All the Team Ireland action was in the velodrome on Saturday evening, with Shannon McCurley competing in the Women’s Omnium and Mark Downey and Fintan Ryan racing the Men’s Madison at the European Games in Minsk.
McCurley finished 8th in the four-race event that was won by multiple world champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands. McCurley, who was the first Irish female track cyclist to compete at the Olympics when she raced the Women’s Keirin in Rio, has since switched her focus to endurance events, changing her physique and now mixing with the best endurance riders in the world.
Endurance is certainly the name of the game for the Omnium, which is a four race event, with points awarded to riders according to their finish position, and the overall winner is decided at the end of the final Points Race. Speaking after an aggressive finale, the Australian based cyclist said, “it was a really rough race, a bit different to what I’m used to. I’m used to really sprinting it out, and this was a very tactical race.
“I’m used to really sprinting it out, and it was a very tactical race. My plan was to go in and be aggressive, it was something I couldn’t do last year, so I leaned up and got a lot fitter since the world championships. I came in wanting a medal, but things didn’t go my way, I’m still getting there.”
In the Men’s Madison meanwhile, the newly formed pairing of Mark Downey and Fintan Ryan finished a credible 8th position with 18 points. The Madison is a 200 lap race with two riders on a team, each taking turns to race, slinging each other into action. Every ten laps there is a sprint lap where points are awarded for the first four over the line.
Downey and Ryan started strong, placing in the top five early on and holding position by gaining crucial points on sprint laps throughout. With 45 laps to go it was looking good for Team Ireland, with the Irish duo sitting in podium position. An aggressive finish from the remainder of the field however pushed them back to 8th place at the end of the 50km race.
“That was a really positive start to the race. Something we always lacked is coming into the race super early. And we made the plan for the first ninety laps, we really wanted to take (the race) by the scruff of the neck, and we did that,” Downey commented after the race.
“It was a hard race, really long, 200 laps, 50k, I really felt it. But we were sitting in the top four or five for most of the race. That was my first time with Mark for over two years, and first time doing a race that length for three years, so I’m really happy with it,” Ryan commented after finishing the the longest race on the track programme.
The Wicklow rider knew they were sitting in podium position but kept his cool, “We knew where we were sitting but we didn’t want to get too anxious because you’d use too much of yourself.”
Tomorrow will be another big day for the Irish team, with the medal colour being decided for Kellie Harrington and Kurt Walker who compete in boxing finals, in addition to more track cycling on the schedule.
Women’s Omnium: Shannon McCurley 8th overall after 4 races.
Gold Kirsten Wild (NED)
Silver Evgeniia Augustinas (RUS)
Bronze Elisa Balsamo (ITA)
Men’s Madison: Mark Downey and Fintan Ryan
DAY TEN SCHEDULE (IRISH TIME):
07:25 Cycling Track – TBC Men’s Omnium
10:00 Badminton – Mixed Doubles – Medal Ceremony (Chloe and Sam Magee)
10:15 Boxing – Kellie Harrington Vs Mira Potkonen (FIN) Women’s Light -60kg
11:05 Boxing – Regan Buckley – Medal Ceremony (after) Men’s Light Fly -49kg
11:30 Boxing – Kurt Walker Vs Mykola Butsenko (UKR) Men’s Bantam -56kg
12:20 Boxing – Michael Nevin – Medal Ceremony (after) Men’s Middle -75kg
12:28 Cycling Track – Lydia Boylan & Lydia Gurley (IRL) Women’s Madison