Ireland doesn’t produce many professional cyclists, but the ones they do produce are quality. Archie Ryan is the next Irish star in the making. The young climber has just turned 21 and he rides for the Jumbo-Visma Development Team, but he’s already had some opportunities to ride for the pro team, and he’s impressed in the elite ranks. In September, he raced in the 2.1 race, Tour de Slovaquie, and he won the 2nd stage against high quality opposition.
“Taking my first pro win was amazing, quite unexpected actually. I came into the race with no pressure of results, just let’s make it a really hard race and see what we can do in the finale, and I just had brilliant legs all day. It was one of those days where you don’t suffer at all and are completely in control. I managed to get away with a group on the final cobbled climb through the finish, we were away before another group caught us with 1km to go, and I was waiting for the boys to come around with Koen (Bouwman) so I could give him a lead out, but it all kicked off before they got there so I went for it. De Bod opened up early with like 500m to go up the cobbled climb, so I managed to use it as a good lead out and held off Vansevenant and Fortunato, I was waiting for them to come around! It was a bit of a shock, but it was so cool and to share that moment with the lads was just really special, definitely won’t ever forget that.
I learn a lot from riding with the boys in the pro team and I think it’s really important to get some experience in higher level races, it really brings you on as a rider. It’s also really nice racing with different people as well, it’s cool to get to know new people and learn from them, it’s fun.
Yeah, for sure I hope to race more with the pro team this year, I think it’s super beneficial and will help me develop more as a rider.”
Taking his first pro win must have been an amazing moment for the young Irishman, especially as he started the season with modest ambition.
“My goal for the year was to show what I’m capable of, after a couple years out with injury I didn’t get to show what I thought I could do. My main target for the year was l’Avenir, and to target other stage races where I could ride GC.
I had a good start to the season, and was in really good form actually. Started off with 7th overall in Istrian Spring Trophy before getting covid, and then had a solid race in Palio del Recioto getting 7th with my teammate Johannes (Staune-Mittet) in 3rd, after crashing out of contention in Belvedere the day before. Then 11th in Fleche Ardennaise and the legs were getting better and better to the point where I thought I was gonna turn up to Alpes Isere and Oberösterreich Rundfahrt and really contend for GC, but got sick before Isere and missed it, and took a while for my legs to come back after that illness. I really crept around races for the next month.”
It was the second half of the year when everything clicked into place and Archie was able to show just what he’s capable of. The Sazka Tour took place at the start of August, it was Archie’s first taste of 2.1 racing, and he ended the race in 6th place on GC.
“I was really happy, the legs had come back to a good level after a good training period in July, and it was nice to show myself in a “pro” level race that I could be up there and mix it with some big names.”
Then it was off to Tour de l’Avenir, the biggest race on the under 23 calendar. This was to be Archie’s first ever appearance at the race, and he was desperate to put on a show, and he did exactly that with 4th on GC and 2nd in stage 8.
“It’s a super hectic race, just surviving the race to get to the mountains is an achievement as everyone is thinking this race is their opportunity to get a contract. It was nice to show what I could in the biggest u23 race in the world and was actually quite special doing it with the national team. The staff worked hard behind the scenes to get us to there and the boys were great all race, so it was really cool to be up there in the Irish jersey. My second place on La Toussuire was a really tough stage but I was feeling great, I really thought I had that stage in the bag when it was coming down to a sprint, but Cian was just class, he’s super strong. I was a bit gutted but after some time I was quite proud to show what I could do.”
Archie’s final race of the season was Ronde de l’Isard and he rounded off a brilliant season with his second stage win and 8th on GC.
“Yeah, that was really cool to get another win before the season ended. I was riding in full domestique mode for my teammate Johannes, who’s a class act (ended up winning the thing), and after working for him during the stage I managed to have the legs to get away and get the win, with him taking second, so that was pretty special. At that point we were down to just 4 riders so it was cool to share the experience together.
I’m super happy about the season, especially the second half. I feel like I was able to show what I’m capable of and put myself out there. I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
Thoughts now turn to 2023. After such a strong showing this year, including his first pro win, much will be expected of Archie. He’s still down to ride for the Jumbo-Visma development team but I’m certain there will be more opportunities to ride for the pro team and test himself against top level riders.
“I really would like to just continue to develop as I have and try to continue into 2023 on the same note as 2022. I want to improve on the level I had this year and consistently be there challenging to win big races, then hopefully make the step up to the big leagues.”
The sky’s the limit for this young man, keep your eye out for Archie Ryan.