Shanahan (51) on how changing his training is delivering wins

Posted on: May 14th, 2018

Tom Shanahan winning training

Tom Shanahan won the Ken Duff Memorial yesterday, to add to his Des Hanlon and Rás Luimni victories. Aged 51 years, we ask about his training (All photos by Sean Rowe)


Tom Shanahan is trying new training and winning


He may have made it look easy a number of times this year, but plenty of work has gone into the now frequent wins of Tom Shanahan.

The Limerick CC rider came over the finish line at the Ken  Duff Memorial in Co Wicklow yesterday solo with both arms raised in triumph.

And he struck the same pose in Rás Luimni and the Des Hanlon A3 event. The first signs Shanahan was in especially good condition this year came very early.

He took 3rd in the Lacey Cup, against A1 opposition on a day when he was the only other rider to stay with winner Matteo Cigala (Viner-Caremark-Pactimo) and Paul Kennedy (Newcastle West).

Yesterday, Shanahan made the winning escape of nine riders.  And though he tried to break clear from it he was unable to.

But on the run-in to the finish he was ready and able to gamble; attacking just inside the final kilometre.

When the group stalled for a moment he had pulled out a gap and he knew he had it won. It was the latest result in a really strong run for the 51-year-old father of four.

Asked why he is in especially good shape this year,  he says his decision to train alone during the winter appears to have worked for him.

“You can go out with the club but you are not training for the fill two, three, or four hours,” he said.

“You’re training while you’re at the front or on the climbs. But you’re not building (condition) when you’re coasting. You may be getting a bit of endurance, but you’re not building.

“But when you go out for a few hours on your own, and in the cold and wet into the headwind; that’s hard training. And it’s going to stand to you.

“That’s basically what I did over winter. I do quality, not three hour slogs, just quality. And then during the season I might do a TT on a Thursday night.

“Riding flat out for 20 minutes or more; that’s like two or three hours because you are riding flat out. I just wouldn’t have time train for the A1 races. But I think anyone can train for A3.

“I work hard for the races and pick them out. And I think anyone who works hard can do the same; you get out of it what you put in.

“In January and February I give turbo training classes to the club. It benefits them and me; and that’s my intensity sorted.”


Tom Shanahan winning training

Tom Shanahan winning training

Tom Shanahan winning training

Top, going over the peak of the climb yesterday in the breakaway. Middle, pulling out the gap on the home straight of the Ken Duff Memorial. Bottom, leading Swinand and Woods at the National Masters Championships last year.


Shanahan takes an old school approach; power metres and other devices are put to one side during the turbo trainer club sessions.

Instead, they imagine the terrain of races on the Irish calendar and pretend they are riding them.

“Going up the hills, down the hills, attacking, being in the break and getting ready for the finish; it’s all in the head,” he says.

“Everyone loves it, it works out well. It’s also good for getting tactics right. We put the lads in race positions. We talk about all the race situations. It always benefits me at the start of the year.”

Interestingly; Shanahan not only still has an appetite for trying new training, he clearly never stops tweaking his approach to other aspects of his cycling.

For example, he says he was very careful to position himself well at the start of yesterday’s climb having made mistakes there 12 months ago.

He also watched who was riding most strongly of the breakaway. And he pounced when he felt the strongest man had compromised himself a little.

These are the small things that helped win him the race. There is clearly no room for complacency in his approach despite the fact he is nearing his 30-year anniversary as a bike rider.

In yesterday’s race, he said the start was “really slow”. However, while he threw in a few testing attacks he was well marked for the first 30-40km.

He then took a step back and waited until the main climb on the course. Last year he was not positioned well at the start of the climb and paid the price. But he made sure this year.

“Having said that I was on my limit,” he said of the early part of the climb. “The Lucan guys and Michael McGlynn from Omagh were climbing very well.”

However, while they pulled away from him a little, Shanahan got into his rhythm and got back on terms.

A group of nine would form up and over the hill. And from there it proved straightforward.

While there were attacks from the group, Shanahan felt nobody would escape. And he said he felt good all the way.

“I put in a few digs, I could open quite good gaps. So I knew I could put the lads under pressure. Michael McGlynn was the only one able to come with me a few times.”

And when McGlynn went to the front and rode hard going into the final kilometre, Shanahan waited and then jumped hard.

And winning the inaugural Ken Duff Memorial, the support race to the Shay Elliott, was done.

McGlynn, who is one to watch, was 2nd from Conor Farrell (Lakeside Wheelers). Then came one of the Lucan CRC strong young guns, Liam Hanley.

He was followed by John Paul Sweetman (St Tiernan’s CC) and Frank Billings (Lucan CRC).

“Ken Duff was a man, like myself, completely engrossed in cycling,” said Shanahan. “And it’s an honour to have a trophy like that, dedicated to a man like Ken Duff, in my house; it really is.

“To win Rás Luimni was also really special. I have been pushing for that one for, well, decades,” he laughed.

“I was 2nd and 3rd a few times but to win it was great. It was brilliant to get my name on that Dave Hourigan memorial trophy,” he said of the former  international rider who died young abroad some years ago.

“Dave was a good friend of mine. And I have that trophy at home in the press; that is special for me.”

While he discussed his training only when stickybottle asked, he volunteers his thanks and appreciation to his family and close friends.

“You need that support around you,” he said. “Yesterday there was a birthday in the house and I went racing.

“And when you have support and nobody is objecting about you going cycling; that does make a very big difference.

“My family are very, very supportive. They really are. Having them and supportive friends; it’s a big thing. It helps me over the winter and going racing.”

Looking ahead,  Shanahan said he would look to the national championships. But other riders in the Masters 50 category were riding A1; including Greg Swinand and Des Woods.

Shanahan took  bronze last year and said with the strength, experience and race craft of the best riders in the category “you’ll get away with nothing”. That’s a sentiment some of his breakaway companions yesterday would undoubtedly share.