Sunday, October 17, 2021
HomeInterviewsGabriel Cullaigh - "2018 is all about winning bike races"

Gabriel Cullaigh – “2018 is all about winning bike races”


It was the end of 2016 when we last spoke to Gabriel Cullaigh, he’d just signed up with top Dutch development squad, SEG Racing.

We’d expected great things after a 2016 season which saw him on the podium of the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and fifth in the u23 European Road Race Championship but his season petered out mid-summer due to health problems.

But he’s back, with Team Wiggins and just days after he spoke to VeloVeritas he won Stage One and took the yellow jersey in the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal.

But it got even better with Cullaigh also taking the final stage in Alentejo before going on to a top 10 finish in the U23 Gent-Wevelgem.

As this piece went to press he’d just taken fourth place on Stage One of the always hotly contested Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux in Belgium.

A man with his career firmly back on track, we’d say.

Gabriel Cullaigh
Gabriel takes stage one and yellow at the Volta ao Alentejo. Photo©Paulo Maria

Tell us about your health problems, Gabriel.

“I had lots of difficulties after the Baby Giro last year, coughing and wheezing – I really wanted to be in good shape for the national championships but was compromised by my problems.

“I rode the u23 Het Nieuwsblad on July 1st and was DNF, after that I decided to stop racing and get to the bottom of what was wrong with me.

“Up until then we thought I had asthma but the problem was actually ‘exercise induced laryngeal obstruction’ and the asthma medicine was actually exacerbating the problem.

“I had to do ramp tests on the bike with a camera down my throat, that was fun !

“I did physio and had laser surgery which solved everything.

“I’ve noticed a big difference over the winter, before, at 75% effort I’d be wheezing but now I can actually hurt my legs – before that I couldn’t because of the problems in my throat.”

When last we spoke to you ex-world points champion, Peter Schep was helping you with your time trial position at SEG.

“Very well, his knowledge of the UCI rules is very impressive and we found a position which maximises aero advantage for me.

“I’ve saved all the measurements and will be applying them to my time trial bike here at Wiggins.”

You rode the u23 Paris-Roubaix, how did that go?

“I rode well, it was a head wind so whilst the cobbles were hard it would come back together on the metalled sections.

“We had two guys in the lead group so Fabio Jakobsen (winner of the recent Nokere Koerse with QuickStep, ed.) and I were on marking duties.

“I did the junior version before and it’s a very stressful race, there’s a fight at every cobbled sector and when you look back you see that you’ve lost riders through every sector.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing it with Wiggins, this year.”

Gabriel Cullaigh
Photo©Gabriel Cullaigh

You had a nice top 10 result in the Ville de Lillers and some good finishes in Normandie and the Ardennes.

“This year I’m in good nick but last year I had a chest infection over Xmas but Lillers was a good race for me; a bit of an epic in the rain !

“Thomas Boudat of Direct Energie won the sprint but it was good to be in the mix and I took eighth.

“And I had two top 10 finishes in Normandie and an eighth in the Ardennes.”

You were top 20 in the Classica Arrabida in Portugal the other day, it must be good to be back ‘up there.’

“Yeah, I felt good, I was interested to see how I would go and I think I rode well, we had two guys in the lead group.

(Gabriels’s Wiggins team mate, James Fouche of New Zealand would eventually finish second behind Russian strongman, Dmitri Strakhov (Lokosphinx, ed.)

“The race was pretty tough with gravel sectors and wind which caused surges in the peloton, with the last 10 K very aggressive.

“I thought I’d test myself in the sprint and won from the group I was in so I’m looking forward to the Volta ao Alentejo.”

[Gabriel won the first and last stages stage of the Volta, held the yellow jersey and was second on stage three with aforementioned Russian, Strakhov winning stages two and three. ed]

Gabriel Cullaigh
Gabriel ended the Volta ao Alentejo with a last stage win. Photo©supplied

How did you get the Wiggins ride?

“They were interested in me for season 2017 but I wanted to try Dutch racing so went with SEG.

“But then I had the health issues and I knew that I couldn’t continue doing what I was doing.

“I knew the Wiggins calendar, their level of support and that they’d let me stay at home in Yorkshire; I love training in the Peak District.

“I’m a bit of a ‘home boy’ – I like to live and train at home, I think it’s a myth that you have to live abroad, these days you can fly out to camps and races as you need to.

“What I was finding with living in The Netherlands and Girona was that I was looking forward to going home more than I was looking forward to going to the races – and that’s not how it should be.

“I’m happiest between races when I’m with family and friends.”

I have to ask; has all the controversy around Bradley affected the team?

“No but it’s interesting to watch, there’s so much hearsay around – and what do MP’s have to do with elite sport?

“And I think that people forget that you don’t, ‘just get’ a TUE, the UCI has to issue them, they don’t come out of nowhere.

“You have to feel for Brad and his family with all the stuff that’s in the Media.”

Gabriel Cullaigh
Gabriel on his way to a great season. Photo©Paulo Mari

What’s next on the agenda?

“I have a busy schedule with races every weekend up to the Rutland race in England: the Volta ao Alentejo here in Portugal, Gent-Wevelgem – that’s Nations Cup with the GB squad, the Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux in Belgium, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, a pro kermis in Belgium, the ZLM Tour in the Netherlands, the Chorley GP back in England, the Rutland and hopefully the Tour of Yorkshire.

