Lara Gillespie agonisingly close once again at the European Championships

Wicklow rider has a third fourth-place finish of the week

Lara Gillespie had further heartbreak on Saturday after narrowly missing out on a European Championship bronze medal on Friday, once again finishing fourth.

A European champion in the points race discipline as a junior and last year as an under-23, the talented Wicklow rider rode with distinction in the event, which saw the bunch fight it out in bonus sprints every 10 laps.

Gillespie started with determination, taking second in the first two sprints and moving into provisional first place overall. While subsequent sprints saw her slip to third, she beat world champion Lotte Kopecky in sprint five to lead the race at the halfway stage.

Kopecky went on the attack after that, collecting points in subsequent sprints and building what proved to be a race-winning lead.


Gillespie was sitting equal third heading into the final sprint but Czech rider Jarmila Machacova went on the attack with three others. She won the final sprint, taking advantage of the double points on offer to overhaul Gillespie for the bronze medal.

Still just 22 years of age, Gillespie has one final chance at a medal in Sunday’s Madison race. She will pair up with Alice Sharpe in that event, while Kelly Murphy and Erin Creighton will each contest the individual pursuit.

Gillespie’s fourth place on Saturday is her third such result of this championships.

She, Sharpe, Murphy and Mia Griffin finished fourth earlier in the week in the team pursuit, losing out in the bronze-medal final to Olympic champions and world record holders Germany.

Griffin’s campaign drew to a close on Saturday when she competed in the elimination race.

The event sees the last rider over the finish line removed each lap. The Kilkenny rider was hemmed in early on and unable to sprint, losing out.

Elsewhere, Archie Ryan made his professional racing debut in the Down Under Classic in Adelaide.

The new EF Education-EasyPost rider was one of two Irish riders in the criterium race. It was won in a sprint by Ineos Grenadiers rider Jhonnatan Narvaez, with Ireland’s Ryan Mullen (Bora-hansgrohe) finishing 16th.

The bunch split during the race and Ryan finished in a group 26 seconds back, rolling in 73rd.

Both Irish riders will compete in the Santos Tour Down Under stage race, which begins on Tuesday and runs for six days.

The WorldTour event features two uphill finishes, something which will suit Ryan far better than Saturday’s criterium race.

One of the most talented emerging climbers in the sport, he said this week that he was enthusiastic about the upcoming event.

“I’m really excited, really, really excited,” he said. “I’m super happy to be here, starting the season, [and] starting my first race with the team. We’ve got a good bunch of boys this year as well so it should be good fun.

“There are four of us that are new here on the team but we all gelled together already. It feels natural already and we’re only a couple of days in. I’m having a good time. I can’t wait. If I could fast forward to stage one, I would. I just want to race.”

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Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

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