Ben Healy: "If I can improve my climbing, I could become a decent GC rider"
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
2022 was Ben Healy's first season in the World Tour. It was a season in which he tried to find his feet at the highest level, but we can expect a lot more from him next year. The allround Irishman talked to us about his first steps in the World Tour, the future and his biggest motivations.
Hi Ben. First of all, how was the team camp in Girona?
"It was great. A real step up for last year's team as Covid delays and sickness didn't affect us. There is a real optimistic feeling coming from the whole team which is good to see after a difficult year."
Let’s look back at 2022, your first World Tour season. Did it fulfill the expectations?
"I’m quite happy with my first pro season. The only little piece I felt I was missing was a win, but I came close and I can be happy. Going into 2023, I feel like I've learnt a lot of lessons about myself and taken steps to become the best bike rider I can be."
You were very close to a first pro win in Tour of Norway, but Evenepoel caught you inside the final kilometer. Does that motivate you to train harder?
"For sure! Having raced against Evenepoel all through the junior category it felt a little frustrating. Like 'ah not him again haha'. But you have to beat the best to win so that just means I need to improve."
We found a picture of the 2017 Junior Tour of Wales. Pidcock won, you became second and Fred Wright finished third. You raced a lot against these guys. Is it an extra motivation to see them shining in classics and Grand Tour stages as well?
"Yes! First I need to find my feet a bit within the World Tour. After that I can be up there competing with these guys. Seeing them do what they're doing makes me feel it's achievable and adds that extra motivation."
Your team manager Jonathan Vaughters likes to compare you with Thomas De Gendt. Do you agree with him?
"Definitely. I think you can identify a few comparisons between De Gendt and me. He wins from the breaks a lot and that's something I also like to do. I just enjoy long race days that are hard from the start. If I win half the stuff De Gendt has done, I would be super happy. It's cool to be compared to a guy like him."
In the 2021 Giro U23 you finished third in the stage to Sestola, behind Ayuso and Johannessen. That was a very strong climbing performance. Do you want to improve your climbing skills or do you target other qualities to improve?
"I'm at my best during medium mountain stages. I also have a strong time trial so if I can improve my climbing I think I could become a decent GC rider, which interests me a lot."
I think you can identify a few comparisons between Thomas De Gendt and me
As you like to improve as a GC rider. Which race do you dream of to win sometime?
"I would love to win the Tour de France as it’s the biggest race there is and the highest level. But as for now we need to find out if that's realistic or not, step by step."
Are we going to see you in Belgium for the classics again next season?
"Not as much as last year I think. Maybe I'll do one or two races, but they won't be a focus. I started the 2022 season not really knowing what kind of rider I can be, partly because I missed a lot of U23 classics due to Covid. That's why I wanted to play my hand at everything and see where that would put me. I want to head into this year really thinking about races I believe I can win. At this point I think the classics would be hard. I'm not saying I won't focus on them in the future, but this season that won't be the case."
Which races do you target in 2023?
"A big goal for me is to go to the Giro and tick off the first Grand Tour this year. With a few time trials and a lot of chances for the breakaway I think it could present a few opportunities for me."
Your sports director Tom Southam said last year: “When I saw Ben, I didn’t think ‘oh, he’s a bike rider.’ He looked like he was in art school or something.” When I see your pictures on Instagram, I agree with him.
"Haha, I just enjoy putting effort into what I wear and like to look a bit different." (Read more below the picture)
You were born in England but you applied for an Irish passport when you were a teenager. Why?
"I originally applied for my Irish passport because my dad's side of the family is all Irish. I declared to represent Ireland when I was a Junior because at that time it was the right thing to do. I am super proud now to represent Ireland and that side of my family. I'm even more grateful for all the opportunities Cycling Ireland has given me."
I am super proud to represent Ireland and that side of my family. I'm even more grateful for all the opportunities Cycling Ireland has given me
I noticed some great support by your dad Bryan on Twitter and Strava. How important is he to you?
"Super important, he introduced me to cycling. Without the sacrifices and support of him and my family there is no way I would be where I am now. It really motivates me to make them proud."
Thank you for the interview, Ben. Have a lovely Christmas and for 2023, we wish you all the best, and a first pro victory!