DONEGAL cyclist Mitchell McLaughlin has had his maiden season with Zappi Racing in Italy cut short – but is still managing to clock up 500km a week!
From a room in his Drumkeen home, McLaughlin – using a stationary bike and the Zwift training app on his laptop – is pedalling on.
Next weekend, McLaughlin will undertake a 12-hour Zwift challenge and aims to raise some funds for frontline healthcare workers at Letterkenny University Hospital.
“Our frontline staff need as much support as they can get as they are putting their lives on hold and at risk, while spending time away from their families in order to help patients suffering from this deadly virus,” McLaughlin told Donegal Daily. You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/12-hour-zwift-ride-for-front-line-staff
“I wanted to do a Mizen to Malin ride, but that isn’t possible now in the current circumstances. I will do a proper run of that when the lockdown is over.”
Last year, McLaughlin did Mizen-Malin in 21 hours and 35 minutes and will aim to get that time down to around 18 minutes on his next venture.
Last year, McLaughlin signed with Zappi. In the San Bernardinse race in Ravenna in February, he finished in the top 30 and was happy with his debut performance.
“Everything was 100 per cent at the time and I felt I was going well,” McLaughlin said. “I was getting to know how to ride as part of a team. It was a big jump for me.”
McLaughlin had performed most recently with the Four Masters Cycling Club.
In 2019, while riding as an A2, McLaughlin won the Cycleways Cup by three minutes before advancing to A1 level. McLaughlin won a race in the Four Masters League and took victory in two time trials. In the Tour of the Mournes, McLaughlin was fifth, having been caught only 200 metres from the line.
He arrived in Italy full of hope and confidence, but not long after his debut the rug was pulled.
McLaughlin remembers the early morning knock on his apartment door in Riccione.
“The team manager banged on the door at 5am,” McLaughlin said. “I was supposed to fly back home the next day. I had to change a flight because Italy was going into lockdown.
“I had a flight booked, but I had to change that. The airport was completely bad. The rebooked flight was completely wrong and i had to spend another €400 to get out of there. I was just glad to get home in the end up. I had to fly from Bologna to Luton and then from Luton to Belfast. If I hadn’t got that one, I wouldn’t have been able to get another flight.”
Italy has been one of the worst affected countries in the world. Only yesterday did the United States figures overtake Italy, where over 19,000 people have now died.
“There was no big fuss where we were before I left, but it was rising fast just when we were leaving,” McLaughlin said.
“The team manager and others had to get down near to Mount Etna and they live remotely enough so they’re not too bad either, thank God.”
McLaughlin is coached by Bryan McKinney from Belfast and had been enjoying his time in Italy before the outbreak of Covid-19. McLaughlin came home for the Donegal Sports Star Awards at the end of January and was gearing up for a three-day race that was postponed before he had to pack up.
“I was in the shape of my life,” he said. “I was flying when that happened. But I’m clocking up big miles now at home. Hopefully the Giro d’Italia will still go ahead in the summer. This is my last year riding as an under-23 and I want to get something out of it to get a contract for next year. Even if it was moved back a bit.”
McLaughlin has his bike set up a Tacx Flux 2.0 and, using Zwift, remains committed to a twice-daily schedule.
“Bryan is giving me different efforts every day to keep my fitness up,” he said. “When the racing comes back, I don’t want to be like a slug so I want to get near the top end.
“It’s more of less like the road doing this. I would train twice a day in Italy anyway. Only for being able to use Zwift, I’d have cracked by now. I can race away on it. The weight is daring off me – this is far faster than the road. I’m doing about 14 hours and 500km a week. Putting in the gradients into the turbo, it makes it just like climbing up Lurgybrack!”Tags: