Lara Gillespie lands major win at UCI Track Champions League in London

22-year-old from Wicklow wins elimination race in the final round of the season

Lara Gillespie took perhaps the most encouraging result of her career on Saturday, winning the elimination race in the final round of the UCI Track Champions League in London.

Coming four months after she secured two under-23 European Championship titles in July, the performance saw the gifted youngster beat many big names in elite track racing, including Britain’s double Olympic champion Katie Archibald.

Gillespie had to remain focused throughout the race, which sees the last rider over the line on each lap eliminated. She had a close call early on when she almost crashed during a sprint, but watched her rivals closely to stay out of trouble as more and more were caught out.

The Wicklow rider then pushed forward in the finale with series leader Archibald and Anita Yvonne Stenberg of Norway, with Archibald eliminated first and then Gillespie beating Stenberg with a powerful display in the last sprint.

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“That was a fun race,” she said afterwards. “There was a nice amount of space to move around. I felt tired with about seven laps to go but I kept telling myself ‘I can do it’. I was confident, and am really happy to have won.

“I knew this was coming because every race I was feeling better and better, so I’m happy to leave the series on a good note.”

Gillespie was earlier a superb second in the scratch race, bridging to an attack by double world champion Neah Evans (Britain) and Olivija Baleisye (Lithuania) with three laps to go and then coming around the latter in the gallop to the line.

Gillespie’s first and second places are her best in the fiv-round endurance series. That series ended with two nights of racing in London; Gillespie was third in Friday’s elimination race and seventh in the scratch race, then showed great recovery with her performances on Saturday.

Still just 22 years of age, she ended the series a superb fourth overall and has learned a lot for the future.

“This campaign has been invaluable for me and the best thing I could have done,” she said. “It’s allowed me to get racing experience against the best riders in the world, and has been epic.”

Orla Walsh also competed in the contests on Friday and Saturday, riding the events in the sprint league. On Friday she was 14th and 15th respectively in the keirin and sprint races. She then took ninth in Saturday’s keirin and 16th in the sprint. The Dubliner ended the series 14th overall.

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