Cyrus Monk. It’s possible his name doesn’t ring a bell. Graduated as a scientist and after some wandering, he finally found his place in the Pro Circuit by joining Q36.5, the new team of Douglas Ryder. At the age of 26 he’s ready to compete at the highest level. Get to know one of the most remarkable riders in the current peloton.
Many cycling fans don’t know Cyrus Monk. What kind of rider are you?
"I would say my versatility is my strength. If you look across my power profile there’s nothing that stands out as world class, but there aren't any weaknesses where I’m a long way off the mark either. I’m just a cyclist who loves racing. If I have half a chance on a result near the end of a race, I’d back myself to beat plenty of riders with a hell of a lot more watts than I have. I think I’ve done okay so far at getting the best possible results with what I’ve got, so I’m looking forward to seeing how far I can go at this next level with team Q36.5."
How did you fall in love with the bike and cycling in particular?
"I started cycling before I was 10, but at that time I practised other sports too. Cycling was never that serious until I was able to do some epic days on the road with mates and travel to cool places to race. At that point I realized the full potential of riding a bike, particularly as I moved up the levels. I’m extremely competitive in all walks of life so I love the fact that you can turn any ride with anyone into some kind of challenge or competition, even the days you’re just out there challenging yourself."
"I love the fact that you can turn any ride with anyone into some kind of challenge or competition, even the days you’re just out there challenging yourself"
You’ll ride for Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team in 2023. A step forward from a Continental team to a ProTeam. What was your first reaction when they called you?
"I approached Doug (Douglas Ryder, ed.) in August after hearing he was starting a new team. When he gave me the call to let me know I’d be offered a contract it was hard to hold in the excitement. I think I ran about twenty laps around my house in Belgium during that call. I had been in similar talks with team managers so many times before and always seemed to be pushed aside at the last moment. It happened that many times during my career that I thought a call like that would never come. It took some time before it to sank in, but now I’m really happy that this team in particular is the first pro team I will be a part of."
At the age of 19 you won several small races in Belgium. Two years later you finished inside the top 10 in Tour of Flanders U23 and became U23 national champion. Besides that, you were a trainee for Cannondale/EF twice. Why did it take that long to become a pro?
"I was really disappointed with the experience I had at Cannondale/EF. When I joined the team as a stagiaire for the first time, I was told I'd get a full contract if I achieved some results during that period. Apparently the results weren't good enough and maybe I was a bit naive by not looking harder elsewhere before finding out they’d already filled the team. Team manager Jonathan Vaughters didn’t take the time to reply to any email while I was still scoring UCI points in his jersey. I know many others on that team have been in similar situations."
"Team manager Jonathan Vaughters didn’t take the time to reply to any email while I was still scoring UCI points in his jersey"
"Eventually I was approached by EvoPro, which had a great roster and programme at the time, but the team had a really tough environment to even make it to the races, let alone try and get decent results. The handful of personal results each year were okay, but never enough to really be noticed by other teams. Until I got the chance to speak with Doug and Alex Sans Vega who actually took the time to pay attention to the full picture rather than just the numbers in TrainingPeaks. I’m really grateful for the opportunity as not many people sign their first pro contract at the age of 26."
"It’s been a bumpy road for sure, but I’ve honestly just been enjoying the ride rather than getting too fixated on the destination. A lot of people said they couldn't believe I kept at it for this long. It’s not that the only goal was to make it to a professional level. I’ve just been enjoying racing my bike around the world and I’m looking forward to doing more of the same, but now I’m getting paid to do it. How good!"
New team, new faces in 2023. Do you know someone personally?
"I don’t know anyone at all, which will be a really cool experience. I’d say I’ve raced against most of the guys at some point, but I think I have closer connections from previous years with staff members than with riders so it’s a completely clean slate."
How much do you look forward to working together with Vincenzo Nibali?
"Vincenzo is definitely someone I always admired while following the sport before any chance of racing at this level became a reality. I had the chance to rub shoulders with him a few years ago during some Italian races. That was already pretty crazy, but to have him that closely associated with the team now is super exciting."
The World Tour returns to Australia after 3 years. You never had the chance to race Tour Down Under, the biggest cycling race in your home country. Are we going to see you riding Tour Down Under in 2023?
"I'll be in Calpe in January for the team camp, so unfortunately I'll miss Tour Down Under. I really hope the team can gain an invite for 2024 as I’ve always wanted to race it. Luckily my next race will be the Australian Nationals, so let's go with that one first."
Which races do you definitely want to ride next season?
"The races that have been confirmed for early in the season are all really exciting. It's hard to say which one I prefer. Races as Saudi Tour and Tour of Rwanda would be great as I’ve never been to those countries before. I’d also jump on the opportunity to compete against the best riders in Algarve or some of the early season classics like Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Looking at our current programme it’s a lot harder to find a race I wouldn’t like to do."
"Looking at our current programme it’s a lot harder to find a race I wouldn’t like to do"
You graduated as a Bachelor of Science with a Physiology Major. In which way it helps you to improve your own cycling skills?
"I gained a good foundation of human anatomy and physiology through my degree at Melbourne University and have used this since to really stay up to date with the latest research into training, nutrition, recovery, ... I’ve used it to try some new training methods myself which have led to big improvements and I use similar methods with the athletes I’m coaching now. I think I’ll always love learning and I’m still open to the idea of further study in this area after my own cycling career."
You have a website called ‘Cyclist or scientist’ and your own podcast 'The Cycling Performance Club'. That’s quite unique. Most of the riders are happy to leave the bike and cycling in general behind them after a race or a training ride. Where did the idea come from and which topics do you discuss?
"I had a unit assignment where we had to present a new scientific paper in a way that was engaging and easy to understand for a general audience. I really liked this idea and decided to create my own website after graduating so I could do a similar thing with more sports science research. One of my co-hosts on the podcast noticed this and approached me to join him in some similar projects. The podcast has followed on from that. There is so much good research out there showing what really works to aid performance, yet some people are still using methods debunked years ago simply because they don’t know any better. The best scientists aren’t necessarily the best communicators so I aim to present the latest research in a fun and accessible way so that everyone can perform a little better and have a little more fun on the bike."
Do you already have a nickname in the peloton?
"I have plenty of nicknames as ‘footy’ or ‘cricket’, but luckily none of them have stuck. Here around Melbourne it's usually ‘the wombat’. From my experience in the peloton in Europe, any day you’re not getting called a ‘f***** c***’ is a good one. Maybe that will change a bit now that I won't be wearing a continental jersey anymore."
"From my experience in the peloton in Europe, any day you’re not getting called a ‘f****** c***’ is a good one"
The last few years you also lived in Belgium for a while, are you planning to stay there?
"I really loved living in Belgium. I rode many times with the famous Scheldepeloton and I just love the Vlaamse Ardennen, but I’ll be doing a programme with a lot more stage racing next year. That's why I need to be somewhere I can focus on my climbing. So Megan and I are looking for a house around Nice. I’ll certainly miss Karmeliet (Belgian beer, ed)."
It won’t be difficult to spot you in the peloton next season. To finish, tell us something about your mullet.
"During 2020 it felt like I was one of very few Aussies left overseas when we shut the borders so I felt like I had to fly the flag a little. Now I just enjoy not getting a sunburnt neck and I’m also convinced it gives some aerodynamic benefit. Anyone out there with a spare wind tunnel want to let me test my hypothesis?"
We're curious about the result! Cyrus, thank you for the nice chat. We wish you all the best for the upcoming season.