Born just outside of Melbourne to Belfast + Dublin-born parents, 28-year-old Olympian and Irish track cyclist Shannon McCurley started her athletic career as a runner but an injury at age 14 cut that dream short. Not one to sit idle, Shannon pivoted into the triathlon circuit where she quickly realised it was cycling that had her heart and it’s been a strength-to-strength exercise ever since!
Shannon was the first Irish female track cyclist to compete at an Olympic Games (Rio de Janeiro in 2016) and now has her sights set on the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, to be held in July-August 2021. Today is World Bicycle Day and we spoke with Shannon about her heroes, fears and motivations!
Tell us about your hero
My childhood hero was [Irish track and field athlete] Sonia O’Sullivan. Purely because growing up I was a runner and she was obviously a standout and someone I looked up to. Not many people can say they’ve had the race to cycle alongside their heroes, but I’m lucky enough to have [done that] several times now. So that’s something special to me!
What keeps you motivated?
The biggest motivation for training is knowing if I don’t do my training my competitors are doing it and that’s all I need in my head to finish out those hard sessions. But when it comes to racing, I guess I love a big stage so the motivation to win is what drives me!
What’s your biggest fear?
My biggest fear would have to be letting people down. I know I’ve sacrificed a lot to be here but so many people in my life have put in just as much if not more. And this is what keeps me fuelled.
What’s a childhood memory that you look back on with fondness?
I guess my childhood was different from my friends’. I was always heavily involved in sports from a young age through my school. One [memory] that stands out was when I almost missed my school camp because I had a state championships cross country race on. But even though the camp had started and it was a 5-hour drive away, my dad drove me to the camp after I had won the race and I just had the best week with my friends after it. I was so happy that I didn’t miss my first school camp!
How has your training schedule changed under lockdown?
Pre-COVID for me involved structured training in the gym 2-3 times a week. On-the-road bike each morning keeping that base fitness and my efforts were generally done at the velodrome or the turbo [a stationary training bike].
At the moment things are finally starting to ‘normalise’ I guess you could say over here. But all my gym work is still done at home. Luckily enough for me I was still able to train outside on the road with one other person; this has also increased to 10 people [now] which is massive! And the velodrome has just really opened this week so I’m a very happy girl!!
What are your core tips for beginner cyclists?
5 tips I would give to a beginner cyclist would be:
- Buy a good pair of shorts!! Believe me, this is a must and you’ll thank me later! I wear Spin 11 - they are an Irish company specialising in custom cycling kits so they cater to everyone’s individual needs.
- Apply chamois cream especially for those longer days in the saddle.
- Anyone can get on a bike but just like anything you need to start slow and steady. Take it easy enjoy the scenery and build up a base before hurting the body so much that you can’t walk the next day,
- Back problems are a huge inconvenience for cyclists and the key reason for this is being on a bike that’s too big or too small and just basically isn’t set up for you. So getting a proper bike set up is huge!!
- Because long days in the saddle do affect the back, incorporating core and back exercises Into your training will help immensely.
Most of all just enjoy what you’re doing. Take in your surroundings when you’re out on the bike. See things you generally wouldn’t when you're flying past in a car. If you’re not enjoying it then it’s not something you’ll continue to do. I’ve been cycling for 15 years and some days are harder than others believe me, but I wouldn’t be doing what I do and at the level I'm at if I didn’t love it.
Head here for more info on World Bicycle Day and don’t forget to tag us in your cycling adventures on social!