By Shane Stokes
It's been a long time since Ireland fielded a team in a round of the track world cup but that will change this weekend, with a total of five riders to compete in Manchester.
David O'Loughlin already competed in Los Angeles, placing fifth and qualifying for next month's world track championships in Palma, Majorca. He will take part in three events this weekend the individual pursuit on Friday, and then the team pursuit and points race on Saturday.
His Navigators Insurance team-mate Ciarán Power will ride the scratch race on Friday, while he, O'Loughlin, Dermot Nally and Paul Healion are the lineup for the team pursuit. Louise Moriarty is the sole female rider on the squad, and she will go in the womens individual pursuit on Saturday.
Cycling Ireland's high performance manager Frank Campbell said on Thursday that he was happy with the preparation of the Irish squad. They were training in the Newport velodrome earlier this week but have since travelled to Manchester and have been riding the boards there.
Campbell said that the competition is stiffer for O'Loughlin than in Los Angeles. "We've just finished the managers' meeting and there are more teams and more riders here than any other World Cup this year," he stated."Some of the top pursuit riders are here - Bradley McGee, Bradley Wiggins, all the top guys. But I would still like to think David will finish in the top ten and improve on his Irish record, which is probably the big thing for us. We want to start taking time off that."
Campbell says that if O'Loughlin can build on what he has done so far, he should be able to post a time in the region of four minutes 25 seconds, roughly five seconds inside the Irish record he set last autumn.
He says that the fact that the riders are new to the team pursuit makes it a little uncertain as regards what to expect. Again, a good time is the target. "The guys have pulled together very, very well. We have set a benchmark of somewhere in the region of four minutes 20 seconds for the team pursuit, which they have already done in training in Newport. That would put us in a reasonable position time-wise."
Moriarty will ride the women's pursuit and Campbell is hopeful that she can also break the Irish record by about five seconds. "She has been training very, very hard in Newport and producing some very good times. It's too late in terms of points for her to qualify for the worlds but as is the case with the others, it's all about building experience here for the future."
O'Loughlin will also ride the points race and Campbell says that if he performs well, he has a chance of doing two disciplines in the worlds in Palma. "If he gains some points again this weekend he should qualify for the world championships as well, which would give him another string to his bow."