Ireland’s top track cyclists will descend on the Sundrive Velodrome in Dublin this weekend for the 2020 Cycling Ireland Senior Track National Championships.
Though this year’s cycling championships will be staged behind closed doors in accordance with Government guidelines, the competition on the track will be as fierce as ever with a number of elite stars scheduled to battle it out.
The men will be competing for medals in the 4km Individual Pursuit, Sprints, Kilo TT and 15km Scratch Race, while the women will contest for medals in the 3km Individual Pursuit, Sprints, 500m TT and 10km Scratch Race.
The pursuit and sprint events will take place on the Saturday with the time trials and Scratch races on the Sunday.
Making her debut at the championships will be 19-year-old Lara Gillespie who is certainly one to watch across the weekend.
“I think it will be very exciting. It’s my first elite track nationals. I’ve been training with lots of the girls over the winter as teammates.
“I think we all probably know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. So I think it will be interesting. And definitely, um, if there is a national jersey on the line, everyone will be gunning for it.”
The Wicklow racer spent her time in lockdown helping with Cycling Ireland’s Bike Like Me campaign, inspiring more women and girls to discover cycling and feel confident on their bikes.
It’s an initiative Gillespie feels passionate about. Having grown up around strong women who encouraged her in the sport, she wants to pass on that level of confidence to the next generation.
“I did this project with green schools last year to encourage more girls to cycle to school. Something like 95% of the kids cycling to school were boys and it was tackling why that was. And it was because they felt judged or they had been ridiculed by boys before, or they just didn’t feel safe on the road.
“I lived with my mom and my sister, very strong women. So I never felt like I shouldn’t be doing something because I was a girl. I was always very competitive with the boys. I never thought I was any different.
“The only time I ever felt insecure was with the muscles on my legs and I thought ‘none of the girls have legs like mine. My mom told me that was cool, she said, ‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it, like, it doesn’t matter what you look like.’”
Gillespie will be competing in all four events in Dublin this weekend bringing a wealth of international experience to the table from her time in the junior ranks. Having been away from competition for so long, she is looking forward to dusting off the cobwebs.
“It’s going to be great to dust off the cobwebs and get some healthy competition between the girls. There’s some top quality riders and it’ll definitely lead to good competition and good racing. So, yeah, I’m excited. It’s going to be really hard.”
Gillespie was part of the Irish Women’s Team Pursuit squad who finished eighth at the World Championship in Berlin in February, marking their best ever result in the tournament.
Also part of that squad were Mia Griffin and Kelly Murphy who will all be competing against each other this weekend.
While the racers may have inside knowledge of each other’s styles and practices, Murphy insists that they will all be focusing entirely on their own race.
“I’d say it’s both an advantage and a disadvantage [to know each other] because you can plan around tactically a little bit.
“For example, Lara and Mia are a little bit sprintier than me so I know that I want to go early and I know that they’re also good enough at pursuit and that if I went early, they could follow me. So you’ve got to pay attention to where they are in the bunch and go when your position’s better than theirs.
“But then another disadvantage could be, you could take your eyes off other people. You could be so busy watching each other, you forget about everyone else and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
“So you’ve just maybe got to forget that your teammates and just forget what anyone else does and just play to your own advantages.”
Meanwhile, Griffin does not believe that the familiarity will take away from the competitive edge with spots for the national teams up for grabs.
“We’re all competitors. We all really enjoy each other’s company, but on the track, everyone wants to win. So that’s the way it’s going to be.
“We know when we race against each other that we will create a good, really hard race. That’s really cool. It’s exciting.”
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Read More About: Cycling, Cycling Ireland Senior Track National Championships, Kelly Murphy, Lara Gillespie, Mia Griffin