When Ireland's Maria Larkin visited Chicago back in 2008, it was just supposed to be a school trip to look at the architecture of the Windy City's skyline. However, that one trip ultimately led to Larkin becoming America's favorite Irish cyclocross racer.
Larkin liked the Midwest way of life enough that the next year when she was considering a gap year before finishing graduate school, she decided to pack her bags and try her luck at living in Chicago for a full year. During that next year she fell in lurrrrve with her now-husband Kyle, and then the following year she landed a job at a Chicago architecture firm.
The Irish student quickly became a Chicago-based ex-pat, and then last year, she obtained her U.S. citizenship. That school trip had completely changed her life, even if she did not know it at the time.
While living in Chicago and finishing school, Larkin also discovered cycling. She started with track and then did her first cyclocross race in 2012. Fast forward to 2019, and she is now a mainstay in the Chicago Cross Cup.
"I first picked up a cyclocross bike to do a relay race in Chicago, and after DNFing four races her first season due to terrible handling skills, I have never looked back," she said about her intro to ’cross.
As she has developed as a rider, Larkin has also taken her ’cross show on the road. With Irish citizenship, she has raced every U.S. World Cup but one (2018 Jingle Cross) and frequently travels to UCI races here in the U.S. In 2018, she became the first Elite woman from Ireland to race in the World Championships.
Oh, and every January, she makes a trip back home for the Irish National Championships where she has finished second three different times.
A member of Chicago area teams in past years, Larkin started her own racing program for the 2019/20 season called Donkey Label p/b FK Law. Donkey Label is the same clothing company that supports Tobin Ortenblad in his solo racing endeavor.
"Donkey Label is a hardworking brand that focuses on simplicity and quality, the partnership is summed up perfectly by their ethos of 'Be loyal, work hard, and maintain a sense of humor, a sense of self, and a sense of style,'" Larkin said about why she wanted to work with the Minnesota company.
Larkin's bike sponsor is Colnago USA, and she rides the company's flagship Prestige for cyclocross racing. We checked out Larkin's bike earlier this year.
Maria Larkin's Colnago Prestige
The Colnago Prestige is the Italian company's one dedicated cyclocross bike. Colnago builds the Prestige with a monocoque frame and fork, and the geometry is racing-oriented.
Larkin's 49cm frameset sports a 71.5-degree head tube angle and a 6.8cm bottom bracket drop. The bike also has its fair share of prestige, with Wout van Aert riding it to a win at the CrossVegas World Cup in 2016, Rob Peeters riding the cantilever version further back in the day, and Sven Nys riding it to a World Championship in 2013.
Larkin is now in the second year of her partnership with Colnago USA. She travels with two bikes, one in the black colorway and one in the red.
Appropriately for the Irish native, some green and white designs accent the frameset, and the John Hancock of Ernesto Colnago graces the top tube near the seat tube junction.
Larkin's husband Kyle Hagerman is an employee of Chicago-based SRAM, and lest there be some household unrest, Larkin outfitted her Prestige with components from the hometown company.
This year, she got on the electric train—not that electric train—and upgraded to the 1x SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset. In front, she had the SRAM Red 1 Power Meter crankset with built-in Quarq power meter. At Jingle Cross, she ran a 38t X-Sync 2 chain ring, thanks to the daunting task of repeatedly climbing Mt. Krumpit.
In the rear, she ran the Red eTap AXS derailleur and a Red 10-33t cassette.
Her rear derailleur and Red eTap AXS calipers paired with the Red eTap AXS HRD shift-brake levers up front.
The adopted Midwesterner kept it regional with her wheels, partnering with Minnesota-based HED. She ran HED Ardennes SL alloy tubulars built with HED hubs.
Larkin counts Challenge as a tire sponsor, so she runs the company's Team Edition S3 tubulars. When we saw her bike at Jingle Cross, she had Grifos mounted, but Hagerman told us she is keen on the Limus model thanks to their cornering grip.
Larkin kept it in the Midwest with her handlebar and bar tape, heading south to Indianapolis for a Zipp Service Course SL-80 bar with Service Course tape. A 75mm Stlyo stem from SRAM house brand Truvativ, a unique sighting on top-shelf cyclocross bikes, holds things in place. Larkin said the short stem is thanks in part to her "T-Rex arms."
An unmarked Specialized carbon seatpost held her Specialized Power saddle with Mimic, and Time Atac XC 2 pedals rounded out her contact points.
Larkin is wrapping up her 2019 "domestic" season here in the U.S. with Midwest Cyclocross Regionals in Chicago on December 8, and she then heads to the "international" part of her calendar that starts with GP Sven Nys in Belgium on New Year's Day before going for that first career win at Irish Nationals in Enniscrone, Co. Mayo in mid-January.
"This is the first time, to my knowledge, that Nationals will be held in the province of Connacht, and so I am doubly focused on taking home the win in my home county," she said about Nationals.
For a closer look at Larkin's Colnago Prestige, check out the photo gallery and specs below.