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Track Cycling - What's it all about?


Unless you were living in a cave last month you will have heard a lot of talk about track cycling, Mark Downey, World Cups and gold medals! While most of us are stuck into the winter miles, or at least thinking about winter miles, the Irish National Track Team are in the height of their race season, competing at World Cups and preparing for the World Championships which take place in Hong Kong during Easter Weekend next month.

In order to compete at the UCI 2017 Track Cycling World Championships nations must gain points by competing in the World Cup Series, which consists of four events. In order to compete at World Cups the riders must compete in UCI events throughout the summer and their respective federations must run an international UCI track meeting. The World Cup season runs from November – March each year, with the European Track Championships taking place in October.

This year Ireland has had its most dominant season at this level across a number of events, starting with the bronze won by Anna Turvey at the European Championships, and continued by track sensation Mark Downey who won a gold medal in every World Cup in which he competed, across the Madison and Points races. Lydia Gurley rounded off the medal table with her bronze medal in the Scratch Race in Cali. To top that off the whole team achieved many top ten performances across the five events. This relatively young and very determined Irish team means business!

Who is Mark Downey, and how did he get to this level?

Twenty year old Mark Downey is from Dromore, born into a cycling family. His dad Seamus Downey competed at the 1984 Olympics, and his brother Sean has raced on the pro circuit, on the An Post Chainreaction Cycling team. Competing across all the disciplines, Mark came through the Cycling Ireland Talent Team that was introduced in 2012, and first came to the public attention when he won a silver medal in the Points Race as a junior at the European Track Championships.

Last summer he followed this up with silver in the same event at the U23 level. Within months he was standing at the top of the podium at the World Cup in Holland, blazing his way into the elite ranks. Gold followed in this event at the next World Cup in Cali, where he also picked up silver in the Madison with Felix English. One week later this duo made it gold in the Madison at the final World Cup in LA, with their sights set firmly on the World Championships next month.

Find out more about one of Ireland’s most talented athletes in and his rider profile from 2014. And here is another great interview

Madison, Points, Scratch Race – what are the track cycling events?

One of the most exciting things about track cycling is that there is something in it for everyone. There are 200m races for sprinters, and multi-event omniums for endurance riders. Track cycling is an exhilarating discipline in the sport, with riders competing on bikes with one gear and no brakes and no end of racing options to choose from.

Madison Racing is an event with two rider teams competing over 20km (women) or 30km (men), with points awarded every ten laps, and points awarded for lapping the field. The riders work together to cover this section by slinging each other into action, with one rider racing while the other recovers every 2.5 laps or so. The reason we are hearing more about it is there is a proposal for it to be introduced on the Tokyo 2020 programme of events, and the Irish guys, coached by former World Champion in this event David Muntaner, are flying in it!

Points Racing is a little better known, in 2012 Caroline Ryan won a bronze medal at the World Championships in this event, and Mark Downey has been dominating the World Cup scene this season. It’s a bunch race with points awarded every ten laps, and extra points awarded for lapping the field.

Scratch Racing is another event you might be familiar with – in 2013 Martyn Irvine infamously won the World Championships within an hour of winning silver in the Pursuit. This is a straight up first over the line bunch race.

Read more about the track cycling events HERE

What’s the story with getting a Velodrome?

This is a question that we hear a lot, and understandably so when track cycling is getting such positive exposure with our phenomenal cycling team. The cost of building the Velodrome is currently estimated at €15m; and the current proposal is ready to go to tender having secured planning permission already, with Abbotstown and the National Sports Campus as the venue. Abbotstown is the location of many of the sports headquarters, and is a stone’s throw from Dublin Airport, making it a prime location.

The planned Velodrome is a joint venture with Cycling Ireland and Badminton Ireland, and will be run by Sport Ireland. In recent months the National Indoor Arena was opened, at which point it was indicated that the Velodrome would be one of the next projects to receive funding, along with the completion of Phase 2 of the Indoor Arena.



We firmly believe a Velodrome would be a fabulous facility that would be enjoyed by clubs, groups, and youths and would have a major transformative effect for the sport in Ireland. A home based training facility would greatly boost the ongoing development of Irish cyclists by growing the pipeline and base for talented track cyclists to emerge.

What’s the Track Commission, and what do they do?

The Track Commission is the committee charged with the development of track cycling, the running of leagues and National Championships as well as organising the world class UCI Dublin Track Cycling International event which takes place in July, attracting world champions and a competitive Irish team.

The Track Commission are also responsible for an extensive bursary scheme that offers ambitious and committed track riders bursaries to cover a third of their expenses for international camps and races in order to develop themselves.

Hugh Byrne, member of the judging panel explains how this bursary assists riders who are interested in further developing themselves by competing abroad:

“This bursary recognises the commitment of riders who are training hard and racing abroad. They are attending these events off their own bat to further their ability – so this goes some way towards alleviating some of the cost.

They’re willing to invest in themselves and their performance, we are happy to be able to assist them with that, and it’s worth it when we see their progress, especially when you see them standing on podiums. These riders improve their standard by competing abroad, and that brings on the standard for everyone when they compete at home events as well.”

Keep an eye out for the qualifying criteria for this year’s bursary in the coming weeks. In the meantime find out about track training sessions, leagues and more on HERE

What’s to watch out for next?

2017 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong from the 12-16 April (click above link).

Dublin Track Cycling International in Sundrive Velodrome from 1-2 July.

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