughlin joined the team in 2008 and is now one of five Irish riders on the eighteen man squad which also includes under 23 national champion Sam Bennett, Sean Downey, Mark Cassidy and Conor McConvey.
“It’s very exciting to see the Rás taking in Donegal. There is not too much international racing on home roads so any of the Irish guys in the race will be up for results,” said McLaughlin.
“I feel good this season. This is the strongest I have been at this time of year ever. I put in the best winter ever and was lucky with the weather which was unusually mild and I am going to push myself from here,” he added.

McLaughlin was unlucky to puncture while riding well on the last climb at the season opening GP d’Ouverture Marsellaise and was not alone in being hampered by the snow and sub-zero temperatures that gripped the Etoile de Besseges stage race.

He put in a good performance at last week’s Volta ao Algarve where he was part of an eight-man break which was out front for more than half of the 194.2 kilometre mountainous stage from Castro Marim to Malhao.

A mechanical accounted for a large part of the twenty minutes that he lost by the time he reached the stage end summit finish, although he went on to become just five An Post Sean Kelly team riders to complete the event, finishing 120th in the GC.

“The training is done now and the racing intensity will bring on the form. I have a few intermediate goals before the Rás including the hillier one-day races in Belgium and France,” he added.

McLauglin in confident in his ability as a climber but recognises that he needs to improve his sprinting to cross the fine line between winning and finishing in the top ten in races.

“Climbing is one of my strong points and the type of climbs you get in the Rás and around Belgium are ones that I know I can do well. It’s my sprinting that lets me down. I can hardly sprint away from a dog,” he quipped.

 “I have been focusing on that as well. I have had a lot of top tens from groups of ten but I hope to change that,” said McLaughlin who has an uncanny knack for working his way into breakaways which go to the finish.

He introduced a lot more gym work and core body work into his training programme to improve his sprint and he is hopeful that the combination will yield the results which have eluded him.

Team director Sean Kelly is full of praise for the hard working Donegal man and believes that he has what it takes to make a breakthrough this year.

“Ronan is a huge talent and he works hard. He made a big improvement last year and is focused on progressing again this year,” said Kelly.
“If he can make another improvement like he did last year and get himself in the right position at the finish of races I would be very surprised if he did not get the results he is capable of,” he added.

McLaughlin meanwhile, is enjoying the set up in Belgium and has every intention of continuing to find his way into the breakaways which define race results.

“The Beligum set up suits me and my style of racing. If you want the results you have to look after yourself in the first half of the race or find the right breakaway when it counts,” he said.

“It’s not about waiting for it to come down to a sprint for me. If I can get away in a break with three or four guys it benefits me to do that. When you are racing against the best guys in the world you have the take the opportunities that come your way.

“Being in the break can help to bring exposure to the team.  It suits me to go in the break. Firstly, because I enjoy it and secondly because it gives me the best chance of getting a good result for the team,” he said.

Irish cycling fans will be hoping that he does just that on May 24th when stage five of the An Post Rás takes in his training ground with the 149 kilometre route around Buncranna scaling the category two Pinch Mountain ahead of Mamore Gap.

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