Following on from a successful campaign at the European track championships a fortnight ago, the Irish team will compete in the first round of the 2017/2018 UCI track cycling World Cup in Pruszkow, Poland, this weekend.
Seven Irish riders are taking part, including Madison European championship silver medallists Lydia Gurley and Lydia Boylan. Gurley will ride both the women's points race and the women's scratch race on Friday. She was fourth in the latter event at the Europeans.
Also in action on Friday is Marc Potts, who was fourth in the scratch race in the Europeans. He will compete in the scratch qualifiers, and, all going well, will ride the scratch final on Saturday.
Mark Downey is also racing on Friday, riding the points race. He showed his class last year when he was best in that event in the Apeldoorn World Cup in November, then took the same event in Cali, Colombia, in February. His performances saw him secure overall victory in the World Cup standings for that event, a superb feat.
On Saturday he will combine with Felix English in the men's madison, an event the two of them shone in last winter. They won that event at the LA World Cup and took silver in Cali.
Robyn Stewart will compete in the women's sprint on Saturday, while Boylan is competing in the omnium.
On Sunday English will ride the omnium, Boylan and Gurley the Madison and Shannon McCurley the women’s Keirin.
The achievements of the Irish riders are all the more notable considering the country does not have an indoor velodrome. A commitment has been received from the Government to have one in place by 2021; until then the Irish riders must train at the velodrome in Mallorca in order to be in a position to take on the world’s best riders.
In other news, the news earlier this week that the An Post Chainreaction/Sean Kelly team will not be part of the peloton in 2018 is a blow to Irish cycling. Kelly has said that he and team manager Kurt Bogaerts will continue speaking to the two companies they had been negotiating with, but also others that they had previously been in contact with. They are hoping to secure backing from the 2019 season onwards.
"There are a number of them out there," Kelly told The Irish Times. "They said Brexit was something they were waiting to see. They all wanted to see what was going to happen there to get a clearer picture.
“They don’t want to go into something like a three-year deal at the moment. That was the problem we had. There are quite a few of the sponsors which I feel could be ones that might get on board.”