Young racer Marinheiro shows talent against his elders

In winning the elite men's race at the Portugal Cup round in Rio de Mouro this weekend, the young Ricardo Paulo Reis Marinheiro again showed the form that got him noticed last year at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia, where he won a silver medal in the junior cross country race.

The 18-year-old Marinheiro is in the first year of a three-year contract with the TX-Active Bianchi Team. The deal will carry him through much of the often difficult transition from junior to elite ranks.

"My short term principal objective is to do well in the Under 23s," said Marinheiro to Cyclingnews. "I want to finish top 10 at worlds in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, in September." He is also hoping to do well through the World Cup season. He's been adapting his training to get more comfortable in the longer races characteristic of the under 23 and elite categories.

Marinheiro lives in Village Mafra, 25km from Lisbon. He and his younger brother Michael are the only two members of his family who race, although his father helps him out with training and mental preparation. His cycling career started with some BMX riding as a youth. Then he went to a local bike shop and was invited to a race, his first - a cross country - which he did at age 12. There's been plenty of racing ever since.

Marinheiro is good at the technical parts of mountain bike racing - downhills, singletrack, drops and climbs. He's still working on getting stronger on the flatter sections, and has been adjusting his training accordingly.

In 2009, Marinheiro won the World Cup in Champery, Switzerland. He took the silver medal at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia, behind Italy's Gerhard Kerschbaumer .

"Canberra was a great course for me. I did well in the technical parts," he said. "That race was very special for me because it was one of my objectives. Gerard was very strong, and I was happy for him, but it is one of the dreams of my career to become a World Champion."

The Portuguese racer said his idol is multi-time World Champion and Frenchman Julien Absalon. "He's a perfect racer, technically and physically and he's a great athlete,"said Marinheiro, who also counts marathon runner Carlos Lopas, an Olympic Champion, as a sportsman he looks up to.

The young rider has never raced cyclo-cross, but has done a few races as preparation for cross country. "Other disciplines of cycling do not fascinate me as much," he said. "I don't know what I'll think in the future, but I will do everything I can to stay in the sport of mountain biking."

In the meantime, he is finishing up his 12th year of school. Next year, he expects to enter the university to study sport science. In between World Cups and Worlds, Marinheiro is racing some Spanish, Italian and Portuguese national series events and Portugal's National Championships.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.