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Irish team pursuit squad denied wildcard

By Shane Stokes

The quartet may have been seventh and then fifth in the last two World Cups, but the Irish team pursuit squad will have to sit out this month's world championships after failing to get a wildcard for the event.

The quartet of David O'Loughlin, David McCann, Paul Healion and Martyn Irvine went close to a ride-off for bronze in last month's World Cup meet in Copenhagen; their national record-breaking time of four minutes 11.587 seconds put them less than a second outside the ride-off for the bronze medal.

However, despite being eleventh in the world rankings, current UCI rules mean that they did not satisfy the criteria for qualification. In addition to being ranked in the top twenty, a country needs to have participated in at least one event at four out of five rounds of the World Cup.

Cycling Ireland appealed this on financial grounds and hoped to get a wildcard slot. However the national federation heard in recent days that this bid was unsuccessful.

"Cycling Ireland (CI) is disappointed that a place for the team pursuit has not been secured," said CEO Geoff Liffey this week. "However it fully understands the UCI criteria which is in place and why a place is not possible at the 2009 World Track Championships.

"The focus is now to continue to build on the recent progress over the next few months. The arrival of Phil Leigh [the new CI High Performance Director] is sure to add some new energy and ideas to the High Performance Team"

The news means that Ireland will have just one entrant in the track worlds, as was the case last season. David O'Loughlin was sixth in the individual pursuit in Manchester one year ago and will aim to improve on that. He was third in the Beijing World Cup and then last month finished second behind Taylor Phinney in Copenhagen.

The progress he and the team pursuit squad have shown are a boost to CI's developing track programme. It is aiming for a good showing in London 2012.