Cycling Ireland’s gamble with Knight falls short at World Champs

Posted on: August 23rd, 2015

Unnecessary pressure was heaped on Josie Knight’s young shoulders by some of the decisions taken for her by Cycling Ireland.


Josie Knight’s campaign at the World Track Championships in Astana has come to a close and while the teenager will travel home without a hoped for medal, the addition of more silverware to her trophy cabinet looks inevitable in the not too distant future.

The Kerry teenager has been fast tracked by Cycling Ireland since she won silver in the junior individual pursuit at the European Championships in Portugal last summer.

On that occasion she was fastest qualifier. And while beaten in the gold medal ride off, she bagged a silver in what was one of the best ever performances by an Irish female cyclist.

Since then things have moved very quickly, with Knight joining the national track set-up full time.

She was called into the elite team pursuit line-up at a number of UCI World Cup meetings and the elite World Track Championships.

When the recent combined junior and U23 European Track Championships took place in Greece, Cycling Ireland made the unusual decision to enter Knight into the U23 events even though she was still eligible for the junior races.

The move raised more than a few eyebrows in that Knight was denied the chance to ride the races where she had the best chances of more medals, and perhaps take a European title.

The decision was based on the thinking the U23 racing in Athens would stand her in better stead for the junior events at the World Championships which concluded in Astana today, Sunday.

And when it emerged Knight would be the only Irish rider travelling to Kazakhstan for the Worlds, it became clear the federation had surrendered the rider’s chances of medals at the Europeans in an all-out effort to take a Worlds medal instead.

That high pressure strategy has not yielded the results hoped for, though Knight went very close to a medal when she blasted into the individual pursuit bronze medal ride-off only to be beaten.

The need for her to be entered into the U23 events at the Europeans in preparation for the junior racing at the Worlds was not a strategy followed by others.

The Poles, for example, resisted the temptation of entering their junior star turn Justyna Kaczkowska into the U23 races at the Europeans.

She duly popped up and won the European junior title in Athens last month and took World Championship pursuit gold in Astana in recent days.

After going very close in the pursuit, Knight then moved on to the omnium and while she was 5th at the end of the first three races of six going into the second day of the contest on Sunday, she slipped to a final finish of 9th.

She was 11th in the 500m TT today followed by 8th in the flying lap and 9th in the points race.

Knight was perhaps placed into an unnecessarily pressurised environment by the decisions made by Cycling Ireland.

The burden of being placed into the U23 races at the Europeans would in itself have ratcheted up the stakes for the Worlds and also denied her the chance of more success in Europe.

Sending her to Kazakhstan as the sole Irish rider when a whole team could have been picked simply heaped further pressure and expectation on her 18-year-old shoulders.

The gifted Knight has also missed the entire road season though still has time to do something in that arena with the An Post Rás na mBan taking place next month.

However, Cycling Ireland high performance coach Brian Nugent pointed to the positives.

“Josie performed well today,” he said after the concluding session at the Worlds.

“Her times in the 500m and flying lap were all significant personal bests and she held her own. She was super in the points race.

“Josie had a clear plan and it was a lap or nothing to make the podium.

“She went at the right times and rode a tactically good race but was heavily marked. She had over half a lap at one point but they chased hard.

“This week has marked a big step up for Josie. She is now very competent in all aspects of her racing and is learning fast. She should be very happy with her week’s work.”