Irish team pursuit squad continue Olympic qualification hunt

Increased funding for Rás Tailteann and Rás na mBan

The Irish team pursuit squad’s big push for the Paris Olympics will move to the next stage on Friday, with the riders lining out in the qualification round of the Nations Cup in Adelaide, Australia.

Mia Griffin, Lara Gillespie, Alice Sharpe and Kelly Murphy have made the trip to Australia, as has pursuit reserve rider Erin Creighton.

The quintet were involved in the various rounds at the European Championships in January, taking a fine fourth despite a crash on the opening day. The squad is currently ranked ninth in the world, with the first 10 to qualify for Paris.

A strong performance in Australia will advance that cause further. As an extra incentive, qualification for Paris in the team pursuit would also secure Ireland a slot in the Madison race.

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Creighton will be in action on Friday in the elimination race. Sharpe and Griffin will compete in the women’s Madison on Saturday, while Gillespie will ride the women’s Omnium on Sunday.

She was a fine fourth in that event in the European Championships, missing a medal by just one point. She was also fourth in the points race.

Gillespie took gold medals in the under-23 European points race and omnium last year, and is poised for a medal breakthrough at elite level.

“The team coped fantastically well with a tough first day in team pursuit at the Euros and bounced back really strongly to finish fourth,” said Cycling Ireland High Performance Director Iain Dyer. “This keeps our Olympic qualification in TP, Madison and Omnium on track with two big Nations Cups to come.

“Hopefully the team can continue this momentum in Adelaide and we can explore our line-up and race strategy further in both TP and bunch racing events.”

Meanwhile, Cycling Ireland has announced increased funding support for both the Rás Tailteann and Rás na mBan this year, with the latter event to secure equal funding for the first time.

Described by CI as a “significant increase”, the funding is being awarded by the Department of Sport and with support from Sport Ireland. CI will be an event partner for both events.

The Rás Tailteann will run from May 22nd to 26th, with Rás na mBan to be held between September 4th and 8th.

Rás na mBan Race Director Valerie Considine had been pushing for equal funding for the international event, and welcomed the news.

“I’d like to convey our sincere gratitude to Sport Ireland, Cycling Ireland and to Ministers Martin and Byrne for their continuing backing of our event through finance and other logistical supports, without which the event would quite simply not take place,” she said.

“I would also like to express our deep satisfaction at the fact that, after 17 years, we have achieved equality in official funding from state agencies and the national governing body.

“Staging this event is a year-round project and our funding is derived from a variety of sources. It’s an ongoing challenge and our objective is to achieve a measure of stability so that we can be sure the event has a multiyear strategy.”

She told The Irish Times last year that she is aiming for UCI status for the race in the coming years, subject to the required backing being secured.

Rás Tailteann race director Ger Campbell is expected to announce this year’s route this month. He described organising committee Cairde Rás Tailteann as “thrilled” with the increase in funding.

“With the costs involved in promoting the event it’s a huge boost for the race. It will allow us to plan our budget earlier this year and put in place important structures to make the event even better.

“The Rás is hugely important to Ireland’s sports calendar, and we look forward to the continued success for the event going forward.”
Nations Cup Adelaide, Irish schedule (all times Irish)

Friday, February 2nd:

Women’s Team Pursuit Qualifying – 11:30pm (Thursday Irish time)

Erin Creighton – Women’s Elimination Race Qualifying – 4:01am

Women’s Team Pursuit First Round* – 4:45am

Women’s Team Pursuit Finals* – 8:46am

Women’s Elimination Race Final* – 9:53am

Saturday, February 3rd:

Alice Sharpe, Mia Griffin – Women’s Madison Qualifying – 4:25am

Women’s Madison Final* – 8:30am

Sunday, February 4th:

Lara Gillespie – Women’s Omnium

Qualifying – 12:17am

Scratch Race – 5:30am

Tempo Race – 6:10am

Elimination Race – 7:36am

Points Race – 8:23am

* Subject to qualification

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