Shannon McCurley is the only specialist sprinter on the Irish women’s track cycling team. She specialises in the Keirin, for those who may not be familiar with the various track events it’s the race where the riders line up behind a pacer, which is usually a motorbike. The pacer gradually brings the group up to a high speed and then the cyclists are left to sprint against each other. It’s a an exciting, high speed event for out and out sprinters. The 22 year old is based in Melbourne and is currently taking a break as she narrowly missed qualifying for the World Championships. We caught up with her as she takes a short break and contemplates what to do next:
Shannon, you’re riding for Ireland but you’re based in Australia, tell us a bit more about yourself:
I’m Shannon McCurley and I’m 22 years young! I’m a member of the Irish track cycling team and right now I’m the lone female sprinter of the group; specialising in Keirin racing. In the last 12 months I’ve made the transition from an endurance athlete to a sprinter. It was a challenge I had to take in order to achieve my dream. It hasn’t been easy but everything is looking promising.
Tell us what happened in Cali, Colombia where you were trying to qualify for the World Championships?
I narrowly missed qualifying for the World Champs after a near crash in Cali, but that’s racing and I’m ready to come back stronger next season. It’s my first season as a sprinter but everything feels promising. I’m hoping for bigger and better things next season and beyond. After my short break I’ll get back into a training base on the road before hitting the gym and wattbike hard ahead of next season. I plan to be back in Europe at the end of June racing international GP cat 1 events in order to qualify my spot for the World Cups next season.
Where are you usually based and where do you do your training?
I’m based in Melbourne, Australia where I train alongside the Malaysian track cycling team under the coach John Beasley. I spend the race season in Mallorca training with Irish head coach Brian Nugent and his support crew. This has been great for me and everyone else and I believe it will pay off in the future as it has in the past.
How do you cope with the challenges of representing Ireland and living abroad?
I love that I’m able to represent Ireland and get the support from all my family and friends in both Ireland and Australia. It gives me the opportunity to travel the world and follow my dreams doing what I love. It’s hard at times being on the other side of the world for long periods of time but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take in order to achieve my goals of making not just my family, but the nation, proud. It makes it easier being surrounded by a great group of girls, including some promising young athletes like Josie Knight. She is definitely going to be a star of the future and I just love everyone’s attitude and dedication towards training and racing.
Tell us about the last few months and your switch to sprinting.
The last few months have been incredible. I’ve travelled the world; representing Ireland at the European Championships and at three World Cups in Mexico, London and Colombia. My main focus at these events is the Keirin. My best result for the season was at London World Cup where I managed 13th. The Keirin is an Olympic discipline and being a good tactile scratch racer in the past I was able to make the switch. Although now I really need to focus on strength and power training in order to match the world’s best sprinters. I’m defiantly not an athlete who wants to make up numbers in fields.
Can we expect to see Shannon McCurley in Irish colours at the Olympics?
I’m also personal trainer although work has had to come second to my cycling career for the next few years. My goal is to be an Olympian to be able to wear the Irish colours proudly. Rio 2016 is still not out of reach with some hard work and great results but I know my best will be 2020 in Tokyo as I’m still young and starting from scratch.
We wish Shannon all the best for the future She’s a talented young rider with a great positive, can-do attitude and one day we hope to be cheering her on at the Olympics.