Ellen Prepares For The Biggest Race Of Her Life

Ellen Prepares For The Biggest Race Of Her Life

Ellen Prepares For The Biggest Race Of Her Life

Our supported rider Ellen McDermott has been selected as one of two representing Ireland in the Elite Women’s Road Race in the 2021 UEC Road European Championships in Trento, Italy, on Saturday, September 11. We caught up with her to find out how training is going and how she’s feeling ahead of the biggest race of her life.

How are preparations going?

I’m in the middle of a massive block of endurance training at the moment. My recent races at The Tour Series are one-hour efforts and I love it but it doesn’t prepare you for the Europeans, which is over 100km and 8 laps of a 5km hill. I’m doing really long miles in training and lots of hills over these few weeks, dragging myself up some hills as fast as I can.

The famous Irish duo Eve McCrystal and Katie George Dunlevy who is partially sighted just won gold in the Paralympics time trial. They’re such a huge inspiration for women’s cycling in Ireland. Their dedication to the sport and the way they ride that tandem as one unit is an inspiration and it makes me more determined to drag myself up those hills when I see what they do.

The podium finish in the CICLE Classic in June was a real feather in my cap – it’s a really hard, technical race. The Tour Series was really good. Third one race, fifth the next and then I was on for the podium in the last race if I’d have stayed upright. I got two podiums racing in Belgium earlier in the year so I think that really set me up for the Tour Series.

Training must be keeping you busy. What are your days like at the moment?

I train in a morning, work in the afternoon and study on a night, working towards the Advanced Diploma in Performance Nutrition from the Institute of Performance Nutrition. It’s all evidence-based stuff, like studies and review papers. The majority are several case studies where there’s an athlete who has certain goals and issues and you have to design a programme around them and explain your rationale behind your recommendations.

Nutrition is obviously important to you as an elite athlete. Which came first; riding or nutrition?

I got into riding first. Then I got into the gym. Then at the gym I tried to get a nutrition plan from my personal trainer. He was a good personal trainer but it wasn’t his duty to put together a nutrition plan so I looked into it myself online and then I was really struggling with my own recovery at that point about four years ago. I started working one-to-one with a nutritionist and I learnt quite a lot from him. Then I started studying it myself and a nutritional therapist, Lee at The Nadura Clinic in Ireland, took me under his wing and taught me as much as he could. Athlete Nutrition Coach is the brand I work under and it's his brainchild. It was definitely a case of wanting to improve my own performance that stimulated my interest in nutrition.

How did you hear about your selection for the European Championships?

Well, at the same time as the European Road Race is an Irish women’s road race called Rás na mBan. It’s the biggest stage race in Ireland and is attended by the Irish, the Dutch, the Belgians, the French, the British and so on. I’ve raced in the last four or five and last year I had my best race at it. This year I was going for a stage win and I’d put my name in the hat to race for the Irish team. One of the selectors said ‘If you want to do that, does that mean you don’t want to race for the Irish team at the Europeans in Italy?’ It’s a massive opportunity and obviously I have to take that opportunity as it’s the next stage in my development as a rider. The other Irish girl in the elite race – Megan Armitage – is from the same place in Ireland as me, County Offaly. I’ve been racing with her in Belgium this year and to be racing with her at the Europeans is really cool.

How are you feeling going into the European Championships?

We do eight laps of a circuit. It goes into Trento, out of it up a climb to Povo and down into Trento. There’s a bit of technical involvement in Trento but not much technical downhill which makes it safer. I don’t think it’s going to be too hot, which is nice.

I’ve raced against all of these girls in some form or another over the years in the UCI races. I’m definitely in my best form ever this year because I had such a good winter’s training and plenty of podiums throughout the season. I’m really confident in my form at the moment so I’m really looking forward to fighting for it and we'll see how I can do!

All of us at Big Bear Bikes are wishing Ellen the best of luck. The elite women’s race will be broadcast live on Eurosport 1 and Eurosport Player.

Photo Credit: Instagram: @mayocreative.photos

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