The Irish team of Mark Downey and Fintan Ryan just missed out on a medal in the Men’s Under 23 Madison on the final day of racing at the UEC Track Juniors and U23 European Championships in Montichiari, Italy today.
Four Irish riders were in action as the event concluded with Downey, the silver medallist in the Points Race earlier in the week, and Ryan taking part in the final event of the week, the high octane Madison where riders relay their team mates throughout the 40km event.
Downey and Ryan’s finishing position of ninth belies what was a tantalisingly narrow miss for the duo in the high paced, fast action event where they sat in a medal winning position with just five of the 160 laps of the 250 metre track remaining.
Riding to a pre race plan, the Irish pair attacked at the half-way point and persevered over 20 laps to lap the field. Along the way they scooped five points at a sprint which moved them into second place.
After taking second in the sprint with 20 laps to go, their eight-point total meant they were on course for a famous medal in what is a new discipline for Irish international track racers. Ultimately, a late surge by their rivals cost them as five teams took a lap within the final kilometre.
The upshot was a final position of ninth place behind race winners Russia which barely reflects their level of competitiveness. Afterwards Mark Downey refused to be downcast after his and Ryan’s near miss:-
“I think we can walk away with our heads held high. David (Muntaner, Team Coach) gave us a plan to wait until half way so we sat back and were playing it cool until it was time to go for it.
“It took us 20 laps to gain the lap and I think we showed real guts and determination, taking sprint points along the way which moved us up.
“Okay it wasn’t to be but we gave it our best shot and we’re new to this so we can take a lot out of this performance.”
Ryan, too, was buoyed by the effort and was able to take the positive from such a near miss:-
“It was a baptism of fire for us and it’s one of the hardest races you can do so we’re happy that we got everything out. Myself and Mark have working hard in training and we were determined to give a good account of ourselves.”
Earlier in the day, Josie Knight had completed the final three events in the Women’s U23 Omnium, moving up to an eventual finishing position of 11th.
Knight was 13th place at the halfway mark overnight and gained a position with a fine sixth in the 500m time trial which began the day’s activities. The Kerry-based rider recorded 37.715s for her two-lap standing start effort and she moved up another spot with eighth fastest time when she stopped the clocks in 15.083s in the flying lap.
Knight scored points with third in the second sprint in the sixth and final race, the Points Race to complete the event in 11th behind event winner Lotte Kopecky of Belgium.
Earlier Autumn Collins completed her European Championships in the U23 Keirin where she was fourth in her heat and fourth in the repechage in the final sprint event of the week.
Afterwards, Team Coach David Muntaner reflected on another strong week of racing for Ireland’s emerging international stars.
“The Irish team is certainly improving and the performance of the guys in the Madison today was a real highlight,” said Muntaner, the 2014 Madison World Champion.
“All the team have raced well and the future is coming for this team. Mark’s medal in the Points Race was great and I think we have a squad that is developing well for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.”