Big Interview: Holohan wants to go wheel-to-wheel with the best

Liam Holohan
Liam Holohan
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MORLEY-raised cycling star Liam Holohan can not remember his whereabouts for last year’s Leeds leg of the Grand Depart.

All he knows is he wasn’t in England, let alone Yorkshire, with the pro cyclist competing abroad at the level below spectaculars such as the Tour De France and Giro d’Italia.

Yet Holohan savoured a taste of the big time on home turf in last weekend’s Tour de Yorkshire with the Leeds ace hoping that was a sign of things to come.

Raised in Morley and a past pupil of Churwell Primary and Woodkirk Academy, Holohan is based with the Madison Genesis team which competes in the sport’s Major UCI Continental Circuit stage races at 2.HC level.

In layman’s terms, that is a notch below the sport’s crown jewels and World Tour level that incorporates races such as the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

But, at just 27, Holohan has time on his side with the Leeds ace’s appetite for the big stage now as healthy as ever after last weekend’s appearance in the Tour De Yorkshire.

For Holohan, the significance of that outing was two-fold with him taking to roads he used to tackle as a youngster behind dad Ian, who still lives in Morley with wife and mother of the family Anne.

The cyclist says the lure of competing in the Tour de Yorkshire helped drag him through the arduous training in the cold deep mid-winter.

Competing in the event proved well worth the wait for Holohan, who is now hoping for his best finish in the Tour Of Britain this year, which he hopes can lead to him taking a step into the cycling big-time in years to come.

Taking time out from his busy schedule at his Shrewsbury home with wife Jess, Holohan explained: “The governing body of cycling is called the UCI and they rank races with the Grand Tours being top of the rung.

“Then you have a 2.HC which is what the Tour Of Britain is and the level we’re restricted to racing and then you have what the Tour de Yorkshire was, which is a 2.1. But my ambition would be to ride for a pro continental team or a world tour team, which is like one classification level up from us, as we race these guys all the time and we have showed we can hold our own against them.

“Last weekend, we were way ahead of some of the other pro continental teams and my ambition would definitely be to ride at that level just so I could do more races with atmosphere’s like the Tour de Yorkshire.

“Obviously, all the British teams and especially a Yorkshire rider like me were saying the Tour de Yorkshire was the best thing since sliced bread. But even the French guys who have raced the Tour de France with the best facilities in the world were saying what a great race it was.

“I just hope I can go up one level as, theoretically, I would be able to do the Giro, the Tour De France, the Paris–Roubaix – all the best races in the world.

“A pro continental team has four places at all the biggest races in the world and then the one above that – World Tour – they are guaranteed a ride in all the biggest races. It just opens more doors in terms of what races you can do.

“If it happens for me, that would be a dream come true and long-term like three or five years down the line then that’s what I’d love to do.

“If you look at it in terms of a bucket list, then I’ve ticked off racing on Yorkshire roads now.

“Absolutely, we all have our dreams don’t we and they would definitely be mine – to ride the Giro or the Tour.”

Holohan is certainly putting in the ground-work, literally, in a bid to achieve his Tour De France and Giro dreams.

The cycling star might have been raised in Leeds but now lives in Shrewsbury which conveniently offers him the right blend of roads he needs to train on whilst also being convenient for wife Jess, who is from the Midlands and works for the local council promoting sustainable transport.

The two met whilst cycling with Jess herself a former competitor and Holohan said: “We used to race together as juniors at under-18s and we’re definitely a biking family!

“We live in Shrewsbury because of my wife’s job and because the training is excellent around here.

“In Yorkshire, if you want to do loads of climbing and the Dales it’s brilliant but there’s not a lot of scope for longer, steadier climbs or any flat rides.

“I do miss the roads in Yorkshire and I remember riding up to Bolton Abbey on all the roads that we raced on the other week when I was really young.

“My dad used to push me home and we’d walk up the climbs because I wasn’t strong enough to get up them, or I didn’t have enough gears on my bike. But I’m not riding for enjoyment any more. It’s a job.

“When I go out on bike there’s a purpose to every ride and it’s not like this is a nice ride. I’ve got a training plan to follow.

“Most of the people I went to school with I kind of fell out of touch with because I was never there. I was always travelling the world for different races and when I’m training I can’t just go to the pub or whatever.

“I’ve got to be in bed by half-nine so most of my mates now are bike riders and I’ve got a lot in Leeds like Tom Barrass, Tom Moses and Scott Thwaites, who is obviously a real big star from Yorkshire.”

Like Holohan, Thwaites was not involved in last year’s Grand Depart yet one month later he was bagging a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

In a bid to take similar steps up the ladder, Holohan has a jam-packed forthcoming schedule with the irony being that his most recent visit to his home city has been through competing.

His next visit back home to Leeds will not be any time soon.

Holohan explained: “I think I’m in Ireland, Norway and then Romania, so I’m not even going to be in the country – never mind Leeds for a couple of months.

“It’s the life of a pro bike rider, you find out what country you are going to be in a week in advance so it’s pretty hard to plan anything.”

Still, things could clearly be worse, though Holohan is adamant his profession is no excuse for a permanent holiday.

Holohan explained: “It’s pretty cool but I think people have a bit of a misconception because you don’t see a great deal of the world when you do it.

“When I go to somewhere like Norway, for example, I get off the plane, go straight to the airport then I have a massage and then bed and then the stage starts in the morning.

“All I am going to see of the country in the race is the guy’s wheel in front of me and then I’m going to see the Marriott or the Holiday Inn.

“I don’t know much about the countries I go to but I’m proper clued up on all the Holiday Inns and Hiltons of the world!”

Meanwhile, Leeds’s Josh Edmondson, 22, claimed his first professional win on stage three of the Tour of Azerbaijan yesterday.