The Irish team has completed its Track World Cup season with two top tens, with the team now eyeing the World Championships in Poland next month. The Men’s Madison duo of Felix English and Mark Downey bounced back from disappointment in London to finish 10th with Shannon McCurley taking 9th in the Omnium.
Having crashed during the Madison in London last December, Felix English and Mark Downey were looking to make amends in Hong Kong this Sunday, at the final round of the UCI Track World Cup. Winning an early sprint, the pair earned enough points to finish 10th, in what was the fastest-run Madison of this World Cup series, with an average speed of 58.552kph.
“We were better today than we have been for the last year,” said Felix English. “We’ve been struggling a little bit, compared to where we were a few years ago, so it’s great to ride like that and be on a more positive note going into Worlds.”
English and Downey, who finished 9th in last year’s Madison World Championships, won Gold in Madison at Track World Cup LA in 2017. Since then, the race has been added to the Olympic programme, and English says, it’s not the same race anymore.
“When we won at the World Cup a few years ago, I think the average pace was about 54.4kph,” he said. “Now it’s nearly 59kph. It’s just going to get faster and faster. Even in the Omnium this weekend, the Tempo was 58.8kph.
He added: “Our partnership is still just as good as it was two years ago, but the way the Madison is raced is very different now. It’s more down to top-end power, which we’re lacking a bit. We have had to adapt our training, change what we’re doing, to suit the race.”
English also raced Men’s Omnium, taking the Saturday ride despite falling ill the night before. He finished 18th, wisely conserving energy for Sunday’s Madison.
The Omnium did not go smoothly for Shannon McCurley either. After finishing sixth in the first of the four races – Tempo – she suffered a heavy crash, falling from high on the banking.
Bruised, the Olympian raced on to be 9th in Scratch and 15th in the Elimination. In the final, she shook off her injuries again to land crucial sprint points and retain 9th in the overall standings.
Sprinter Robyn Stewart was also in action on Sunday, facing Keirin World Champion Nicky Degrendele twice: in the first round, and again in the first round repechage. She took the race on in both rounds, but could not match the Belgian.
These performances provided Ireland with valuable rankings points ahead of the World Championships in Pruszków, Poland from February 27, an event which will mark half-time in Tokyo 2020 qualifying for track cyclists.
Also set to compete will be Ireland’s Women’s Team Pursuit, who missed out on a ride in the final eight at Hong Kong by 0.197s. They had become the first Irish Women’s Team Pursuit in history to make the final eight in London last year.
Riders’ best three performances at this season’s and next season’s Track World Cup make up their Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification bids, along with the Track Cycling World Championships.