In the approach to the Rio Olympics next year Track Cycling is enjoying it’s time in the sun.
Given the historical success of Irish cyclists such as Caroline Ryan on the boards, track racing has been the focus of attention from Cycling Ireland (and the Sports Council), with the grand plan being to qualify athletes in one of the many track events on the Olympic schedule.
The Olympic Omnium, and the Team Pursuit are the two track events in which the chances of an Irish cyclist qualifying to represent their country in Rio are purported to be the highest.
In the Olympic Omnium, points are accrued in each of six races over the four days of the event. Points are awarded to 8th place, so it’s worth fighting for every position coming to the line.
Last weekend, in Sundrive Velodrome, the National Olympic Omnium, took place…. with the six events being held over two days. Orla Hendron (Orwell Wheelers) current World Masters Champion in the 2km Individual Pursuit, and Deborah Madden (Sundrive Track Team) both took part, and both took time out afterwards to help write the following report.
Day 1 of the National Olympic Omnium opened with a 10km Scratch race. The bunch stayed tight for the most of the race, with no potential break given any room to take off. Early attempts by Roisín Kennedy (Arcane Adamstown CT) and Rachel Withers (Adamstown) were quickly neutralised. Orla Hendron was also in attacking form throughout, but found Susie Mitchell (Sundrive Track Team) and Bermingham-based Lydia Gurley (Bonito Squadra) marking every move closely.
Then Mitchell, the incumbent National Olympic Omnium champion, attacked with 2 laps to go, ….and harder again with 1 lap to go, and this proved the winning move when she held on for a hard fought, close victory over Gurley. Track newcomer, and former rower, Eimear Moran (Sundrive) came in third.
The Scratch race was followed by the 3k Individual Pursuit. Gurley took the top spot here, with Mitchell in second this time, and Eimear Moran, in her first ever pursuit, coming in third again.
The Elimination race was up next. Also known as The Devil, the Elimination race operates on a deceptively simple premise: the last back wheel across the line is eliminated every lap, whittling the field down to two for a final sprint to the line.
The second elimination proved too close to call, as riders Deborah Madden (Sundrive) and Grace Irvine (McNally Swords) crossed the line exactly together. The race was neutralised for 3 laps as the race got back together. Normal service resumed, with Madden out the next lap, followed by Irvine, then Omnium debutant Sofie Loscher (Sundrive), then Kennedy, then Mitchell – who had given her all in the pursuit – came out in fourth. Eimear Moran then took her third 3rd place of the day, followed by Hendron in 2nd, and the win went once again to Lydia Gurley.
Omnium Day 2 started with the 500m TT, followed by the Flying 250m and ending with the 25k (50 lap) Points race.
The 500m TT is exactly what it says on the tin… a race of truth, one lap of Sundrive Track, done. Susie Mitchell took the honours, Eimear Moran was 2nd, Lydia Gurley 3rd, and Orla Hendron 4th.
Next up was The Flying Lap, and this saw Susie Mitchell not only take full points yet again, but also setting a new PB (personal best time) in the process… covering the 250m in a not too shabby at all 16.65 seconds!
In what was becoming a familiar outcome on Day 2, Eimear Moran took 2nd, Lydia Gurley 3rd, and Orla Hendron 4th.
So, going into the final event of the 6-part Omnium – The Points Race – it was, as they say, all to play for…
The 25km Points Race is a fine test not only of a rider’s speed and endurance, but also of their experience, their ability to know when to act. The 50-lap race includes intermediate sprints every 4th lap with bonuses of 5, 3, 2 and 1 points respectively for the riders crossing the line from 1st to 4th place. In addition, any rider who manages to lap the field gains a whopping 20 points, and with the main contenders keeping a keen eye on each other, Roisin Kennedy managed to do just that!
Between the fourth and fifth sprints Kennedy launched an attack that left the group napping, and her well-timed move saw her snatch up the most important points of her weekend. The 20 points Kennedy gained were enough to see her leap-frog Hendron and Moran, and finish out the Omnium on the 3rd step of the podium.
So, the final outcome of the National Olympic Omnium was:
- 1st Susie Mitchell
- 2nd Lydia Gurley
- 3rd Roisin Kennedy
- 4th Eimear Moran
- 5th Orla Hendron
- 6th Deborah Madden
- 7th Sophie Loscher
And the strong showing by each finisher in this marathon of track cycling will surely see some of them make the grade for the Cycling Ireland Team Pursuit squad aiming to qualify for Rio 2016…
(thank you to Brendan Whelan, Arcane Adamstown CT, for the photos in this article)