Lara Gillespie has taken a superb silver medal in the women's under-23 individual pursuit at the European track championships in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, finishing second to Italian rival Silvia Zanardi in Tuesday evening's final.
Zanardi started fast, but was passed by Gillespie before the end of the first kilometre. The Italian was still behind at the two kilometre point, but then put in a very strong final kilometre to end up with a time of three minutes 33.359 seconds. This was three and a half seconds faster than her qualifying time, an unexpected improvement.
Gillespie covered the distance in 3:36.804 seconds to take silver.
The Enniskerry native had previously set the fastest time of 3:34.326 in the morning qualification round. This was over two and a half seconds quicker than Zanardi’s time, marking her out as the favourite for the final.
While things didn’t play out as expected, she and the Ireland team will draw encouragement from a silver medal on day one of the six-day championships.
Remarkably, it is Gillespie’s sixth European championship medal of her young career. She took gold and silver in the points race and individual pursuit respectively at the 2018 European junior track championships, then took silver medals in the points race, the scratch race and the individual pursuit in the junior championships the following season.
Other Irish riders were also in action on the opening day. Gaby Homer finished seventh in the under-23 women's individual pursuit, while Cian Keogh was 18th in the under-23 men's pursuit. Homer was then 15th in the evening elimination race.
Chris Donald was 16th in the under-23 men's elimination race and Odhrán Doogan was prominent for much of the junior men's scratch event before ultimately finishing 15th.
The Irish squad is made up of a total of 13 riders, eight of which are junior and five under-23.
Meanwhile Ireland’s Ben Healy was caught the wrong side of a split in the bunch at the end of stage four of the Tour de l’Avenir, conceding 10 seconds and drifting from eighth to 10th overall as a result.
The 183.9 kilometre stage to Bar le Duc was won in a big sprint by the British rider Ethan Vernon ahead of Jensen Plowright (Australia) and Lewis Askey (Britain). Dillon Corkery was best of the Ireland team in 20th.
The first 54 riders finished in the same time but, as per UCI rules, a slight gap in the bunch saw the time recalculated to the next riders. This meant that Healy was given a time 10 seconds behind the first part of the bunch. JB Murphy was next home out of the six-man team, taking 83rd.
Mick Van Dijke (Netherlands) continues to lead the overall standings. Healy’s 10-second time loss sees him now one minute 42 seconds back in 10th place, with Murphy 44th.
The race continues on Wednesday with a lumpy stage to Bar-sur-Aube. It will then move into higher mountains from Thursday until the race’s conclusion on Sunday.
Healy won a stage in the event two years ago, and will be hoping to repeat that feat in the coming days.
Tour de l’Avenir, France
Stage 4, Provins to Bar-le-Duc: 1 Ethan Vernon (Britain) 183.9 kilometres in 4 hours 4 mins 30 secs, 2 J Plowright (Australia), 3 L Askey (Britain), 4 G Garofoli (Italy), 5 A De Lie (Belgium), 6 A Raugel (Hauts de France/Grand Est) all same time.
Irish: 20 D Corkery same time, 62 B Healy at 10 secs, 83 JB Murphy at 1 min 3, 110 L Curley at 3 mins 33, 111 K McCambridge same time, 118 A Ward at 3 mins 37
Overall standings after four stages: 1 Mick Van Dijke (Netherlands) 12 hours 6 mins 22, 2 M Van Den Berg (Netherlands) at 7, 3 C Van Uden (Netherlands) at 10, 4 T Halland Johannessen (Norway) at 47, 5 A De Lie (Belgium) at 53, 6 S Van Tricht (Belgium) at 59
Irish: 10 B Healy at 1 min 42, 44 JB Murphy at 4 mins 51, 79 L Curley at 8 mins 42, 90 D Corkery at 11 mins 51, 127 K McCambridge at 19 mins 25, 131 A Ward at 21 mins 11
Teams: 1 Netherlands, 35 hours 17 mins 56, 2 Belgium at 2 mins 17, 3 Australia at 3 mins 5, 4 Denmark at 3 mins 37, 5 Italy at 4 mins 19
Other: 10 Ireland at 5 mins 36