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Two years after taking up track cycling, Lydia Gurley is already winning World Cup medals for Ireland

And the Galway woman has her eyes on this year’s World Championship.

Gurley in action for Ireland.
Gurley in action for Ireland.
Image: Jane Barlow PA Wire/PA Images

LAST WEEKEND IN Cali, Colombia, the Irish track cycling team had one of its most successful events ever, taking home three medals at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup event.

Among those standing on the podium was Lydia Gurley, who took bronze in the scratch race behind America’s Sarah Hammer and Evgeniya Romanyuta of Russia.

It was some achievement for the 32-year-old who only took up cycling in 2015 having focused on triathlon up to then.

However, when speaking to The42 earlier this week, Gurley’s most pressing concern wasn’t medals, but whether or not her bike would turn up in Madrid airport.

“There’s another three teams waiting for their bikes too, so hopefully it does show up,” she said.

As the Galway native waited, she explained how she came to switch her athletic focus two years ago:

“I first started doing triathlons back in 2010. I lived in Canada at the time but then I moved to the UK to do a PHD and started cycling in 2015.

“I just wanted to see what I could do representing Ireland in cycling and I was told that, if you wanted to be supported in the sport, track was the way to go.

“So I started training in Newport with my coach at the time, Chris Davis, and I just went from there.

“Orla Hendron is very well-known in the cycling community and she suggested that I start training for the track. She suggested some targets and then I attended the Dublin GP they hold at Sundrive.

“I did okay there, posting a solid time in the individual pursuit especially.

“That gave me an opportunity to train with the Irish squad that summer and that’s really how it all started.”

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While cycling plays its part in the triathlon, there really wasn’t much Gurley could take from her old sport and apply to the new one.

“It’s a bit different in team pursuit because it takes place over such short, intense bursts. It’s a sprint at the front and then you’re trying to catch your breath at the back. It’s much shorter but it’s definitely more intense.

“We do a fair amount of gym work too.

“The thing with track cycling is that you have the one gear and, unlike a road bike, you can’t change it during the race. If somebody goes, you have to be able to accelerate and move with it and have a high cadence so you do need strength as well.

“We would generally do one or two gym sessions and, depending on the time of year, we’ll focus on different aspects of it really. The majority of our training time is spent on the road bike or the track bike though.”

Of course, the pressing issue in track cycling in Ireland is the lack of an indoor velodrome despite promises back in 2014 that one would be delivered soon. Since then, exactly €0 has been earmarked for its construction.

Gurley is obviously disappointed.

“For all the athletes, we’d just love to be able to compete in Ireland and have home support. That would be a dream come true. I mean, we all really hope that it happens in the near future.

“It’s a facility that a lot of people would use and it would really bring on the sport in Ireland as well I think.

“I love watching track cycling and, considering the Irish weather, it’s always nice and warm and dry and I would thoroughly recommend it. It’s just getting access to it.”

Gurley has put her PHD at the University of Birmingham on hold to focus on cycling but, much like the indoor velodrome, funding remains the key.

“It’s like most things, it’s results driven.

“If you can hit certain targets and results then you can get the support but that’s why it’s important to get medals like we did last weekend and show that we deserve the support.

“I was a PHD student at the University of Birmingham but, in 2015 when I took up cycling and training with the Irish team, I pretty much put my PHD on hold.

“With the support of my family — they’re just the greatest — they helped me out that year and now that I’m on the squad and getting results, I’m hoping I can get the support to do this full-time because that’s what I really want to do.”

As for 2017, Gurley is obviously delighted with her result last weekend but is already looking ahead to the World Championships in Hong Kong.

“I think it shows how hard the team has been working and I’m just so happy that it’s starting to pay off.

“This World Championships, I think we’re going to produce some great results so I’m really excited for that.”

Oh, and don’t worry, Gurley’s bike eventually arrived safe and sound.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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