Orla Walsh aiming for Euros selection amid strong results for Irish track riders

The Dubliner had a breakthrough result on Saturday, taking bronze in the sprint event at the Track Cycling Challenge competition

Having snagged a medal in a UCI Class 1 event in Grenchen, Switzerland, over the weekend, Irish track rider Orla Walsh is targeting selection for the European Championships to be held in the same venue in February.

The Dubliner had a breakthrough result on Saturday, taking a fine bronze in the women’s sprint event at the Track Cycling Challenge competition. Walsh was fourth quickest in Friday’s qualifying round, recording a time of 11.077 seconds and progressing to the 1/8 finals.

She beat the Czech rider Anna Jabornikova in their heat, was faster than the British rider Blaine Ridge Davis in two out of the three rounds in their quarter final clash and then secured bronze with a two-race victory over the German rider Alessa-Catriona Propster.

With Cycling Ireland opening the selection process for the Europeans on Monday, Walsh’s timing is impeccable.


“I’m hoping to be selected for European Championships but I don’t know what the selection criteria is for that,” she told The Irish Times.

Cycling Ireland issued a statement on Monday saying it was inviting expressions of interest from riders “with an international track racing pedigree” for the championships, which will run between February 8th and 12th and will be the first qualifying event in the UCI Olympic Track rankings towards Paris 2024.

Walsh was originally part of Cycling Ireland’s endurance track programme but then switched across to sprint racing at the end of 2019. She has worked hard but it has taken time for things to pay off. Her bronze medal is an important step. “It’s my best result at that level for sure, UCI class 1,” she explained. “The longest day of racing in my life with nine full gas efforts in total, and 14 hours at the track.

“I was proud of my racing. I was competing against riders who were very similar speeds to me in the qualification so it required me to race smart too.”

Meanwhile the paracycling duo Martin Gordon and Eoin Mullen clocked up two gold medals in the same Swiss competition, qualifying quickest in the tandem sprint and then beating the Italians Stefano Meroni and Piergiacomo Marcolina in the final. They were also best in the qualifiers of the 1km time trial with a time of 1 minute 6.2 seconds, then beat the Swiss duo Christian Ackermann and Dominik Buttler by over three seconds in the final with a time of 1 minute 4.704.

Elsewhere, other Irish track riders were also victorious in the UCI Class 2 Trofeu Interactional de Pista Alves Barbosa event in Anadia, Portugal, on Sunday.

Lara Gillespie won the Omnium with a total of 146 points, 12 more than the Portuguese rider Maria Martins. Her Ireland team-mate Mia Griffin finished fifth. Gillespie and Griffin joined forces for the Madison, beating the Spanish riders Laura Rodriguez Cordero and Eukene Larrarte Arteaga to take gold.

JB Murphy also landed a medal, netting the silver medal in the elite men’s omnium behind the Portuguese rider Joâo Matias.

Like Walsh, they are likely to aim for a place on the European Championship squad. Applications are due by email by Monday January 2nd.

National Track Coach Dan Henchy said the races will be an important target for Ireland. “With the World Championships only in October this year it has been a short break for international track riders, and many have already been active at the UCI Track Champions League, and multiple track GP’s. It’s important with the Euros and Nations Cups around the corner to hit the ground running.”

Meanwhile Irish riders were in action in multiple cyclocross races over the weekend. Conor Murphy (Rostrevor Mountain Bike Club) landed an important result when he won the Under-16 race at the British National Trophy Series race in Barnoldswick in Lancashire on Saturday.

Former national champion Sean Nolan triumphed in the Leinster championships held in Blackwater Park in Navan on Sunday, with Stephanie Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group) tops in the women’s event.

Richard Barry (St. Finbarrs CC) and Sinead Rock (Midleton CTC) were best of the senior riders in Claycastle Beach at the Munster championships, while Ulster’s Mallusk playing fields in Belfast was the setting for a dramatic to and fro battle between national cyclocross champion Chris Dawson (Dawson Racing) and Under-23 road race champion Dean Harvey (Spellman-Dublin Port). Harvey eventually won by 15 seconds, while Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) was over five minutes clear in the women’s race.

