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Irish professionals aim for Olympic track targets

By Shane Stokes

In the wake of David O'Loughlin's recent breaking of the ten-year-old national pursuit record, more international Irish road riders will undertake trials shortly with a view to possible participation in track events at the 2008 Olympics. Professionals riders Mark Scanlon, David McCann, Ciarán Power, and Nicolas Roche are amongst those who have expressed an interest and, according to Cycling Ireland's recently-appointed high performance manager, they will soon have a chance to see what is their potential in this area.

"We've been talking with a lot of the top guys and will have a track-taster for them at the end of November," said Frank Campbell. "It will be held in Ghent and there will be a doctor there doing performance tests on them to see who has the potential to take to that type of racing. I think that track will play a much bigger part for Irish cycling from now on; there are more medals up for grabs there and the British model shows what can be achieved.

"Initially it is a short, sharp fix, taking guys that we know are good road men. We have picked time trialists for pursuiting, and we have picked Power more for points and scratch racing."

Campbell says that former world junior champion Mark Scanlon's planned move to the US circuit has coincided with an increase in his motivation, something the Sligoman admits he lacked at times recently while racing on the ProTour scene. "Scanlon is mad keen as well at the moment, due to his change in team and change in surroundings. I'm getting more e-mails from him than I have ever gotten. He has such an interest in what is going on."

Campbell's appointment comes about thanks to funding being made available by the Irish Sports Council for the full-time position. He will work closely with athletes and officials across the disciplines and the Irish federation is hoping that this should do much to enhance the prospects of international success in the years ahead.

Ireland currently lacks an indoor velodrome, but its riders have instead been able to use tracks in Manchester, Newport, and Ghent. There is currently a proposal to build a velodrome in the North of Ireland, but this depends on the granting of funding, something which has yet to be decided. Another tentative plan exists to build a velodrome at Abbotstown in Dublin, but for now, this seems a more uncertain prospect than the one north of the border.

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