Both Luke Smith and Mark Downey came agonisingly close to medals at the UEC Junior and U23 Track European Championships today in Portugal, in a week where the young, talented and ambitious Irish team has already won three medals in against the top young riders in Europe.
In the Men’s Junior Points Race Smith lapped the field as well as picking up points in almost half the sprints on offer, before being pipped at the post for a medal – Ukraine’s Oleg Kanaka won gold, Fabio Van Den Bossche (BEL) won silver, and Mauro Schmid (SUI) took the bronze medal.
Speaking after the races, Cycling Ireland Track Coach David Muntaner was very happy with how the Cavan man performed saying: “Luke was very good in the Points Race today, he was so close to the medal and fought hard for it – he just lost the medal in the last 50m.”
Having won a bronze medal last night in the Men’s U23 Points Race, Downey switched his attention immediately to the Omnium, a four-race event with points determining the winner. Talented Downey won the Tempo Race, was seventh in the Scratch Race and ninth in the Elimination Race – these results had him lying joint fourth going into the final Points Race, with all to play for.
Muntaner was impressed with his racing, noting that the main aim for Downey in the Omnium was to gain experience: “Mark was very good yesterday and today. Today we took it just as experience – and he almost got a medal, so it’s great. He was doing lots of road racing coming up to the Championships, so while he lost some speed, he could compensate for it with power.”
The Men’s U23 Omnium was won by GB’s Mark Stewart, with Niklas Larsen (DEN) and Adrien Garel (FRA) taking silver and bronze. Westport’s Orla Harrison was also in action, with the first-year-junior using the competition to gain experience, and was listed as a DNF in the Women’s Junior Points Race.
With tomorrow being the final day of action for the Irish Team at the European Championships in Portugal, Muntaner reflected on what has been a sensational week for the team: “All the team were working very hard in Mallorca, and now the results are coming. The team is getting better every year and I’m very excited to see what the future holds.”
Sunday’s racing will see Downey in action again, teaming up with Fintan Ryan in the Men’s U23 Madison, an event in which Downey has already seen a lot of success with Felix English in the World Cup Season. Smith will be teaming up with European silver medallist from earlier this week, Xeno Young, in the Men’s Junior Madison, and sprint specialist Autumn Collins will compete in the Women’s U23 Keirin.