“I’m looking forward to riding the Nations Cups races with the national team, they’re a good opportunity to prove myself.”

What’s 2018 about for Gabz Cullaigh?

“Winning bike races – that may be a cliché but it’s my last year u23 and for 2019 I’d like to step up to pro continental or World Tour, I know I have it in me.

“The other thing I want is to be consistent, finish races and be there to help my time mates if the race doesn’t suit my capabilities.

“Basically, it’s crunch time!”

With thanks to Gabriel and Wiggins soigneur, Martyn Frank for re-connecting us – we’ll be keeping an eye out for Gabriels’s results as the season progresses.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Ruaraidh McLeod – First Win in Belgium

It’s been a month or two since we last spoke, and it’s nearly time for Ruaraidh McLeod to head home to land of the long white cloud - but we thought we’d best say ‘congratulations’ on his first win (and see if he’s crossed paths with those Scotsmen that are also over there in Belgium).

The VV View: Scotland’s Young Turks

As the sleeping beast that is the 2020 cycling season stirs after it’s long snooze, we thought it would be good to look at how Scotland’s ‘Young Turks’ spent lock down and what their plans are for the rest of this strange year.

Tsgabu Grmay – MTN-Qhubeka’s Star of the Future

Stage Five of the Tour of Korea was a historic one - the first ever win for an Ethiopian rider at this level; youngster, Tsgabu Grmay of South Africa’s first Pro Continental team, MTN-Qhubeka powered by Samsung. This year has seen the man from Mekele, 2,000 metres up in the Tigrayan Highlands of Etiopia land a top ten GC placing in the Tour of Langkawi as well as second on GC in Taiwan to go with his stage win. We caught up with him upon his return to Europe to ride the Tour of Trentino.

Douglas Dewey – “Racing in Brittany is an Art Form”

Dewey has hit the ground running in France, with wins in the 138 kilometre/198 starters Etoille De Tressignaux – and you have to check out their website, the accordion music is cool – a stage win plus the GC in the two day Fleche d’Armor and a stage win and spell in yellow in the Tour de Lesneven. We caught up with Douglas on a trip back to Blighty to have a minor injury checked out.

Eddie Dunbar – u23 Tour of Flanders 2017 Winner; “I decided to go long”

Despite his flyweight 56 kilos Eddie Dunbar has already established himself as one of the worlds' best U23 riders with top ten finishes in the European and World U23 Time Trial Championships - and riding for the Irish team rather than his usual US Axeon Hagens Berman team he took Ronde victory in that bike riders’ Mecca, historic Oudenaarde.

Matthias Barnet – “I just love being on the bike and able to compete”

Seven years ago, in 2014, we interviewed Matthias Barnet, he had just won the 2014 British u16 Criterium Championship on the technical Hog Hill circuit at Redbridge, London. Since then we’ve not heard much of the man but when we spotted that he had signed up with Flavio Zappi’s squadra for season 2021 – along with fellow Scott, Hamish Strachan, who we spoke to recently – we just had to have a word with him.

At Random

Dave Rollinson – The Road That Led to Gold

We recently ran an interview with Liverpool Mercury stalwart, Ricky Garcia; we’re sure that Ricky would agree that perhaps the best rider The Mercury ever produced never really realised his full potential. His name is Dave Rollinson; twice British Amateur Road Race Champion, Tour de L’Avenir stage winner, French amateur Classic winner and twice a Worlds top 20 finisher.

Grant Ferguson – New Scottish Hill Climb and British Cyclo-Cross Champion

Our first question to Grant Ferguson, perhaps better known for his mountain bike and cyclo-cross (he’s reigning British Elite Cyclo-Cross champion, don’t forget) adventures, following his win in this year's Scottish Hill Climb championships was "did you have a back brake this time, Grant?"

Ian Field – Consistency in the World Cup CycloCross

Sometimes you time an interview just right and your subject goes out and does something big right after it. Take British cyclo-cross champion Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) – or should that be, ‘Field de Brit’ as they say in the Flatlands. We spoke to him on Wednesday and on Friday his coach Dan Fleeman of DigDeep Coaching called us to tell us that he’d pulled off a ‘biggie’ – 13th in the Koppenbergcross after leading for the first two laps and a puncture with two laps to go.

John Hughes – Top amateur in the ’90s; “winning the National Road Race was nice but it’s not like racing in Europe”

He was 1991 British Amateur Champion, won the Franco-Belge against top opposition and took the major French Classic, Paris-Chauny - but was out of the sport by the age of 25 with his best years yet to come. His name; John Hughes. We thought he’d have a good tale to tell...

Flavio Zappi – “I don’t want my team to settle for average!”

‘You need to talk that Flavio Zappi boy, his lads are racing all over Europe and getting good results!’ As often happens with VeloVeritas it’s our spiritual guide and fiercest critic, Viktor who gives us inspiration on who we should be speaking to. But there’s also the aspect that QuickStep new recruit James Knox, who we interviewed earlier in the year was a ‘Zappi Man’ so yes, times we had a word with Sen. Zappi.

The Girvan 2007 – Day 3: Stage 4

Ailsa Craig is lost in the low cloud, visibility isn't much beyond the breakwater. The rain is a fine, freezing, stinging mist - it's a perfect day for the last stage at The Girvan 2007. We've just agreed that the guys from Bike&Run London, with their cool all-white kit and matching Looks, opened the curtains and began packing the car for the trip home immediately.