Two Irish riders made their debuts at the 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands yesterday, with Marc Potts finishing 13th in the Men’s Scratch Race, and Robyn Stewart 24th in the Women’s Sprint after qualifying out of the heats to the match sprint rounds.

The Scratch Race was fast paced and stacked with attacks throughout the 15 kilometres, sixty laps bunch race. With just over thirty laps to go a trio of riders – Yauheni Karaliok from Belarus, Italy’s Michele Scartezzini and Australia’s Callum Scotson – made the significant move, gaining a lap with twenty laps remaining. This trio made up the eventual podium with Karaliok taking the world title ahead of Scartezzini and Scotson.

Ireland’s Potts raced hard, moving towards the front of the bunch in the closing laps, netting 13th position. The medals were decided between the three riders who had lapped the field, with the remainder of the bunch racing for positions.

Photo: Guy Swarbrick

Robyn Stewart was the first Irish woman to qualify for the Sprint at the World Championships, and her time of 11.360 seconds for 200m was enough to progress to the next round. In the match sprint round Stewart was outsprinted by Ukraine’s Olena Starikova, with the winner only progressing.

Speaking after the event 28-year-old Stewart was happy with her debut at the World Championships – “Overall I was happy with my flying 200m, and I was pleasantly surprised with where I sat in relation to the other girls, and I was within hundredths of seconds of being quite a few places higher.”

Stewart was the 7th rider of 33 on the track, and after finishing her time of 11.360 seconds was the second fastest to that point. With 28 riders moving to the next round, it was a short wait for the Belfast rider before getting confirmation that she had qualified to the next round.

“I had a good start, and I knew after my race that I only needed one or two to go slower than me in order for me to qualify to the next round.”

Photo: Guy Swarbrick

The velodrome in Apeldoorn saw riders producing slower than normal times – “It wasn’t a PB, but this isn’t a fast track, so I’m happy. The track is slippy and flat, so I had to make sure that I was applying enough pressure on the front and back of the bike to stay solid on the track, so coming down the home straight you don’t get very much from the track – so I’m happy with how I went.”

In the next round for the match sprint, Stewart competed against Ukraine’s Olena Starikova – “I’m a bit disappointed with my performance in the match sprint – I didn’t get enough height and speed to really use my strength so it wasn’t my best race. I have a lot of take homes from it – but it certainly has given me fire in my belly for next year. This is where I’d like to shine next year.”

Photo: Guy Swarbrick

This was Stewart’s first World Championship event – “Putting on the jersey this morning felt extra special, it was a special moment. I’m now going to try to take in as much racing as I can – I get very inspired by watching, that’s how it all started for me.” Next up for Stewart is the Commonwealth Games in Australia next month.

Today Lydia Boylan will be competing in the Omnium, and Mark Downey will race in the Points Race. The 2018 UCI Track Cycling World Championships take place in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, from the 28th February – 4th March.


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