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Leo Doyle behind Dillon Corkery as they chase solo leader Ben Healy during the men’s road race at the National Road Championships last year (Photo: Caroline Kerley)

One of the most impressive amateur riders in the men’s road race at the National Road Championships last year, Leo Doyle is now set to move from club or elite racing to the pro peloton next year.

Though he has already guested with a European elite team in some UCI-ranked events, he will be a full-time UCI Continental team rider this season. He has completed college – a degree in Social Science – and a deferred post graduate studies in criminal psychology at the University of Greenwich in London, for two years.

Doyle told stickybottle he expected to do between 40 to 60 UCI-ranked race days in 2024 with his new North American team, saying he knew faced a big transition in racing volume and intensity, but believe he was ready.

The 23-year-old will race with XSpeed United, a Canadian-registered Continental team that last year rode races like Tour de Beauce (2.2) in Canada, Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race (2.2) in the US, Belgrade Banjaluka (2.2) in Central Europe, Tour of South Bohemia (2.2) in Czech Republic and other UCI-ranked one-day and stage races in Continental Europe.

Doyle, between Bora-hansgrohe riders Ryan Mullen and Sam Bennett on his way to 10th at the National Road Championships last June (Photo: Toby Watson)

Last year, Doyle rode for a period with Austrian elite team, ARBÖ headstart ON-Fahrrad. He competed in several UCI races in Europe, including Dookoła Mazowsza (2.2) in Poland and Tour of Szeklerland (2.2) in Romania. It means has had already had taster of what is to come.

“For next year, there’s no real ‘set in stone’ goal, because it’s a big step up,” Doyle said of a season that will be focused on absorbing the additional racing load. “Last year I dipped my toe into pro racing with 20 UCI race days, whereas next year I’ll have a minimum of 40 UCI race days and I wouldn’t be surprised if I did 60 UCI race days.

“And some of them are very big races. The team’s programme is in Asia, Africa, America and most races in Europe. So it’s a really big programme.

“Obviously, it’s a big team and the main aim next year, coming in as one of the lower level guys, is to help the team in the best way that I can. My ability as a bike rider, in terms of technical ability, allows me to be always able to position myself very well.

“And I think that’s a big aspect as to why I’m in the team; to be able to position the team in key moments in the finales. It seemed that last year in some of the pro races there was very specific days that suited me extremely well. And they were any technical days where you had a descent or a tough climb close to the finish, and then a reduced bunch sprint finish.”

Leo Doyle, from Cavan, raced for Dutch team Tempo Hoppenbouwers from 2020 to 2022 (Photo: Caroline Kerley)

However, Doyle, from Cavan, added the majority of his focus would be around trying to find his feet during much more frequent pro races and, at the same time, find his place in the team. He added after the effort of recent seasons, he was relieved to sign for the team.

“I’ve been working towards it for such a long time and it’s nice that, a few months after I graduated from UCD (I signed),” he said. “And it’s a big thing to have my degree in my back pocket, especially in this climate of cycling.”

Doyle was in the thick of the action, with the World Tour riders, at the front of the men’s race at the National Road Championships last year before placing 10th. He also won bronze in the National Criterium Championships and was 5th on the penultimate stage of Rás Tailteann.

He said while he went to race abroad from very early in his senior career, it was not because he was so intent on trying to become a professional rider. Rather, the opportunity simply arose to race with Tempo Hoppenbouwers in the Netherlands and he took it.

“When I was 18, the Dutch team gave me a chance to go racing there,” he said, having started out at home with Sheelin Flyers in 2016 before going to Team iTap and then DB Cycling Club and on to UCD Cycling Club.

“No other Irish team was giving me an opportunity at the time. So that was just the route I went. I think it was a risky move because I sort of missed out on the Irish connections that I’ve only built, I’d say, this year when I raced a lot more in Ireland.”

Doyle says though he is now aged 23 years and is only making the move to post-university racing abroad, he feels “very lucky” with the exposure he has had to date to international racing.

Furthermore, he said looking on at a rider like Rás Tailteann champion, Dillon Corkery, who is stepping up from the French elite scene this year to French Conti team St Michel-Mavic-Auber93, was something he was encouraged by.

“It shows the current climate in cycling, for likes like me and Cian (Keogh) and Conn (McDunphy) and Dillon, we nearly missed the boat. You see all the young guys, all the juniors, even U16s, they’re suddenly being signed and the U23s were a bit overlooked.

“So I think I was very lucky. And I think it shows some of the results that I’ve had, that I did something right. And it’s a crucial that I have signed this deal because it gets me in the door, especially at a time when your 23-year-olds are nearly being considered old, that’s how it feels anyway.”

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