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Neil Donoghue and his 2009…

We caught up with Neil “Donny” Donoghue to ask what happened to his 2009. With rumours and speculation about what one of the UK’s fastest downhill riders floating around the internet and race scene we thought it’s best coming from the horses mouth. So we cornered Neil and set about him…

AM – Where have you been this season – why weren’t you competing the world cup and national series?

I started out with the new team with the intentions of riding the world cup series and selected national rounds, but obviously didn’t quite work out like that.

It was a new team so I didn’t really know what to expect and I was kind of dubious. I rode the bike and that was fine and there were other people involved that I trusted so I decided that it was my best option to get me to the races with decent support and things would be looked after for me. I know it was a bit of a shock to some people seeing me sign for that team but it was a bit of a last minute deal.

I had a really strong end to the season last year winning the last national and getting 11th at Schladming and things were looking good, the Bike Radar team was changing but it wasn’t until really late in the year that it went from being a done deal to the team being scrapped completely. That was a shock because I was under the impression everything was getting sorted and I was happy to continue on the team. Suddenly after 18 years of MBUK having a team it is done and I have to look for a ride very late in the year when everything is already gone and a financial meltdown is happening. So the 4 mountains deal came about, it looked like my best option and the contract looked good.

Fast forward a few months and nothing is happening, I have my bike but that is it. I booked my flights for South Africa and headed out to start the season. Things didn’t really get much better when I got there. I think it was my second practise run and I was riding this tight line across the top of a drop when my front wheel pushed a little wide. Next thing I knew I fell pretty much 12ft and landed flat on the top my head and then cart wheeled over the crash netting.

Donny - Worlds Fort William - Team GB (Photo Jon Beckett)

Donny - Worlds Fort William - Team GB (Photo Jon Beckett)

I was pretty dazed and my neck, chest and back hurt so bad it was scary. I also dislocated my finger. I put my finger back in there and then and rolled to the bottom of the track. I spent the next day cruising around Peitermaritzburg in a taxi trying to find the hospital to get my neck and ribs x rayed because I was in agony. It turned out to be ok, just whiplash so I got a taxi back to the race and got kitted up just in time to qualify. But I was in pain and my middle finger couldn’t even touch the bars because it wouldn’t bend at all. I think I got 50th or something, not a good start to the season. From then on I went from one injury to the next and still had not had any money at all from the team. I was going to try and ride La Bresse but my finger was still really bad.

If I was getting paid I would have gone out to try and salvage some points but I didn’t want to pay and go out and struggle to get a top 30 position. It got to the point with the team I thought I had heard every excuse possible but it was obvious the guy was a fake.

Moto Moto (Photo by Richard Sparks)

Moto Moto (Photo by Richard Sparks)

AM – What have you been doing with yourself during the season? As a professional cyclist have you stayed training or have you had to get a different to pay the rent?

After missing La Bresse and Andorra I went to Fort William trying to ride for the first time in over a month. My finger was still really swollen so the middle of my hand barely even touched the bars; obviously Fort William isn’t the smoothest of tracks so it took a lot just to get down with any sort of speed. I crashed in practise the morning of race day and had to have a local anaesthetic in my arm and have it scrubbed out. Anyway after all that I rode pretty well in the final, my split was looking good but I punctured just above the motorway section so I dropped like a bomb. It was so frustrating and I was sick of all the crap with the team I decided that was enough. I was going to take a bit of time off, heal up properly and try and get back to racing like I should be.

AM – Have you been riding trails or motocross at all during the season or had a break from bikes altogether?

For a while I didn’t ride at all, it was definitely the longest I haven’t ridden for in about 15 years. I have raced the nationals every year since 1995, so it was nice to have a bit of a change. I just kind of sank into normal life, but once everything was pretty much healed I got back on the xc bike and down the trails.

Gee was kind enough to lend me his spare DH bike and I rode the National Champs. That was hard to go to a race I always look forward to and not do well. I’ve been on the podium the previous 3 years but the time off the bike really took its toll. After that I have just been riding my xc bike and a lot of motocross. There is a really good local track and I have been going as much as possible, pounding out the laps trying to get ready for Battle Royal.

Sequence by Richard Sparks

Sequence by Richard Sparks

AM – Have you been following your mates at all during the season- what did you think to Peaty’s World Champs victory?!

Yeah I have keeping a close eye on the races still and seeing Steve win the worlds was amazing. I expected Minnaar or Mick Hannah to win in to be honest and they both rode great but Steve looked so strong. I can’t imagine how it must of felt for him to win after coming so close so many times.

AM – What are your plans for 2010? Will we see a return to racing on a full time basis or will you scale back your plans?

I am still training and riding and my plans are coming together for next year. I will hopefully be back at it full time. I still love racing and can’t see myself ever giving it up. I have to thank my sponsors that have looked after me this year for their great support – Fox, Hope, Funn, Fox Racing Shox, Mojo, Mavic, Burgtec, Oakley

Thanks for your time, I think it will be good to have something up about you and what’s happened to you this year. Thanks mate, speak soon


Neil Donaghue - Innerleithen - Team Santa Cruz/MBUK - 2007 (Photo Jon Beckett)

Neil Donaghue - Innerleithen - Team Santa Cruz/MBUK - 2007 (Photo Jon Beckett)

2 comments on “Neil Donoghue and his 2009…

  1. Good to hear something about the guy, I was slightly concerned that he’d jacked it all in, but assumed that he was just taking some time out due to the 4mountains fiasco. Onwards to 2010! 🙂

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