By Shane Stokes
Irish rider David OLoughlin continued to gain experience in velodrome racing when he finished a solid eighth of 21 starters in the individual pursuit at the Moscow round of Cyclings track World Cup on Friday.
The Navigators Insurance professional recorded a time of 4 minutes, 32.206 seconds during the qualifiers, going quickly enough to finish in the first half of the field despite his very limited track experience.
UK rider Rob Hayles was fastest in Moscow, recording a time of 4 minutes, 23.032 seconds in qualifying. He went on to finish second behind German rider Robert Bartko in the final, while compatriot Paul Manning beat Russian Alexander Serov for bronze.
O'Loughlin was pleased with his effort. "I am very happy with that result. It confirms that I can compete at the very top level on the track, he stated. I'm not in peak shape and I am only a couple of seconds from the top four. Cycling Ireland has put in place a new system that has targeted the velodrome and that has given my career a new focus. Now I am really looking forward to 2007."
Cycling Ireland Performance Director Frank Campbell was also upbeat. "David has exceeded our expectations in Moscow. Clearly he has great talent on the track. We can build on what he has achieved in 2006, including today's qualifying points for the World Championships, with a training and competition programme in 2007".
OLoughlin recently took an unexpected win against experienced track riders Bradley McGee, Bradley Wiggins and David Millar at a round of the Revolution series last month. His first serious effort at the pursuit distance saw him set a new Irish record of 4 minutes 29.9 seconds at the end of September.
The Mayo rider is hoping to ride the world track champs in Mallorca next April. He and other Irish professional and international road competitors spent time participating in a Cycling Ireland track trial in Gent at the end of last month. OLoughlin, Nicolas Roche (Cofidis), Mark Scanlon (AG2R), Ciarán Power (Navigators Insurance) and others have said that they are interested in doing some racing in this area of the sport, with possible Olympic qualification a big incentive.
Road racing will continue to be their top priority but Campbell believes that they can do well. We have a number of quality cyclists who have the potential to produce top quality performances on the track. I have put in place a programme for the next couple of years, with the support of the Irish Sports Council, that will give Ireland a presence in the track disciplines.
David is the trailblazer leading the first official Irish team at a World Cup event, and I am optimistic that, with the talent in the sport, we can get an Irish team to the World Championships next year."