A brilliant report by our guest journalist Noah De Jong, with photos courtesy of Inpho Sports Photography
Sunday 29th August saw day two of the 2021 Irish Track Cycling Championships take place at the Sundrive Velodrome in Dublin. Cloudy skies and cooler temperatures than day one reminded the riders that they were indeed in Ireland and not Italy but good fortune prevailed and the threatening skies were just an illusion allowing the racing to continue as planned uninterrupted. It was to be a packed schedule with the rearranged Keirin taking place first up early in the morning before the later Scratch races and Time Trials.
The women’s Keirin was an exciting affair with the UCD trio of defending champion Nikki Taggart and her teammates current Team Sprint Irish champions Deirbhle Ivory and Eimer McMullan all in good form to take on full-time Nopinz rider Orla Walsh. Heat one of the first round qualifying heat saw Taggart first across the line followed by multiple World Masters Champion Susie Mitchell, heat two saw Walsh pip Ivory with both safely through.
In heat one of the Men’s Keirin pre-race favourite Mairs of East Tyrone Cycling Club stayed out of trouble along with with Griffin and Crosbie to progress to the next round. Heat two added a touch of drama with Eric Gasparro of Bray CC suffering a mechanical on the gun and having to restart after a quick bike track side repair job, soon enough things were moving again. 2008/2009 Irish sprint champion Michael Mulcahy from Limerick put in an early move proving too strong for the chasers and finishing well ahead booking his place in the final.
The women’s final was hotly contested and with 200m to go Taggart had a significant gap over the chasers looking like a repeat of her 2020 victory was coming however the Swiss-based Nopinz rider Walsh just had too much for her and grabbed the lead with 50m to go to take gold over Taggart with a fast-finishing Ivory hot on her heels for Bronze! McMullan, Mitchell, and Cooper finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
The men’s final was without defending champion Barnes and the battle for medals would be hard-fought it seemed with a field composed of hardened Irish Sprinter’s Series regulars looking to take Keirin victory on the cool Sunday morning. After the derny pulled away with 700m to go the riders were all keen to head up the track and watch each other for any possible sneaky moves coming. The pace slowed to a crawl with Griffin looking strong and Glasgow a punchy rider who had secured a bronze medal in the 2021 Irish Sprint Championships and it was Mairs who hit the front with 500m to go in an enormous gear and pulled away to finish a clear winner and to his eighth Irish title with a very strong Mulcahy taking second clear of the chasers headed by Billy Crosbie and the other sprint specialists of Griffin, Glasgow, and Toolan rounding up the top six.
Next up was the women’s scratch race with a strong field and anyone’s guess as to who the winner might be. A late move by Kelly Murphy and Gaby Homer both of Team Rupelcleaning–Champion Lubricants, Caoimhe O’Brien (Torelli Assure Cayman Islands Scimitar), and Autumn Collins (Spellman-Dublin Port) went clear and quickly looked like the women to beat. Murphy recently had great success on the track at Nations Cup level and won the individual pursuit the day prior and her teammate Homer fresh from the U23 European Championships looked good for medals, Murphy tried to escape alone within the final kilometer but the other three were not going to let that happen and with less than half a lap it was the current Irish criterium Champion Collins who burst clear to win well ahead of her rivals and clinched her first individual track title at senior level with O’Brien second and Gaby Homer third.
The men’s was an interesting race with a lot of tactics and riders watching each other trying to suss each other out whilst keeping their poker faces on! Pre-race favourite Keogh (Spellman-Dublin Port) who only just lost out to the win last year by a tyre width to Mark Downey was out for victory this time but he would be closely be watched by Michael O’Loughlin (EvoPro Racing). With eight laps to go, Ian Donnelly of Orwell took a flyer and looked remarkably smooth pulling away from the field but it was Ryan Byrne (Spellman-Dublin Port) who jumped and managed to get across to Donnelly who was tiring and Ian Inglis (Kinning Cycles) who powered up to them. The three were now well clear and looking likely to be the medalists but in what order? Donnelly attacked with 300m to go and Inglis gave chase but it was Byrne who powered past both of them to finish clear and to his first Irish title with Donnelly just holding off Inglis for silver.
The time trials were last up in the program. 500 meters for the women and 1000 meters for the men with the women’s champion from 2019 and 2020 Orla Walsh being the favourite but undoubtedly was going to be pushed by her Irish-based rivals. The Nopinz rider was last up after strong performances from the domestic competitors but once again took the honours.
The men’s looked like an exciting matchup between Harvey Barnes who was just back from the U23 European Championships where he rode the kilometer, current Irish record holder and former Jr World Champion Rowley, and two-time kilometer champion the Team Sprint specialist Mairs. The weather conditions were good and with the standard of Irish sprinting extremely high these days fast times were sure to be had and they didn’t disappoint with Barnes finishing with a remarkable time of 1:06.56 which was over three seconds clear of second-place finisher Rowley showing Barnes is the man to beat in 2021. It was Michael O’Loughlin who rounded off the podium for bronze whilst Mairs added terrifying comedy to the day’s racing nearly losing control of his bike twice after his handlebars had slipped. All in all a stressful but flawless weekend of racing and thankfully no crashes or untoward incidents but great competition and great TV coverage of the event! A HUGE thanks to all who made it all possible once again” Noah
Team podiums & Selected photos from Inpho Sports Photography