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The Irish team pursuit set-up has now come a long way and is in touching distance of the Olympics, for the pursuit and also other events, including the madison

The Irish track team has been a small group since the last Olympics and with the Paris Games now very much in focus, Cycling Ireland is continuing to focus exclusive on getting our riders to the XXXIII Olympiad.

Emily Kay may have left the stage – opting for retirement from competition in recent weeks – but that opens the door very much for young Erin Creighton; the 19-year-old now suddenly squarely in the frame to become an Olympian.

She is part of the national team selection for the European Track Championships in the Netherlands next month, where only those Irish riders with a chance of making it to Paris will wear the green of Ireland.

The team is comprised exclusively of the team pursuit riders – five athletes, including the first four and a reserve – who will also take in other endurance events at the Euros. Those are very familiar names by now; Lara Gillespie, Alice Sharpe, Mia Griffin, Kelly Murphy and Creighton.

Erin Creighton put her hand up for serious consideration after 4th in the elimination race at the Junior World Track Championships in Israel last year

They will ride the European title races in Apeldoorn from January 10th to 14th. And in the months ahead they will race in the UCI Nations Cup rounds in Adelaide, Hong Kong and Milton, as well as some other events, before the Olympic qualification process closes in April.

While the Olympic events – team pursuit, madison and omnium – will be the main focus for the Irish team at the Europeans, they will also complete in other bunch races, and could take medals in those if they had some luck on their side.

Cycling Ireland’s plan is to get these riders to Paris by qualifying in the team pursuit. And that qualification would also secure berths in the madison and the omnium at the Olympics. That would represent a tidy return for their efforts over the last three years.

With 10 nations to qualify in the team pursuit for Paris, the Irish are currently ranked 9th, but with a big points buffer inside that all-important top 10. And once they can continue doing what they’ve done through the last couple of seasons, they will make the Paris Games next summer.

“At this point in the Olympic qualifying process it’s a small team focused on dialling in their main qualifying route for Paris via the team pursuit,” said Cycling Ireland high performance director Iain Dyer.

“Naturally, as Olympic events, the omnium and madison will take precedence (over) the bunch racing events. But we won’t pass up the opportunities that a championship presents in the other bunch events with an eye on attaining eligibility for Copenhagen World Championships later next year.”

The team pursuit riders were first brought together as a development outfit, with some coming through the Cycling Ireland talent identification process as they entered the sport.

However, they are a long way from novices now, breaking the national record repeatedly last year and with medals in the team pursuit from the Europeans and UCI World Cup on their palmares. Olympic qualification – and then aiming for a ride at those Games – seems like the next natural step in their evolution.

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