Superb performance by Mia Griffin secures last-minute Olympic slot for Ireland

Kilkenny rider takes a superb third in the Tour of Guangxi race in China

A clutch of points scored by Mia Griffin in her final race of the season has secured a last-minute Olympic place for Irish women, with the Kilkenny rider taking a superb third in the Tour of Guangxi race in China on Tuesday.

Griffin finished just behind race winner Daria Piulik (Human Powered Health) and Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) in the WorldTour event, finishing on the podium in what was a 65-rider sprint to the line.

The result was by far the biggest of her career, netting her 260 world ranking points. It adds to the 10 points she clocked up on October 12th when she was eighth on the opening stage of the Tour of Chongming Island.

Griffin was sidelined for several months this season due to concussion sustained in the women’s Paris-Roubaix in April. She has built form gradually in recent weeks and greatly impressed with her performances this month.

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The timing is perfect; on October 10th Ireland had 464.93 points, putting it on 49th in the world rankings, and outside Olympic road qualification.

However Griffin’s two big performances in China saw the tally surge to 724.93 and elevated Ireland to 33rd in the rankings published on Wednesday, the cut-off date for Olympic road qualification.

Teams placed between 21st and 45th in those rankings are awarded one place in the Olympic road race.

“It was half on my radar that we were close to qualifying an Olympic spot, but I didn’t know if it would happen or not,” Griffin told The Irish Times this week. “It’s really cool that we have finally qualified a spot. It is quite special, I think.”

However she said she is very unlikely to ride the road race. While her haul of 270 points is more than the 197.93 amassed by Megan Armitage and the 181 of Lara Gillespie, her focus on the velodrome events means another rider will fill the secured slot.

“I think for the track girls it will probably not be realistic to ride the road race, seeing as it unfortunately falls the day before the team pursuit,” she explained. “So the road race in the Olympics was not something that was on my radar.”

Alice Sharpe and Rachel Neylan also contributed to Ireland’s total, contributing 45 and 31 points respectively.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s male riders have secured three slots for the road events thanks to strong performances this year.

Ben Healy has gathered more than half the points total amassed by male riders. He contributes 2163 of Ireland’s total of 4015, considerably ahead of Eddie Dunbar (798), Rory Townsend (400), and Sam Bennett (290).

The highly promising under-23 riders Darren Rafferty and Archie Ryan add 188 and 101 points respectively, with the remainder made up by national time trial champion Ryan Mullen (50) and Rás Tailteann champion Dillon Corkery (25).

That total sees the country sit a fine 17th in the world rankings. It entitles Ireland to field two riders in the men’s Olympic road race plus one in the time trial.

Finally a memorial to the late Gabriel Howard will be unveiled in Stamullen Village at 2.30 pm this Saturday October 21st. Howard competed in 21 consecutive editions of the Rás Tailteann, winning a stage in 1965, and later went on to a wide number of roles in the sport, including team manager of the Stamullen Road Club, event organiser and race commentator.

He passed away following a farming accident in 2018, and is remembered fondly by many in the sport.

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