Leinster Cyclocross Championships, Blackwater Park, Navan

Senior men: 1 Sean Nolan (EvoPro Racing), 2 P O’Reilly (Dan Morrissey-Pactimo), 3 E Ahern (Orwell Wheelers)

Senior women: 1 Stephanie Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group), 2 C May (Orwell Wheelers), 3 A Roche (Scott Bright Motor Group)

Junior men: 1 Joseph Mullen (Navan Road Club), 2 T Killeen (Kilcullen Cycling Club), 3 S Tolan (Drogheda Wheelers)

Masters women: 1 Helen White (Stamullen RC), 2 J Wilson (Orwell Wheelers), 3 M Anderson (IMBRC)

M40 men: 1 Ronan O’Flynn (Orwell Wheelers), 2 F McDermott (Oldcastle CC), 3 E Ryan (Team WORC)

M50 men: 1 Robin Seymour (Team WORC), 2 C McGarvey (Epic MTB Expert Cycles), 3 J Doris (Epic MTB Expert Cycles)

M60 men: 1 Johnny McCabe (Cuchulainn CC), 2 T O’Neill (Epic MTB Expert Cycles)

U16 boys: 1 Oisin May (Scott Bright Motor Group), 2 J Woods (Carlow RCC), 3 F Kileen (Kilcullen)

U16 girls: 1 Greta Lawless (Team WORC), 2 F Robinson (Bray Wheelers), 3 G O Rourke (Cuchulainn CC)

U14 boys: 1 Fionn Crinion (IMBRC), 2 C Regan (Kilcullen), 3 N McDonald (Carlow RCC)

U14 girls: 1 Katie Turner (Orwell Wheelers), 2 N Byrne (Carlow RCC)

U12 boys: 1 James Cunningham (Orwell Wheelers), 2 D O’Flaherty (Carlow RCC), 3 N Byrne (Carlow RCC)

U12 girls: 1 Laoise Crinion (IMBRC), 2 C O’Connor (Drogheda Wheelers), 3 L McDermotr (Unattached Leinster)

Munster Cyclocross Championships, Claycastle Beach, Youghal

A Race: 1 Richard Barry (St. Finbarrs CC) 53′51, 2, D Corkery (Verge Sport PI Cycles) at 48.93″, 3 K Jackson (Comeragh CC) at 1′49.40

Women’s senior race: 1 Sinead Rock (Midleton CTC) 49′26, 2 S Drennan (Midleton CTC) at 1′49.68

Junior men: 1 Willem O’Connor (O’Leary Stone Kanturk) 46′10, 2 C Tutty (Dungarvan CC) at 0′06.93, 3 R McCarthy (Verge Sport PI Cycles) at 3′02.50

Men’s B race: 1 Dennis Lynch (Sliabh Luachra Cycling Club) 51′31, 2 D Logue (Panduit Carrick Wheelers) at 35.95″, 3 J Wysocki (MBCC) at 2′29.88

Masters 40 race: 1 Marcus Flavin (Dungarvan CC) 56′30, 2 M Pinfield (Killarney CC) at 3′46.29, 3 J Phelan (Cork Triathlon Club) at 4′40.68

M50 and M60 race: 1 Trevor Woods (All human/VeloRevolution Racing Team 48′38, 2 J Travers (Dungarvan CC) at 2′57.91, 3 P Birchall (Verge Sport PI Cycles) at 4′50.43

Under 15 and Under 16 boys: 1 David Gaffney (Dungarvan CC 26′46.17, 2 P O’Connor (Dungarvan CC) at 1′11.88, 3 H Og Mulhearne (Panduit Carrick Wheelers) at 1′12.51

Youth girls race (U13 U14 U15 U16): 1 Kate Murphy (Sliabh Luachra Cycling Club 00′31′50, 2 S Gaffney (Dungarvan CC) at 2′22.38, 3 I Gaffney (Dungarvan CC -1 lap

U13 and U14 boys: 1 Shane O’Brien (Fermoy Cycling Club) 29′40.87, 2 J Logue (Panduit Carrick Wheelers) at 1′27.27, 3 K Mulvaney (Sliabh Luachra Cycling Club) at 2′49.91

Ulster Cyclocross Championships Mallusk Playing Fields Belfast

Elite men: 1 Dean Harvey (Spellman-Dublin Port) 57′05″, 2 C Dawson (Dawson Racing) 57′20″, 3 D Moore (Team Caldwell Cycles) 1 hour 42″

Elite women: 1 Aine Doherty (VC Glendale) 41′37″, 2 E Wallace (Harps CC) 46′56″, 3 C Martinez (Chain Reaction Cycles) 50′23″

Junior Men: 1 Seth Dunwoody (Shelbourne/Orchard CC) 41′6″, 2 O Ferrity (Island Wheelers) 41′12″, 3 C Neill (Carn Wheelers) 43′3″

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling