Ireland’s Mark Downey won a gold medal in the 30k points race at the UCI Track World Cup in Cali, Colombia, over the weekend while Lydia Gurley followed up 24 hours later with a bronze in the women’s 10k scratch race.
Downey’s gold follows a similar achievement last November in the Netherlands so perhaps it wasn’t as much as a surprise as the success of complete newcomer Gurley, 32, from Galway.
The latter only joined the Irish performance set-up last year — a fourth-place in the Netherlands showed she was close to the mark.
On Saturday she rode a near textbook race to become just the second Irish female cyclist to medal on the track at world level, the recently retired Caroline Ryan being the first in 2012.
“Winning a medal was unbelievable,” said Gurley.
“The phenomenal performances of Mark and Lydia Boylan the previous day means there was a really positive feeling in the group.
“We come to races to compete, and not just to make up the numbers, and I think we proved that this weekend.”
For Downey, it underlines his standing as one of the world’s top riders in the discipline, where the peloton compete for points over 12 intermediate sprints to determine the winner.
“My pre-race tactic was to chill for 30-40 laps and then to come to the front and turn the gas on.
“I made three key moves in the race: I got away with five riders and took five points in the sprint, then the big guys got away shortly after that and I used the rest of the bunch to bring them back.
“As soon as I got to their back wheel I went, and went hard. It was around 70 laps to go, I picked up two sprints on the way and it took me 23 laps to take the lap — so it was long. The crowd was ecstatic.”
Even after gaining his lap Downey said it was a case of focus and a willingness to suffer.
“After that, I sat back and got my breath back and waited for the final 25 laps of hell,” he said of gaining the lap.
“In the last 17 laps, a big group of seven got away, with the second, third, and fourth placed riders in it.
“So I literally did an individual pursuit against seven riders — it was an unbelievable way to hurt everyone and then just have the legs.”
Meanwhile, Dan Martin finished sixth overall at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal yesterday after losing the race lead on Saturday.
The Irishman wore the yellow jersey in the penultimate stage but over an 18km time-trial he was always going to lose time to the top time triallists.
In this case, one of those was the man who relieved him of the race lead and went on to hold it in the concluding stage yesterday.
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