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Introducing Archie Ryan: One of Ireland’s most promising young stage racers

The 20-year-old is making up for lost time after injury struggles to take his first pro victory against WorldTour opponents.

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Archie Ryan announced himself this season as one of the rising stars in the U23 ranks and one of Ireland’s most promising young talents.

The 20-year-old from Wicklow, who rides for the Jumbo-Visma development squad, took fourth at the Tour de l’Avenir, claimed his first professional win while guesting for the WorldTour team at the Tour of Slovakia, and finished his season off with a stage win at the U23 Ronde de l’Isard.

Much of Ryan’s early career has been hampered by a lingering knee injury that forced him to take big spells off the bike, but he was finally able to put it behind him after some work with a physio last autumn. His results this year came as part of a season where he was finally able to get more than a handful of races under his belt.

“Looking back on it. It was my first time without having to take time off with injury,” Ryan told VeloNews. “I started the season off well and had some decent results and then I got sick in May which sort of stunted things a little but then the end of the season was really good. So I’m really happy with it. If you told me at the start of the season that I get this, I’d be like that’ll do it.

“My first year U23, I had three months off the bike. My second year U23, I had most of the year off the bike. And then since October, I’ve been riding consistently first time in a long time. So I really got the rewards of the work, being able to be able to get the all the hours in and stuff. It was really nice to see what I could do with proper training.”

An injury-free season meant that Ryan was able to pack plenty more racing in, including a one-off appearance for the main Jumbo-Visma squad. UCI rules allow riders from a team’s development squad to ride with the elite team and Ryan, and two of his U23 teammates, got a chance to do it at the Tour of Slovakia.

The ride came just a couple of weeks after his fourth at the Tour de l’Avenir and, just three days into his debut with the WorldTour team, Ryan notched up his first pro win, beating Mauri Vansevenant and Lorenzo Fortunato in a three-up sprint. He would end the week sixth overall and the top youth rider.

“It was really great experience being able to join up with the WorldTour boys with two others from the devos. And it was just really, really fun and nice to also just nice to race with different people. And obviously, they have a lot of experience as well,” he said.

“I sort of went into Slovakia with zero expectations and sometimes I think that can work out well. I hadn’t even thought about ‘ I’m going to get a result today’ or anything because we were just seeing what we could all do. We also went into that stage of saying right, ‘let’s see who’s at the end, and let’s make it a hard race.’ So, it went it was really nice.”

Ryan’s breakthrough in Slovakia came at the same time as the UCI Road World Championships in Australia.

With his form, he seemed as though he could have been a big contender for the U23 men’s road race, but he and his fellow national teammates stayed in Europe after Cycling Ireland decided not to send a squad to the event.

Though it was a disappointment, Ryan is happy with the chances that he got.

“I would have liked the opportunity but it’s more that I feel sorry for the other guys. I feel sorry for the juniors, I feel sorry for the other U23 who aren’t on a team with as good as calendars Jumbo for example,” Ryan said. “But it does cost a lot of money and they’ve got to figure out what to do with all that. It’s one of those things was where if I went to worlds, I wouldn’t have done Slovakia, I wouldn’t have got that pro win I wouldn’t have won in l’Isard. So, on one hand, I got two wins instead of maybe a top 10 of worlds or something like that.”

While some of his peers are heading up to the WorldTour for next season, Ryan is in no rush to follow suit and will spend another season with the Jumbo-Visma development squad.

Having missed so much of the early part of his time as a U23, Ryan does not want to get ahead of himself but he would like more chances to race with the WorldTour team.

“I ended the season on a good note, so I’d like to probably start up nice and hot next year to try and continue this way of getting good results,” he said. “Hopefully next year, I’ll have the opportunity to do more and mixed races with the WorldTour team as well… But also, you know, there’s no rush to these things. I’m relaxed, I’m not Remco. Basically, I’ve only had one full season of racing and training in me.

“I just haven’t had the opportunity to put miles and get the hours in and be able to just develop long-term. The boys on the team always tell me, you’re still first-year U23.”

Ryan might have his feet firmly on the ground, but he has his dreams too. Wins at some of the biggest races on the UCI calendar spring to mind, but there are some closer to home like the Rás Tailteann stage race where he made his debut this year.

“I think we all dream of grand tours and the like. It would be a dream to win a stage or something like that there. And then I really like the Rás, I’d always love to come back and have a proper go at that,” he said. “That is a dream race for me, but also a race like the Tour of the Basque Country where I think it’s just one of the hardest weeklong stage races that are just super hilly and would suit a small guy like me. That’s definitely a dream race of what I like to try and achieve in my, in my career.”