Jennifer O'Reilly, Caroline Ryan and Ciara Horne have just finished nearly three months training at the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, where they have gone from strength to strength. Take two former rowers and one former triathlete and you get Ireland's ever-improving 3,000m team pursuit squad, newly converted to the cycling with experience ranging from 12 to 18 months.
At the European Championships in early November, the trio broke the Irish national record, clocking 3:37.072 on the velodrome in Pruszkow, Poland.
O'Reilly, Ryan and Horne returned to the WCC to prepare for the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics in Cali, Colombia, December 16-18, and the rising Irish team has continued to bring that time down in training.
It is a very positive sign just one week before the Cali round of the World Cup, according to their coach Brian Nugent. "They have made massive improvements, dropping 15 seconds in one year," he said. "Ireland does not have a history of women's track cycling and we are really committed to bringing them up to scratch.
"We are delighted with the progress they have made while training at the World Cycling Centre. They are knocking their times down and morale is high."
The ultimate goal is to qualify the pursuit team for the 2012 London Olympic Games along with two promising Omnium specialists Martyn Irvine and Felix English, who have also been training at the WCC with coach Andy Sparks.
A medal at the 2012 London Paralympics is another major goal for Ireland. Until now, Ireland has never made the Paralympics podium, but after a silver medal in the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in 2009 and Road World Championships in 2010, hopes are high. The para-cycling team trained at the WCC in the build-up to the Worlds, and Catherine Walsh (with Caroline Ryan as pilot) took the silver in the B&VI 3km pursuit.
"We had three top five finishers at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and we are looking to go better than that in London," said Brian Nugent.
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