Ireland were represented by six female riders at the UCI Track World Championships in Berlin. The tournament had huge ramifications as it was the final event before the two-year Olympic qualification window for track cyclists closed.
Coming into the tournament, the Women’s Madison team ranked ninth overall and were well placed inside the Olympic qualification zone. Lydia Boylan and Lydia Gurley were the Irish competitors in the Madison team event and survived a brutal race to finish 11th and provisionally secure qualification.
The result added to Team Ireland’s points tally throughout the two-year qualification period which included a top-ten finish at the 2019 Track World Championships and an eighth-place at the 2019 European Championships.
Accordingly the result provisionally qualifies two slots in the Women’s Madison and one slot in the Women’s Omnium at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Boylan and Gurley scored two points from an intermediate sprint in the early stages of the 30-kilometer race but one of many crashes during the race saw Boylan hit the deck. She did not sustain any serious injury and was able to re-join the race on a spare bike.
Gurley was forced to extend her effort as she waited for Boylan to re-join the race and provided some relief as they averaged over 50kph.
Speaking after the race, Gurley said, “It was carnage from my point of view anyway. I think it wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done and that was the most important thing today. We would have liked a better result, but we took the points and we fought, we really had to fight there.”
“I’m in bits but we’ve done it so I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved today.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Kelly Murphy set a new national record of 3:29.699, claiming 15th in the Women’s Individual Pursuit.
It was the first time an Irish rider had gone under 3 minutes 30 seconds for this discipline, the previous record stood at 3:30.687 and was set by Kelly at the European Championships in October. On Wednesday, Kelly along with her teammates Mia Griffin, Lara Gillespie, and Alice Sharpe knocked 4 seconds off the Women’s Team Pursuit national record to qualify for the next round and finish 8th.
Reflecting on the record breaking ride, Murphy said, “I’m satisfied with my ride today… I ultimately came to beat the time I set at the Europeans Championships which I did. In the timed events, a lot of the girls here have shown that the bar has been raised. I have put in a lot of work (in order) to raise with it.”
On Sunday, Alice Sharpe finished 21st in the Points Race. It was a thrilling spectacle with 100 laps or 25-kilometers for women. Points are on offer every 10-laps and an extra 20 points are awarded for any rider who laps the field. Sharpe was also in action earlier in the week when the Women’s Pursuit Team broke the Irish Record to finish 8th.
The pace was on from the start with a myriad of riders fighting for intermediate sprints and vying to gain a lap. One of the pre-race favourites, Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands, was left disappointed after she took a tumble when a rider swung up the track and clipped her front wheel taking it from under her. The incident effectively ended her chances of a podium finish.
Sharpe looked to be on the ropes with 25 laps remaining and at risk of losing a lap as Australia and Great Britain pressed on. Sharpe dug deep and chased hard to regain contact but failed to score any points during the race where the average speed was just shy of 50kph.