Erin Creighton On Making The Most Of Important Year With Ireland  

It might not rain much on a training camp Down Under, but Erin Creighton is soaking in all she can as she makes the most of an Olympic year with the Ireland Track National Team. 

Training full-time with the team in 2024, the 19-year-old is enjoying gaining vital velodrome experience after making her elite debut for Ireland in 2022.  

While still a prospect for the future, Creighton has adapted well to competing on the international stage, she competed in European Championships and Nations Cup action for Ireland in 2024 across the Women’s Team Pursuit, Elimination Race and Individual Pursuit.  

Growing up in Co. Antrim, cycling has almost always been a part of Creighton’s life since a young age, with her passion for cycling stemming from her family’s love for the outdoors. 

That passion soon translated into racing – first on her mountain bike as she followed her brothers’ racing in her early teens.  

Talking about her introduction to the sport, Creighton said: 

“My dad was always into mountain biking, and he always did that with his friends and as a family as well. I remember that every Sunday we would go for a family cycle around the Lough shore near where we live. We were always an ‘outdoorsy’ kind of family. Every holiday always involved some kind of cycling or mountain biking.” 
“My two older brothers are twins and started racing mountain bikes when I was younger. I grew up going to watch them race and them training around the house. I decided then that I wanted to try it and my dad was like ‘I think you’ll be really good’. My first mountain bike race was when I was 13 or 14, I think and that’s how I started racing.” 

As she continued her development, the trails gave way to tarmac as she focused on road racing and rose through the ranks to become one of Ireland’s most promising youth riders.  

With a kick in a sprint and powerful engine, Creighton’s potential for success on the track became clear and it wasn’t long before she was urged to pay a visit to Orangefield Park Velodrome, her local track in Belfast.  

But Creighton was more than willing to try her hand at a discipline that would soon become a major focus in the years to come.  

“I started road first after I did a few years of mountain biking. I didn’t do my first road race until I was 15. I did two years on the road and then people within Cycling Ireland saw me road racing and thought that I would be good on the track as well. I went to my first induction session at Orangefield in June of 2021.” 
“Yeah (I agreed), I was always kind of a sprinter I guess on the road, and I thought that power would translate over to the track. I always wanted to try it!” 

After representing Ireland at European and World Championships at junior level, Creighton began to cut her teeth at international level as her experience on the track grew before first representing Ireland at elite level in 2023. 

“I raced the (Junior) European Championships in 2021 as well (as Junior Track World Championships). I raced Europeans again as a Junior in 2022 and I think your eyes are opened to the standard of international riders. You see how much more experience they have; they’ve been riding around in velodromes since they were like three or four. Coming from Ireland we don’t have the same experience – it's hard.” 
“This year stepping up to the senior squad has been a baptism of fire! I don’t have a lot of experience on the track, and I’ve got even less experience riding in a team pursuit. It’s been a crash course in team pursuit riding this year.” 

Creighton (right) in Team Pursuit action at the 2024 Track European Championships

Following the international retirement of Emily Kay, Creighton made the step up to the Irish national team and has been training as part of the women’s team pursuit unit alongside Alice Sharpe, Kelly Murphy, Mia Griffin and Lara Gillespie. 

With a focus on her development as an elite rider, Creighton’s emphasis has been on learning as much as she can from her teammate and coaches while managing her expectations and goals for the season. 

Despite learning some harsh lessons of the realities of professional cycling, Creighton knows that hard work can bear fruit in the long term.  

“Coming into the squad, the girls are so talented, and I only started track when they were already the big names in cycling. It’s really cool to be training with them and learning from them as well. Everyone gets on so well, it’s such a great team to be a part of. I’m looked at as the baby of the team – everyone looks out for me and gives me advice and pointers as to what I should be doing.” 
“The girls are all just protective of me and they’ve really warned me that cycling isn’t all just rainbows and winning jerseys. You really have to grind and work at it. They’ve opened my eyes to the work that really is involved, and they’ve shown me that the work does pay off eventually.” 
“I think this year is a ‘no pressure’ environment for me to learn and grow as an athlete. As much as it’s hard work training with these girls who’ve been doing it for years, it’s a great opportunity for me to learn in this fast-paced environment.” 
“All the coaches within the High-Performance Unit have been so supportive and understanding of my situation that I’m not always going to keep up with the girls who’ve been doing it for many years. Everyone has been so supportive and they’re looking out for me in a long-term way.” 

