There were some great rides in the World Elite time trial championships; the trouble was that Fabian’s towering performance over shadowed everything. Take the man in 11th spot – Dave McCann of Ireland, no sponsor, no state of the art bike but a solid performance that saw him in the ‘hot seat’ area for a large part of that sunny afternoon in Mendrisio.
But that’s only part of the story; he was third in the Chrono Champenois just two weeks previously and on the Sunday morning before the Worlds, he broke Chris Boardman’s 16 year-old British 25 mile record of 45:57 by three seconds.
That year – 1993 – saw Boardman break the world hour record as well as win the GP Eddy Merckx and Chrono des Herbiers pro time trials.
We caught up with 36 year-old Dave at home in Ireland a week after the Worlds and just after his return from a five day Irish team pursuit squad training camp at Aigle, in Switzerland.
Who are you riding for this year, Dave?
“My Irish club – Phoenix CC!
“I signed with an Australian team, Ridesport at the beginning of the year and everything looked good; but we only did one race with them – a stage race in Malaysia – then it folded, a victim of the recession, I guess.”
You seem to be getting faster as you get older!
“Definitely, at the Worlds that was 400 watts for one hour and one minute – that’s the most I’ve ever done.
“The good thing now is that a lot of guys are getting slower as the drug tests get better!
“I do a lot of wattage calculations and apart from the first two (Cancellara and Larsson) the others weren’t that far ahead of me.
“I was a late starter and didn’t really get serious about cycling until I was 23; I raced before that but not seriously.
“When I was 23 I took what was supposed to be a six month sabbatical from work to cycle across the USA from Florida to California – but I never went back!”
Third in the Chrono Champenois, not a bad ride.
“It was all part of my Worlds preparation; a good try out, shorter and more intense at 33 kilometres.
“I was going really well before the Worlds last year, but the Federation didn’t send me; so I wanted to a good ride, this year.”
South Wales is where you broke the record, quite a trek from Northern Ireland.
“I knew it was a fast course and when you’re building up to the Worlds you need decent competition and targets along the way.
“It was my last hard training session before the Worlds and I was a little tired – I don’t think I was quite at my best.”
Tell us about the course.
“It’s on dual carriageway, the traffic count was light – it was fast, safe and with a good start where you drop 100 metres in a mile.
“I’ve done a short 47 in Ireland, so I knew that a 45 was possible.
“It’s in a valley, so it’s sheltered from the wind, it was a nice day and it was good to see all those folks racing – there were 240 riders.
“It didn’t feel particularly quick, I have to say.”
Were you aware of how close to Boardman’s time?
“I just presumed that I’d break it, after that short 47 in Ireland; I knew I was on a 45-something.
“I thought that Hutchinson might go quicker than me, though.”
Were you getting checks on him?
“No, I was just there on my own, I flew to Birmingham, the day before then hired a car and drove down – I had a nightmare getting a hire car that worked – then I flew out to the Switzerland and the Worlds after the race.”
Have you had a lot of media attention for the 25 record?
“Not, not really, but I’ve been busy – it was straight to the team pursuit training camp at Aigle, after the Worlds.”
Tell us about your time trial training.
“This year has been different for me, usually I ride a lot of stage races – that’s my thing; 8/10 day stage races; I shine in those.
“But this year I’ve only ridden the one in Malaysia where I was 5th and the Ras (major stage race in Ireland) where I was 8th.
“Some years, I’ve had as much as 105 days of racing.
“I’ve spent a lot more time on the track this year with the team pursuit squad – short, sharp efforts at high cadence.
“Increasingly though, I’m not being a slave to a programme – I ride more on ‘feel’ now; I know my body better.”
The Worlds – how did you feel when Zirbel caught you?
“It woke me up!
“I feel asleep during my second lap and when he caught me it jolted me out of my sleep; I was matching his speed and thinking; ‘why wasn’t I riding at this tempo, earlier?’
“With hindsight, I should have gone out quicker and my second lap wasn’t great.
“I didn’t want to get into a ‘ding-dong’ with him on the flat, but I knew that if I was matching him on the flat, come the climb – were he’s giving me 17 kilos at his 88 kilos – I’d get clear – and that was how it was.
“A lot of the good guys go out really fast and just try to hold on – I’m a bit more conservative – but I should definitely have started faster.”
Tell us about your bike.
“It’s an old ONCE Giant, it weighs 10kilos; the UCI rules keep making it more difficult to get the position you want and it’s impossible to get hold of some of the equipment the top guys are riding – it’s frustrating.
“Maybe next year, if I get into a good team, I’ll get a new time trial bike!
“I rode a single 55 ring with an 11 to 25 – I kept the front changer on as a chain guard, though – and rode the 25 on the climb.”
Have you had invites as a result of your good rides?
“I got an invite to ride the Chrono des Nations but it clashes with the Sun Tour in Australia – I need to show myself and get myself into a good road team for next year, so the Sun Tour is more important to me.”
Is track the main focus after that?
“We have another team pursuit training camp, yes – but for me its part of the bigger picture; I like to ride road and track and can do that without problems.
“We have some very good young Irish riders coming upon the track; 18 year olds flung into it and going very well – it’s exciting.”
You rode for the Polish team CCC Mat, once – that must have been an experience?
“Ah, well, it was eye opening, shall we say!
“I didn’t belong there; I had been racing in Southern France and was rated highly – and it’s almost by default that you turn pro if you have a good amateur career.
“But we were racing in Italy a lot and it was unbelievably fast – Casagrande and Ulrich were prominent, then.
“I thought I was ill because I kept getting dropped; I came home for tests.
“I decided I’d ride the local club ten mile time trial – and broke the Irish record!
“There was nothing wrong with me; it was just that those races were crazy.”
(A little after I’d finished speaking with Dave, I received this SMS; “Trying to find the right words as to why CCC wasn’t right for me. Simple answer – because I was clean!“)
London Olympic 2010?
“I’d probably envisaged stopping before then, but if I keep on improving, I’ll keep going.
“I’ve been to two Olympics; it would be nice to make it three!
“What I do is that I think to myself; ‘have I anything better to do than ride a bike?’
“Maybe one of these days something will come along – but it hasn’t yet!”
With thanks to Dave for his time and wishing him all the best at the Sun Tour – and we hope he gets a shiny new time trial bike for 2010!