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Ireland Ends Worlds on High with 6th in Madison

Ireland Ends Worlds on High with 6th in Madison

Ireland leaves Worlds on a High with Sixth in Madison in Hong Kong

Mark Downey and Felix English finished 6th in the Madison at the 2017 UCI Track Cycling World Championships today in a lively event, which saw them pipped for fifth on the line by Switzerland on equal points. Earlier this morning Lydia Gurley was 15th in the Points Race and Shannon McCurley was 21st in the Keirin. This was the final day of action at the championships which took place in Hong Kong Velodrome from 12th – 16th April 2017.

The pace in the Madison was frantic from the start with the Austrian duo attacking from the gun. English described the racing saying – “That was genuinely the hardest race of my life! From the moment it started, it was full gas. We did our best to conserve energy in the first half, and then had to ride hard for the rest of the race – at one point I went into the red to get across to the lead group.”

This has been a phenomenal year for English and Downey in the Madison, an event that is being proposed for inclusion on the Olympic programme for 2020. English explains “We’re really happy today, six months ago we weren’t even in contention, and it was only after our gold and silver in it at the World Cups in Cali and LA that we actually qualified for the Madison in the Worlds! And now we are competing with the top riders in the world. We are still inexperienced in this event, and we are still in there.”

Downey echoed his teammate’s sentiments – “We really picked ourselves up after the last few days, where we just below par. We felt we owed a good performance to everyone, and it was a nice positive way to end the week. It was a busy season for everyone, so it’s nice to go home with smiles on our faces. We weren’t on the podium, but to get sixth at the Worlds in our first year in the Madison is pretty good.”

The Madison was won by France with Australia and Belgium taking silver and bronze, and as Downey pointed out “today all the nations had their A teams out there. All the guys who ride the 6-day events were there, especially with talk of this being on the programme for Tokyo. For us to be competing like that against those guys is really positive – we rode the perfect race and it was nice to be up in the last few sprints. We may not have a medal this year, but that time will come.

Keirin rider McCurley left the World Championships with a similar motivation. Fourth in her repechage was not enough to qualify her through to the second round, but the 24 year old is not disheartened – “I didn’t race to how well I was performing in training, and I’m quite gutted. I’m still learning and getting stronger so we can only keep building.”

“My training partner
[Awang] won the men’s race and he’s my idol. It took him ten years and many before that to win that World Championship crown, so I’ve got plenty more to give. I only switched to Keirin racing three years ago. I’ll be back stronger next season and pushing harder for a real chance come Tokyo.”

In the Points Race a battered Gurley finished 15th, with the toll of the crashes in yesterday’s Madison Race taking its toll. The Galway girl described the race as “fast and quite aggressive” and was disappointed with her results after the weekend, saying – “I’m definitely hungry for more. Now I’ll take a bit of a break and then get back on the bike, there’s a lot of work to do.”

Throughout this season the track team have been consistent in their praise for Cycling Ireland Track Coach David Muntaner, with Downey summing up the week saying – “That ride today was for David, he deserves a round of applause for taking us from being riders who make up the numbers to being part of the field. It’s a pleasure to have him as a coach; every day he makes things better.”

Muntaner is a previous World Champion in the Madison, and has commanded the respect of the Irish team through his technical expertise, physical regime and motivation. Muntaner was happy with the final performance of Downey and English in the Madison saying – “I’m really happy with the way they went – they were technically very good and very strong. This is their first year and they are learning so fast. Already they have won medals in the World Cup and were fighting in this race today. In another few years they’ll be fighting for the win.”

Reflecting on the championships Muntaner said – “There was a lot of good racing this week, but the riders didn’t race like they do in training. I’m really happy with their work in Majorca, and know they can do a lot better. It’s nothing bad, just some mistakes – it will be a good year next year, I know they are strong enough and they all can see their mistakes and know what to fix – that makes it easy.”

After a successful World Cup season where the Irish team won six medals, including three gold medals, expectations were high going into the World Championships. Muntaner explains – “This is a World Championships, not a World Cup, and we need to get stronger, we always need to get stronger and they are a strong team already. Next year we will keep working hard, they know how hard this is now –they will race harder and be technically better – then we will get much better results. I know everybody is able for better results, this week didn’t reflect what they can do physically.”

Cycling Ireland Technical Director Brian Nugent was happy to finish with the positive result in the Madison saying – “I’m happy after that race today. That was a performance of the highest standard. Everyone is learning a lot and we have identified many areas to improve. We always knew the World Championships is up a level – the standard’s really high. We are progressing and that is the main thing. This week luck didn’t go our way all the time, but it was a good way to end it and we’ll be stronger next year for sure.”

The competition took place in Hong Kong Velodrome over five days from Wednesday 12th April – Sunday 16th April.

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