(A) Joseph Mullen 2023 Road season/Portuguese Trip.(photos from Joseph’s social media)

Joseph told us “My experience in Portugal with Academia Ciclisimo Jopelor was so much better than I expected. The team manager Joa and his family and team were so welcoming. I got to experience 10 days with a top-class team. They supplied me with kit, accommodation food and a crew support.
The first few days I got to meet the other 5 Portuguese lads on the team. 2 lads had decent enough English, so it wasn’t too bad. My Portuguese improved over the next while. I had a day or 2 to climatise and I really enjoyed heading out on the bike in a jersey and shorts and feeling the warm air on my skin. My first debut for Academia Ciclisimo Jopelor I won the 22 km individual time trial averaging 45km/h in the Trofeu Jose Poeira 2-day event. Super feeling on podium after my first stage. The next stage was tough as it involved 3700 ft of climbing but I attacked on several occasions and split up the peloton. I got away and was heading in for the win with 1km to go and got an untimely mechanical and puncture and nasty fall which cost me the victory. Bittersweet as I was going so well. The team comradery and support was second to none and we marched on with eye to the next event the Tour de Loule a few days later.

An evening off and straight back into a training few days with the team, this was great to get to know the lads. We cycled and stayed together for the week. Got to see the area and did some of the major climbing sections in the heart of the Algarve. Legs and form felt great by the end of the week and the tan lines were improving too. I felt in top shape.

The Junior Tour of Loule kicked off on Thursday of Easter weekend with 4 stages. The first stage was exciting. The peloton was a bit sketchy I found the other teams a bit unpredictable and lot concentration to keep an eye on the moves. I got away a few times. I avoided the crashes and didn’t lose any time. I was in a 2-man breakaway with just under 1 km to go before we got caught. The cobblestone and tiny narrow streets made a tricky but brilliant finish. Finished top 20 but 7th Junior.
The next day was another climbing section. Because of the nature of the race and legs felt good I was off the front for many parts of the race. Last half of the race was brutal climbs and very fast descents. I ended up winning most competitive rider. Another podium. I was really happy with my climbing legs. I was up there with the best in Portugal and Spain mixing it up with Astrana and Alejandro Valverde junior team. Felt strong and well able to compete against the best.
I am excited about competing abroad in the future. I hope to return to do some more stage races and training camps in North of Portugal in June and July. I would also like to try some racing in Italy, France and Belgium. I am just really enjoying the whole experience of being away, making friends and enjoying the international scene. The racing at home has been fun and exciting. Top 3 in majority of the races at home here in Ireland. I’m now upgraded after 2 months of racing. I’m looking forward to the challenge of the longer more endurance-based races. I’ve the nationals and the Junior Tour to look forward to. Bring on the summer months. Take a break and then the fun begins with the cx. Excited about the year ahead. Great to do a sport that I am so passionate about. I am extremely lucky to have Andy Layhe as a super support with encouraging words and great advice, the support of Navan Road Club, Bective Stud,Cycling Leinster and Cycling Ireland. The entire cycling community has been instrumental in helping me develop and given me the opportunities in the cycling world.

(B) Oisin Ferrity’s report of his delayed trip to Belgium at Easter (postponed last year due to a fractured wrist before travelling) Photos Martine Verfaillie

Oisin told us “I arrived in Belgium on Saturday 1st April, unfortunately my bike wasn’t put on the plane, and I didn’t get it until Monday so missed a race on Saturday I hoped to race. I got to see Tour of Flanders pass twice on the Sunday and during the week I went to southern Flanders to ride some of the cobbled climbs from the Tour of Flanders, including the Oude Kwaremont, Patterberg and Koppenburg, which was a great experience and nice to put it into perspective how hard these climbs are. I had my first race on Sunday in Tielt, the racing was aggressive from the start and stayed this way all the way, hard but really enjoyable. Eight riders went up the road and I won the bunch sprint for 9th satisfied but feeling I still had more to give. My second race was the next day in Oudenburg, a wet and windy day, I got up the road in a four man break, 4 laps into the 16-lap race. We rolled well together building up a gap of 1 min to the main bunch by the finish. All four of us came to the finish together and I won the sprint, along with picking up 3 primes during the race. It was amazing to get a win in only my second race and in a race with 105 starters. My final race was on Saturday 15th, unfortunately this race ended early when I crashed 2km into the race and broke some spokes in my front wheel leaving me unable to finish, luckily escaping with only some minor road rash. I really enjoyed my time staying in Belgium with Rik and Sabien who were amazing guest parents and a huge thanks to both of them for having me. Also, a huge thanks to Dany and the Belgian project for making this trip possible