FLAUNDEN’S Conor Dunne stands at a colossal 6ft 8ins tall – and it is fair to say that the young cyclist’s talent certainly matches up to his stature.
Conor, 19, is one of the hottest young prospects on the Belgian cycling scene – and he has been given a helping hand by a local cycling shop as he attempts to freewheel his way to the top.
When you’re as tall as Conor – and he is still growing – it can make things tricky, not least because it can be nigh on impossible to find cycling equipment to fit.
After a successful year in Belgium, it became apparent that the equipment his club VL Technics was offering him would not be up to the job.
And that is where Hemel’s Leisure Wheels came in.
“The biggest his team could specialise a bike for was for people who are about 6ft 2ins,” said Leisure Wheels’ Dan Busson.
“So Conor and his dad got in touch and I said to him: If your team are going to supply you with a bike that is too small, why don’t I just get you a different frame?”
And Dan was true to his word, providing Conor with an oversized £2,500 frame courtesy of suppliers Specialized.
Conor is now hoping that the new equipment can help his already rapid development.
Since taking up cycling at the age of 16 at Hemel Hempstead Cycling Club, Conor has gone from strength to strength – and last year he made the decision to follow his dreams and head to Belgium.
“If you want to become a professional cyclist you have to go abroad really,” Conor said.
“The cycling in England is good but if you really want to do well you have to go to Belgium, France or Italy. That is where the support is biggest so that was always on my mind.”
And how has his height affected his pursuit of glory?
Not much, by the looks of it – he has, after all, already competed at some of the biggest races in his age group and been selected for the Irish U23 team.
“I’ve never come across anyone as tall as me,” Conor said with a grin. “People ask me if it’s harder because of my height but I don’t really know, to be honest – I’ve never known any different!
“There’s pros and cons to everything – I’m not as good going up hills but I think my height makes me a better time triallist.
“The only real problem was finding equipment to fit so I’m really grateful to Leisure Wheels and Specialized for helping me out.”
This year looks to be a big one for Conor, and he has his sights set on the U23 Nations Cup tournament, which is essentially the European championships.
“Last year’s Nations Cup didn’t go too well because I got food poisoning,” he said.
“So this year I want to do really well in them because I’ve got unfinished business.”
And what does the future hold for the talented teenager? “People generally look to get a pro contract after their third year,” he said.
“I’m sticking to the plan that I set out for myself and I’m just taking everything as it comes.”
While it may only be early days in his career, one thing seems clearly apparent – Conor Dunne is a big guy, who could go on to achieve equally big things.