Ireland’s Lara Gillespie put in a stellar performance at the weekend when she finished 23rd in the U23 race and was the fourth junior over the line at the 2018 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Valkenburg, the Netherlands.
She competed in the U23 event in the absence of a junior category and afterwards described the experience as amazing.
Speaking after the race the relieved 16-year-old was boosted by the crowds, with an estimated 40,000 spectators enjoying the weekend of racing – “That was an amazing experience, the crowds, and particularly the Irish fans, were amazing. There were so many people shouting for me, so thank you to everyone!”
Despite having missed time on the bike due to illness, Gillespie was well equipped in the fast and technical discipline – “I was sick last week and didn’t touch the bike for seven days, and it was touch and go if I would even make the start line.”
What makes her result even more remarkable is that she started on the last row of the grid and had to fight to move up past numerous riders on a very tricky course. In finishing 23rd, she achieved the best finish for an Irish rider at the Worlds.
Lara has shown talent on the road also but elected to focus on cyclo-cross this season. The first-year junior won a silver medal in the Time Trial at last year’s European Youth Olympic Festival and in Ireland, she won both the FIXX Series overall and the Elite women’s national title despite being still just a junior.
The young Scott-Orwell Wheelers rider has a busy schedule over the coming months, juggling cycling and running – “I have a few days off now and will be back to Belgium for the Junior Ghent-Wevelgem in March. Our school team has also been selected for the World Schools Cross Country Championships in Paris over Easter.”
The National Champion in the Junior Men’s Cyclocross event, Thomas Creighton, finished 50th in the event, and described a tough but enjoyable course – “The course was probably the toughest I’d every ridden, but you’d expect that from a World Championship event.”
In the Elite Men’s race Glenn Kinning finished 55th in tricky conditions – “The last week has been great. The support team has been excellent and so has the preparation. Today’s race was probably one of the hardest I’ve ridden. Conditions like that would probably have been called off back home!”
Mechanical issues affected U23 cyclocross talent David Conroy at the Championships – but the young rider is upbeat about the future – “My race didn’t go to plan, however, my season as a whole has been a success, and I’m already looking forward to building towards next season.”
At her first World Championship event Maria Larkin was 39th in the Elite Women’s race – “This was the most special race I’ve ever ridden. The crowd, the atmosphere and the Irish fans were amazing. My first lap was tough and I made a few mistakes. I could hear the Irish fans cheering my names as well as some of my Chicago friends.”