Ireland’s cyclists seal Olympics qualification for team pursuit

Mia Griffin, Alice Sharpe, Kelly Murphy and Lara Gillespie take a silver medal in the Hong Kong Nations Cup behind New Zealand

Ireland’s team pursuit squad sealed Olympic qualification on Friday, taking a superb silver medal behind New Zealand in the Hong Kong Nations Cup race.

Sixth overall in the Olympic rankings before the event and with the top 10 to qualify for Paris, the quartet will move even further ahead of rival teams as a result of the performance.

Mia Griffin, Alice Sharpe, Kelly Murphy and Lara Gillespie were second fastest in qualifying behind the New Zealand squad, recording a time of 4.20.503. They then set a considerably quicker pace in round one, posting a lightning time of 4.15.697.

This was over a second faster than their national record of 4:16.877, set in Jakarta last year, and put them in the final against the Kiwi squad. The New Zealanders were clear favourites to win, having gone two seconds faster than their rivals in round one. They did so, catching the Irish riders just before the end of the 4000 metre event.

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However, in taking silver, Griffin, Sharpe, Murphy and Gillespie have exceeded pre-race expectations and reaped the benefits of a long training camp in Brisbane. ”We have been away from home for nearly two months now, competing in Adelaide before basing ourselves in Brisbane for a training camp to leading into Hong Kong,” Murphy said.

“Brisbane was a pivotal camp for us, with having good weather we could load the training up whilst minimising exposure to cold and sickness. We were all hitting PB’s in the gym and on the track, and the uninterrupted time together meant we are more in sync now than we ever have been. We can read one another’s body language better, communicate better within the race and manage pace and distance better than we ever have done.”

The squad showed strong form in Australia, taking four gold medals plus silver and bronze in the open national championships there. One final Nations Cup remains, taking place in Milton, Canada, next month. However, only two out of three rounds count towards the points standings and Ireland’s silver medal is enough to seal qualification.

Official confirmation will come in time, with the Olympic ranking due to be updated next week.

Gillespie said the silver medal is the result of a lot of hard work. ”Not only does it reflect the great training block that we had in Australia but it also reflects the past few years in how every rider has given absolutely everything to the team pursuit,” she said.

“We’ve sacrificed and committed a lot. We were absolutely gunning for a podium spot today and it’s good to get three really solid rides out. We’re really looking forward to the next few months, building on our performance. Today was a high and emotional day, a big box ticked.”

Erin Creighton was also in action on Friday, netting ninth in the elimination race. Griffin and Sharpe will be back in action on Saturday in the women’s Madison race. Gillespie will contest the multi-event Omnium on Sunday.

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