Irish international Felix English narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at the Tissot UCI Track World Cup in Canada this weekend, as Team Ireland left their latest Tokyo 2020 Qualification mission with that 4th and two top 10s. Ulster had three representatives in green, Lydia Boylan, Marc Potts and Robyn Stewart.
In the second round of the Track World Cup, coming from the Mattamy Cycling Centre in Milton, Ontario, English powered to fourth in Friday’s Scratch Race – moving up to bronze medal position briefly, as
Greece’s Christos Volikakis was disqualified from third, then later reinstated.
Despite the double disappointment, English was up-beat. He said: “I was really happy there. I’ve been ill for the past week. I was really, really struggling to breathe after the World Cup in France. It’s never nice to miss out on a medal like that, but it was nice to get over that and race well there. I was feeling myself again.”
English was also part of Ireland’s Madison team with Marc Potts, which finished 11th on Sunday night. The Madison is an Olympic event, and all World Cup races this season act as qualification opportunities.
Cycling Ireland Technical Director Brian Nugent said: “The team’s performance was much better than last week in Paris. We were focussing mainly on the Madison for the men and women, and the Women’s Sprint
and Keirin. They are the Olympic events at Tokyo 2020, so our main focus was to get Olympic points for them, which we did – and importantly, we got them outside Europe.”
He added: “The Madison is a new event in the Olympics for the women’s team, and that is starting to take a bit of shape now. We’re where we need to be, and it’s good to see. There is a bit of work to be done in
the Men’s Madison, but we know what we have to do.”
Ireland’s Women’s Madison team, Lydia Boylan and Lydia Gurley, took 10th on Saturday night, Gurley also finishing 19th in Friday’s Scratch Race, and Boylan suffering a frustrating Omnium on Sunday.
In the second of the four Omnium events, she won the Tempo Race with a gutsy late lap gain. That moved her up to fifth in the overall standings, but she was the second rider knocked out in the Elimination Race, and could not repeat her Tempo Race heroics in the final Points Race.
It gave her 10th overall, and while satisfied given her Elimination Race performance, Boylan feels that’s not her true level. She said: “Traditionally, the Tempo is always my best event, so it was nice to pull a win out of the bag there, but it was short-lived, as I was straight into my worst event – and it went even worse than normal.
“I feel like I’m close to cracking it. I tried something a little different, but it didn’t work out. In the Points, I tried to go for a lap, but it wasn’t to be their either. That’s my first Omnium of this World Cup, and it’s a good start, I just need to get it together – then I can be challenging for the medals.”
Shannon McCurley, in action at the London Six Day this weekend, became Ireland’s first female track cyclist at the Olympic Games in Rio two years ago. She competed in the Keirin, which is again on Ireland’s Olympic Qualification wishlist.
It fell to Robyn Stewart to tackle the discipline on Sunday, and she stormed into the Second Round with a never-say-die ride that truly wiped memories of Saturday’s Sprint disappointments.
“It feels like a blur now,” she said. “I attacked early and one girl came round me in the end, and then I managed to hold off the Japanese girl literally by a hair on the line, so I was pretty happy to go through without having to through the repechages.”
She added: “I guess I’m getting faster with each race, and that means I can compete a bit more in the Keirin than I can in the Sprint. The girls I just raced in the minor final were all 2-3 10ths of a second quicker than me in the Sprint yesterday, so I was the slower rider, but in the Keirin that doesn’t always matter as much.
“I went a bit early and used up all my energy, but it was good. I’ve only been hiding the bike for about three and a half years, so I’m trying to catch up, but I can see myself getting there.”
The next round of the Tissot UCI Track World Cup is in Berlin, Germany from November 30 – December 2. That will be round three of six in the series this season, with the last round coming in Hong Kong in January. Riders’ best three rounds go towards their Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification bids.