Ryan Mullen marked his debut outing for new team Trek-Segafredo with a win in Stage 3’s 14.4km individual time trial at the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional in Argentina last month.
Velon caught up with the 23-year-old Irishman to reflect on the victory and look ahead to the rest of 2018.
Velon: Congratulations on your victory. Did you see it coming?
Mullen: I went there with the aim to win, but I wasn’t filled with confidence because I didn’t really know what kind of shape I was in. I didn’t really do any specific training for it; I just relied on naturally being able to hurt myself at a diesel-like pace for 20 minutes.
I hadn't done any specific TT training at all. I had only been on the TT bike one time since October 15, and that was for track testing.
Velon: You have won the Irish national road and time trial titles twice each, but this was your first win in an elite international race. How does that affect your belief and confidence?
Mullen: It’s huge for my confidence. I have always known and I have always had the belief that I am capable of doing this kind of thing because I’m pretty handy at time trials, but to actually do it is something else.
It’s also a boost to have the equipment I have got this year, after moving to Trek-Segafredo over the winter.
Velon: Was it a relief to make such a big impression so early with a new team?
Mullen: Definitely. It made me feel, and hopefully made the team feel, that they haven’t wasted their money on me.
Velon: How has the settling-in process gone so far?
Mullen: The group of guys I was with in Argentina was so nice. It didn’t feel like a team; it felt like a group of mates just riding round in the sun.
Because we’re friends and because we have that bond, any time we had someone to work for – like we were working for Giacomo Nizzolo in the sprints - you really, really want to do a good job for them.
When Giacomo won on the last day, I was more happy than I was when I won. It really was an amazing feeling.
I have never been a part of a successful lead-out train in a race and the sense of pride when Giacomo won was double what I had for my own win.
Velon: How have you struck up that bond so quickly? You must have only met those guys properly for the first time in October.
Mullen: We had a group meeting for 24 hours in Milan at the end of last season and it was brilliant. We had such a good time.
Then we had the training camp in December in Sicily where we spent a week together, and before we went to Argentina, I spent a week with Giacomo and Eugenio Alafaci in Gran Canaria for some last-minute training.
So I have spent a lot of time with the guys and we just seemed to hit it off straight away.
Velon: What are your goals for the remainder of the season?
Mullen: Retaining the Irish titles in both the road race and TT is a big target for me. I love wearing the Irish champion’s jersey and it gives me a lot of pride. No one else in the peloton is wearing that jersey and it’s a very proud feeling, so I want that for another year.
The Classics are another goal, not for my own success because I’m a workhorse in the Classics, but hopefully I can go there in good shape and do a good job for the likes of Jasper Stuyven and John Degenkolb.
Velon: Could a debut appearance at a Grand Tour also be on the cards?
Mullen: I hope so. I would love to line up at the Giro d’Italia. At this stage of my career, a Grand Tour is what my body needs.
I feel like it would be a big step to ride my first Grand Tour. And I don’t mean start it and bail out after 10 days; I mean finish it.