Navigating a pro return
Former Ofoto Lombardi professional David O'Loughlin returned to the pro ranks this January after a year and a half, lining up with the Navigators Insurance squad for the Jacob's Creek Tour Down Under. His good performance in this event indicated he was ready to ride with the big boys again after considering a change of direction.
Cyclingnews'Shane Stokes caught up with the Irishman for a quick chat just before the start of stage two of the recent Coppi-Bartali race in Riccione, Italy, talking about his new team and his goals for the season.
O'Loughlin infiltrated a long breakaway on stage two, taking the most aggressive rider award for the day and moving to third in the KOM classification. He rode well on the climbs for the rest of the race, eventually finishing second in that competition to Uni SA's Gene Bates. He was also a solid 21st overall. Since then, he's had a couple of colds and while this has interrupted things, he has impressed his new team with his ability and attitude. Team boss Ed Beamon recently praised the 26-year-old Irishman for his physical and mental capabilities, saying that he was one of the lynchpins behind the squad's fine team time trial showings in the Tour of the Mediterranean (11th) and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi-Bartali (third). O'Loughlin will now travel to the Tour of Georgia with the hope of performing well there.
"I think I am still discovering... I know my strong points and my weak points..." -David O'Loughlin on settling back into life as a pro
Considering how well things have gone, it may come as a surprise that last season was very much a make or break year. In December of 2003 he explained that he would consider walking away from road racing if things didn't work out. "My short-term goal is the Olympics; that is pretty much what is keeping me motivated. After that, I will consider a change of focus if I don't have a decent road team...perhaps I could try something different; track cycling or mountainbiking or something like that."
Fortunately, he needn't have worried. O'Loughlin was in fine form throughout the season, winning a host of big races and performing strongly in many international events. Those victories included the Irish road race championship title, the Shay Elliott Memorial, the Lincoln Grand Prix and stage 6 of the FBD Milk Rás. He went close to winning the latter event but ended up playing a vital team role on the penultimate stage, a selfless act which helped his Ireland team-mate David McCann to overhaul long-time race leader Valter Bonca. He ended the race third in GC.
O'Loughlin then took silver medals in both the Irish time trial and hill climb championships and also posted strong performances in Belgian events, including fifth against the pros in the 1.5 ranked Brussels-Ingooigem . However, perhaps the most impressive ride of the season was his showing in the world road race championships in Verona last October, finishing as part of a large group racing for 25th place. He was 50th across the line; a promising result on a day when 112 of the 200 starters failed to complete the course. This proved to be enough to secure the interest of the Navigators Insurance squad, providing O'Loughlin with a good opportunity to show his ability this season.
Cyclingnews: How are you settling into the team and your new career?
David O'Loughlin: It has been okay. I was going fine from the start of the year; I have been sick a couple of times, but apart from that, the first month and a half was good.
CN: Were you expecting to be going so well from the start?
DOL: I put in a good winter but I didn't know what to expect. That said, I prepared properly and was pleased with how things turned out.
CN: I guess you were psyched to get a contract?
DOL: I was pleased all right. At the start of last year it wasn't a big issue, it didn't bother me. I was just going to try to get to the Olympics. It worked out that towards the end of the year I was going well, so I concentrated a little bit more on trying to get a deal.
Things clicked last year. I was just really, really motivated for the Olympics. I had it in my head that I wanted to go, and knew I had to step up to a new level. I worked hard and targeted a couple of races, training properly. I was pretty switched on mentally, too.
CN: You won the national road race championships, the final selection event for the Games. But because other events and performances were taken into account by the selectors, the two places went to Mark Scanlon and Ciaran Power. Was missing out on Athens hard to take?
DOL: I knew it was always going to be very difficult to go, but I suppose I was pretty disappointed. More so because I won the national championships that day, so that was a little bit hard. But, you know, you just have to accept it and move on.
CN: Looking back, what do you think were your key performances in 2004?
DOL: Well, I suppose I had a few good races. The ones that I won were important, including the nationals, and also taking a stage and finishing well up in the FBD Milk Rás. Over in Belgium I had some good results in pro races too. That day in Brussels-Ingooigem was really, really hard, and I managed to stay up there (taking fifth), so that helped too
CN: Do you think it was your strong World Championship ride that got you the contract?
DOL: Ahh, Ed (Beamon) was sort of interested before, he knew about me. He follows the Irish guys, but that said, the Worlds ride obviously helped. That sort of capped it off really, I suppose. That day was hard. The championships were held on a good circuit. It was tough staying up there, but it worked out well.
CN: After talking to the Navigators DS Ed Beamon, he seems happy with you. He said you have a great mentality and you're very strong in the time trials and other areas...
DOL: Well, I have fitted in so far. I like the team. It is also good to have Ciaran (Power) around. That works well for traveling and everything.
CN: The team time trial yesterday went very well for Navigators Insurance...
DOL: Yeah, it was just over so fast. You just start and go flat out. It is sort of hard when you get a mix of different guys. Some of the riders are really strong. It is very good for us - we are a small team, so it was a big result to beat some of those other teams and get third.
CN: What is your programme like for the next while?
DOL: I race in Cologne in Germany and then do Adelie and Rennes in France. After that, Gent Wevelgem and the Ronde Van Drenthe are next, before going to the States for the Tour of Georgia. I will then come back to Europe and do either the Four Days of Dunkirk or a stage race in Austria.
CN: Are you targeting any of those in particular?
DOL: Well, I would like to go well in Georgia. It all depends on what duties I will have to do for the team there. Also, some of the one-day events, such as Gent Wevelgem, Adelie and Rennes are races I'd like to perform well in - we'll have to see how that goes. Adelie and Rennes could be good races for me; Adelie more so than Rennes.
CN: Being in the peloton and riding these sort of races, does that give you a better idea of what kind of rider you are?
DOL: I think I am still discovering...I know my strong points and my weak points, but I'm still trying to fit into what I'm good at, and what the team want me to do. It will take me a year or so to settle in.
CN: So, long-term, have you set any goals?
DOL: Long-term, I don't know. It's a bit early to say. I will take this year as it comes, and hopefully keep progressing