Irish riders only reinforce growing velodrome embarrassment

Posted on: November 14th, 2016

Mark Downey has taken gold at the UCI World Cup and with others pressing hard things should only be looking good for the Irish team.


Having seen Mark Downey take a sublime victory in the points race at the UCI World Cup on Saturday, the Irish team was again in the mix on the final day of competition in Holland; Lydia Gurley showing her recent top riding was no fluke.

The Irish woman took 4th in the scratch race at the opening round of the World Cup on the Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow last weekend.

And in the points race in Apeldoorn yesterday her 6th place suggests she is already at home at this level.

This is an Irish team in good shape with plenty to look forward to.

But confirmation that the velodrome project for Dublin has been delayed yet again is an even bigger embarrassment when set against the results and potential of the current crop of riders.

In the recent Budget, which sets out Government spending plans for next year, no money was earmarked for the track.

That means it definitely cannot start next year and it will be next October by the time the budget for 2018 is known.

The next phase of the National Indoor Arena must be provided for financially before the velodrome is even considered; both facilities are planned for the same national sports campus in Abbotstown, west Dublin.

That aside, and getting back to this weekend’s racing; after Downey’s heroics of Saturday he teamed up on yesterday’s final day of competition with Felix English in the madison.

And though both are formidable performers in their own right, they had to be content with 7th place this time; well below what they should go on to achieve in the not too distant future.

For his part, English has become one of the best criterium riders on the British pro circuit in the last few years.

And having returned to the international track fold around 12 months ago he was immediately 4th at a World Cup in Hong Kong in the scratch race.

And he was 5th in the same event at the European Championships in Paris last month.

On Friday’s opening day of UCI World Cup competition in Apeldoorn he was again 4th in the scratch race.

Shannon McCurley was 9th in the keirin on Saturday and having qualified for the Olympics this year, the first Irish woman to do so, we should see her results continue to edge higher.

Also in action this weekend in Holland was national road race champion Lydia Boylan who was 9th in the four-race omnium on Friday. And Eoin Mullen was 23rd in the men’s sprint on Saturday.

Downey’s gold in the points race comes after Anna Turvey, a UK-based rider recently declared for Ireland, won bronze at the recent Europeans in the pursuit.

And with English knocking on the door and Gurley looking game, there is real reason for optimism for the future.

Ireland also has Ryan Mullen developing against the watch at a great rate for Cannondale-Drapac.

And former world track champion Martyn Irvine is making a road comeback with new Irish ProContinental team Aqua Blue Sport.

While the road is the current focus for Mullen and Irvine, it is highly probably they will ride at least some track events in the years ahead for the Irish team.

And track coach David Muntaner, from Spain and a world champion in the madison just two years ago, is now working very well with the Irish team.

The trouble for Irish cycling is that nobody in Government seems to feel under any pressure to provide a velodrome so that all of that potential can be given the best chance possible and new potential spotted and developed.