With the early months of 2024 pinpoint as an important period for Women’s Team Pursuit qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Ireland prepared for the European Championships in January quickly followed by Track Nations Cup rounds in Adelaide last month followed by Hong Kong on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. 

On paper, a fourth-place finish in the European Championships represented a positive result for Ireland’s qualification bid. However, the journey to the fourth place finish was far from ideal as two crashes marred both Ireland’s performances and morale. 

Creighton rode in the qualifying round which saw the team crash at the halfway point following a touch of wheels. There was also a further crash in the first round – which Creighton was not racing in – that saw Ireland leave the championships with a good result but a point to prove in Adelaide a few weeks later. 

“It was extremely stressful; I came onto the front for my second turn, and I had zero legs left. I tried to swing up the track (after my turn), but Lara (Gillespie) had overlapped my back wheel so when I swung up, she went into the back of me. She came down and then Alice rode into the back of her and came down also.” 
“Everyone was a little stressed out from Euros. Especially for me, that being my first big debut in the Team Pursuit I guess, it was extremely stressful. Always in the back of everyone’s minds is Olympics Qualification, but no one really said much about it. But when we crashed everyone was a bit panicked about it and no one knew what was happening. It all worked out in the end. The feeling within the team was that the Euros result looked good on paper but almost didn’t feel like we deserved it.” 

For Creighton, her focus remained on development.  

At the European Championships she rode in the Individual Pursuit – an event she admits is not necessarily her strong suit but certainly advantageous to help hone her track skills. 

But if there’s one event that sparks her interest it’s the elimination race. High-octane jeopardy every 250 meters keeps every rider on their toes and Creighton loves being in the thick of the action.  

Creighton in action.

“I’m not really an Individual Pursuit rider, I don’t really train for them. I guess I’ve done them because they’ve gotten me used to riding in the position on the skies. That’s been a big thing for me to work on to get used to putting power in that position. Doing Individual Pursuits helps with that.” 
“Elimination races can be very hectic. They’re probably my favourite races to do and watch because they’re so tactical and so many people race them in different ways. You can race from the front and stay on the front. You can race it from the back and try to pip riders to the line. I think I prefer to race from the front, from the back is just too stressful!” 

In Adelaide last month, Creighton picked up a 16th place finish in a competitive Elimination Race as Murphy, Sharpe, Gillespie and Griffin finished eighth in the Team Pursuit. 

The Adelaide Nations Cup kickstarted an important period for the five riders as they kickstarted a training camp Down Under as they prepare for the Hong Kong Nations Cup beginning on March 15th. 

Heading to Hong Kong in just over two weeks, Ireland lie six6th in the Women’s Team Pursuit Rankings – with the top ten nations qualifying for Paris. However, much of Ireland’s rivals’ points from the Asian Games last week and the Pan-American Championships in April will see the qualification fight hot up.  

Training and living together in a High-Performance environment for an extended period, Creighton is already feeling the benefits of surrounding herself with stellar company both on and off the bike. 

But what’s a training camp without shooting the breeze with your teammates? 

Creighton joked about relaxed road rides turning into Strava mishaps and downhill gravel escapades in their down time.  

“Coming to Adelaide, everyone was determined to put in a good performance. I wasn’t really involved in the Team Pursuit here; I honestly don’t really know what went on.” 
“That’s the plan (to grow together as a team). We needed a change in environment I think, and hopefully being on the track consistently will bring us on a lot. Getting to train on the road as well is just going to bring each other’s level up so much.” 
“Lara (Gillespie) and I are probably the most keen on off-road. We all went on a road ride, and we don’t know the roads here, so we just planned a random route off Strava. We rode up this climb and the only way down was a gravel road, so I don’t think everybody was too happy with having to ride down it but it was a fun experience!” 

Erin Creighton

Beyond 2024, Creighton hopes to follow in the footsteps of her all-conquering inspiration Lotte Kopecky and carve out a career on the road as well as the track. 

Taking a year out from university to focus on her development and journey with Ireland, she can’t help but ponder what an opportunity to qualify for an Olympic Games would mean to her. 

At 19, time is on her side with plenty more potential opportunities to qualify for an Olympics. 

But with Paris just around the corner, Creighton believes the future can be now.  

“I started university last year, but with the chance of going to the Olympics, I’ve actually taken a year out. I’m determined to make the most of this year, train really hard and hopefully get some good results. Next year I’ll be looking for a road team that races in Europe to develop as a road rider also. I definitely want to do road and track together.” 
“I know I’m still so young and hopefully I‘ll have more chances to go to the Olympics but you don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future, so I have to make the most of this opportunity while I have it.”