Ryan takes bronze against all the odds

 

CYCLING WORLD TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP:OVER A century after Harry Reynolds won gold and bronze medals in the World Amateur Track Championships, Caroline Ryan finished a superb third in the women’s points race in Melbourne yesterday.

The distinction between amateur and professional championships has disappeared in the years since but, compared to the big money state backing of countries such as Britain and Australia, Ryan’s feat is a staggering one.

The 32-year-old Kildare garda entered the race with far less experience than her rivals, having focused on rowing until 2008 and, after missing out on Beijing, taking up cycling the following season.

Yesterday she shrugged off the differences and together with Jasmin Glaesser of Canada and Hong Kong’s Wong Wan Yiu, bridged up to lone leader Anastasia Chulkova (Russia) just over halfway through the 100 lap, 25-kilometre event.

The quartet gained a lap over the other 14 riders in the race, boosting their total by 20 points. Ryan then was third in two intermediate sprints and secured a bronze medal for her efforts.

“I’m actually more pleased for my coach Brian Nugent, who has led me every step of the way since I first turned a pedal,” the Bus Éireann/Cunga-sponsored rider said. “We had a carefully laid-out plan tonight to play to my strengths, and in every lap of the race Brian’s instructions to me from the side of the track, were what earned us the medal.”

Ryan started her track career as a tandem pilot in paracycling. After securing silver with Caroline Walsh in the 2009 paracycling worlds, she switched to the Elite UCI circuit and last year finished ninth in the individual pursuit at the track world championships.

She’s worked hard since then, keeping the individual pursuit as her main focus. The fact the points race is a secondary event for her makes yesterday’s achievement all the more breathtaking.

Former US Olympic coach Andy Sparks has given additional guidance to Ryan, and spoke about the achievement. “This was her ‘warm-up’ race before the big day on Sunday, the pursuit. Brian and I have been telling her for weeks that this is her bonus race with nothing to lose,” he said.

“Caroline works hard and it could not happen to a nicer person. She actually had people from about 10 different countries cheering her on . . . it was really cool to see how happy it made these other teams to see her do well.”

It’s too late for her to secure Olympic qualification on the track but she remains convinced that there’s time for her to get to London 2012.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the road. I’m fully confident that I have a realistic chance of scoring enough UCI points through the number of UCI time trials and road races that I have been invited to, to place top 100 in the UCI rankings and secure myself a slot for London.”

One who is currently battling to seal his own qualification is Martyn Irvine. The Omnium rider yesterday finished eighth in the flying lap, the first of the six of the events in his discipline. He then placed eighth in the points race and was 14th in the elimination event. That puts him 10th at the halfway point heading into today’s final three rounds.

Irvine normally rides better on day two and while his goal of a medal is now looking unlikely, a solid showing today will seal his place at his first Olympic Games.

Also in action today is Australian-based Irishwoman Sharon Curley, who will ride the women’s scratch race.

Melbourne details

Women’s Points Race:1, A Chulkova (Rus) 31pts; 2, J Glaesser (Can) 28; 3, C RYAN (Ire) 24; 4, G Bronzini (Ita) 23; 5, W Wong (Hong Kong) 22; 6 D Olaberria (Spa)11.

Men’s Omnium: 1,G O’Shea (Aus) 10; 2, Z Bell (Can) 16; 3, E Clancy (Brit) 18; Other: 10, M Irvine (Ire) 30.