The medals won by Irish riders at the Track Cycling World Cup in Pruszkow last week were impressive by any standards.
What made the performances all the more astounding is the fact that Ireland does not currently have a velodrome or indoor track for riders to train on.
At present, riders wishing to train for international level competition are forced to head abroad.
Cycling Ireland head coach Brian Nugent has been the driving force in running the Irish track programme for the past decade and oversees the team at their base in Mallorca, Spain, where they have been based for the last six years. According to Nugent, this is something that must change.
“What we’re doing at the moment is taking our best athletes out of the country to Mallorca to train year-round for the World Cups and World Championships with the overall goal of going to the Olympics,” says Nugent.
While the team is getting the work done in Mallorca, Nugent says it takes its toll on the athletes when practiced over a long period of time.
“For the first few years everybody loved that system but after a while it gets too much.
“Most athletes around the world travel but our athletes are constantly forced to travel away from their families and that takes its toll.
“Our athletes don’t have the opportunity to stay at home and train and then go abroad just for training camps.
“They are constantly travelling and it can be tough going.”
Being based abroad means costs are higher and logistics are more complicated. A velodrome at home, with high-class facilities, would make things a lot easier for Nugent and his athletes.
“We rent two or three properties for the athletes to stay, plus pay fees to use gyms out there.
“The athletes are flying in and out all the time and bringing their bikes too, so flights are expensive.
“Renting time on the track and getting specific gym equipment shipped out there all costs money too.
“We’re not complaining - we make it work, but having a velodrome at home would be much much better.
“Our athletes are focused and they work with what they have but deep down all they want is to be able to train on a velodrome in Dublin.”
Ireland not having it’s own track makes it very hard to develop at a grassroots level.
“We can only bring a small dedicated number of riders out to Mallorca.
“If you have a national facility here in Ireland the exposure increases massively. Kids can go there after school, we can organise trips to the track for youngsters. There would be so many possibilities to get kids in racing on the track and not only is it good for participation generally, but it’s also good for the talent pool.”
While nothing will be built before Tokyo 2020, the future signs for an Irish velodrome are positive and plans are in place to build a proposed velodrome at the sports campus in Blanchardstown as part of the next phase of developments supposed to be completed in 2021, with an expected cost of between €15m to €20m.
“We’ve been led to believe now that there are indications that we’re being considered in the budget and there are positive signs that this will become a reality before 2021.” said Nugent.
“It would make such a difference to our sport and to our athletes if they had the option to train and compete at home. It would be fantastic.”