What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Talk: Irish Talent Philip Lavery

August 1st – that can only mean one thing. It’s stagiaire time. Almost 100 young men got the chance to realise their dream of riding for a pro team at the beginning of last month. Some have stepped up with big results and a precious contract for 2011, others have not. PEZ spoke to a man we’ve been keeping an eye on and who’s already racing as a stagiaire with a team that punches above it’s weight – AN Post. He’s 19 years-old, from Dublin – Mr. Philip Lavery.

In the month since his call up to the professional ranks, Lavery has raced well. Recently he finished a solid 31st in the UCI 1.1 Schaal Sels-Merksem. He’s now racing to hopefully get a coveted spot on the AN Post team for the Tour of Britain. As the 2010 season begins to wind down, Lavery’s is hitting its most critical period.

PEZ: Congratulations, Philip – tell us how you got into cycling, please.
My dad got into the sport 22 years ago; he gave up football and boxing – alcohol too ! – after bring inspired by Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly. He caught the bug – like we all do.

My brother raced too, he was Irish junior national time trial champion – his inspirations were Bradley Wiggins and Mark Scanlon. I grew up among bikes and going to races. When I was young I was a swimmer and cross country runner but when I was 14/15 I realised I couldn’t do it all and concentrated on the bike – ever since I was four or five I was timing myself around laps of the neighbourhood, so it was always something I loved.

PEZ: You were a track man?
I’m quite a chunky rider, I’m never going to be a mountain goat! But I think you slim down naturally as you mature into your late 20’s and early 30’s. Track was always something that supplemented the road for me. When I was a junior and racing in Holland and Belgium and getting wins, I realised that the road was where I wanted to be. Besides, there’s no indoor track in Ireland; so you’d go over to Newport in south Wales for three or four days, with the federation, then maybe tag along with a club group going over – there was no real structure to it.

PEZ: Which result gives you most pleasure, this season?
I’ve had wins (Kruiseke Wevrik, for example) but I was 15th in ‘Across Flanders’ for espoirs at Warregem; it was a Belgian under 27 ‘Top Competition’ and it incorporated many of the hills that are in the Tour of Flanders – Kluisberg for example. It was good to be competing, learning. I was pleased with how I rode there – half of the riders who make the top ten of the ‘Top Competition’ will go professional the next season. For example, Jens DeBusschere, who’s third in the standings has already signed for Lotto for 2010.

I made a bit of a mistake, I was riding them and going well, but then I left Belgium to ride Nations Cups and I was out of the spotlight. You can’t afford to do that, in Britain my second place in the Lincoln Gran Prix is a good result, but it’s not a UCI race so means nothing to continental DS’s.

PEZ: You beat Hamish Haynes to win the Tour of the North, in Ireland.
Yes, on the final day I went when the flag dropped – I’d had the jersey but lost it, the day before – I had really good form at that time of year and we stayed away all day.

Hamish was very gracious in defeat and since then I’ve seen him a lot in Belgium and we’ve become friends.

PEZ: What team have you been with, this season?
Look Cycling Academy; in 2009 I was looking for a team for this season, I was waiting for offers but thinking about maybe going to university. I got an offer from Eric Vanderaerden at Qin but felt their programme was probably going to be too big for me. The Look Cycling Academy is based in Belgium, it’s collection of young riders and we get good help.

PEZ: How does the ‘euro-cyclist’ life style sit with you?
I adapted to it straight way; I was over at the Sean Kelly house staying as an under 14, then under 16. I also stayed with Lawrence Roche in Spain, for a while.

PEZ: And you’re competing for AN Post already?
Yes, I was racing for the team on August 1rst at Buggenholt. It was a good race for the team, Kenny Lisabeth was second in the regional championship and we had Matt Brammeier and me in the break.

PEZ: Was the stagiaire placing a surprise?
No, I’d spoken to the Kurt Bogaerts from the team over the winter and he said maybe I could ride the Ras (major stage race in Ireland in May) for AN Post but when we looked into it wasn’t possible to ride for the team until August. It wasn’t a surprise but I’m very glad it came about. I don’t think that folks back in Ireland realise how good a team it is.

PEZ: What kind of rider are you?
I’m an all rounder, I’m not a great climber but I’m not a bad sprinter, especially from a small group – and I’m not a bad time triallist.

PEZ: And what needs brushed up?
I need to learn and improve my technique, I look at riders like Malcolm Elliott in England Patrick Cocquyt in Belgium, they’re in their late 40’s but so good – they ride with their heads so much. I ride with my heart a little too much, the red mist comes down and I’m away!

PEZ: How involved is Sean Kelly with AN Post?
He’s constantly in contact with our DS, Kurt – always in the background. It’s his name – and Niko Eeckhout’s – that gets the team such good invites. I was at university near where Sean lives and used to go training with him. He’s very approachable and when he sees potential he’s very willing to help – but he doesn’t throw compliments around, though. He’s a hard man.

PEZ: How’s your programme looking?
I have series of UCI 1.1 races coming up like the Sparkassen Giro in Germany and the GP Stad Zottegem in Belgium – I hope to show good form in those events. I’ve been selected for the Commonwealth Games and I’m also waiting on the Irish Cycling Federation to confirm my U23 Worlds spot.

PEZ: I see you have an agent, already.
Yes, Derry McVeigh is a friend of mine and when he started his agency I signed up. They did my website, have been getting good sponsors on board and have generated a lot of interest.

PEZ: Goals for the remainder of 2011?
I want to be competitive in the 1.1’s and the Tour of Britain, if I’m selected. Last year I rode the Tour of Ireland but was just hanging on. I want to prove myself to AN Post, then next year get on the radar of the big teams.

A young man who know’s where he’s going – we wish him well; watch those results for him. You can follow his progress at PhilipLavery.com.

A big thank you to Sportsfile – https://www.sportsfile.com, Darren Crawford & Stephen Mc Mahon for their photo contributions.

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