Friday 6 December 2019

Teggart ready to make a splash as he continues family tradition

Matthew Teggart starts his first race for An Post tomorrow
Matthew Teggart starts his first race for An Post tomorrow

Ciaran Lennon

Matthew Teggart knows he'll be riding into the deep end in Marseilles tomorrow when he lines up for his first race in the An Post-ChainReaction colours, but the 21-year-old from Banbridge has never shied away from taking the plunge.

As soon as he finished school, Teggart was looking to fast-track his cycling education. He upped sticks and moved to the French town of Besancon to join up with the amateur team Amicale Cycliste Bisontine.

He didn't speak the language and his friends thought he was mad, but his family understood the draw.

Matthew is part of a third generation of Teggarts to be consumed by the sport. Both his grandfathers, an uncle and his father were all international cyclists.

His grandfather Noel rode at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico but his appearance at the 1972 Munich Games was ruined by a row between two warring Irish federations, protesters forcing him to abandoned the race. Noel's grandson can, at least, keep his focus on the bike.

"A lot of people were advising me to stay at home on my first year out of Junior, to take it easy and see how it goes," he says. "But the way I saw it was, as long as you can cope then why not step up? Then you're one step ahead of everyone else. You've that extra year experience, and that learning done, and it's so much easier.

"Same with this move to An Post, this is where I thought I should be. I need that next step now, I spent the last two years in France - first year I got a kicking, second year I started to come through and get a few results so, again, I just wanted to step up."

The ability to survive cycling's school of hard knocks has long been seen as a rite of passage for young hopefuls. Teggart, even as a teenager, showed he had the resilience and talent to flourish in that foreign environment.

"On a personal level, I've learned so much, basic life skills, just having to look after yourself, cooking, cleaning, washing. Stuff you just take for granted when you're at home," he says. "You come in off the bike and dinner is sitting waiting for ya. When you don't have mum to do that, it can be quite hard.

"A lot of people ask 'do you not miss home?' and 'do your parents not miss you?', but that's just normal for us really. It's a cycling family. Of course I miss them and it's hard at times but you just have to get on with it."

Before his two years with AC Bisontine, Teggart raced with his local Banbridge Cycling Club before linking up with the Nicolas Roche Performance Team. An Post is the next natural step, and it's a set-up he's already quite familiar with.

Team director Sean Kelly may not like to be reminded, but he raced with Teggart's grandfather, and Matthew knows team manager Kurt Bogaerts and their new director sportif Neil Martin - father of Dan - through their work with Irish teams.

"It's a very young team compared to years before, they've changed into a sort of development team," Teggart explains. "That's the aim for all the guys here, as this is the first level in professional cycling, there's still two steps above this and so that's what we're all aiming for.

"I think Kurt, Neil and Sean want to turn us into the best pros we can be and see how high up the ladder we can climb."

The first rung is tomorrow's Grand Prix La Marseillaise, where he will make his An Post debut in a team that also includes the 2014 Junior world Champion Jonas Bolkeloh of Germany.

Meanwhile, Ireland's first ProContinental team Aqua Blue Sport makes its World Tour bow at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Australia tomorrow, but their Irish rider Martyn Irvine is facing a delay in his return to the sport.

Irvine announced he was coming out of retirement late last year, but his Aqua Blue team confirmed yesterday that he will not be able to compete until April as he must fulfil a six-month waiting period in order to facilitate the building of a profile as part of the Athlete Biological Passport.

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