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Lara Gillespie is the reigning Irish road race champion and double U23 European track champion as she goes into an Olympic year (Photo: VCVRA TCFIA)

Lara Gillespie, the Irish road race champion, has signed for another year with the ‘UAE’ organisation after lining out with its development squad, UAE Development Team, last year.

The 22-year-old roared back into top form during 2023 after a prolonged period of illness and injury. She claimed two U23 European track titles, the Irish road race title and competed really strongly in her first pro races on the roads of Europe.

Gillespie is a central figure in Irish cycling’s Olympic plans as she is part of the quartet that looks on course to secure team pursuit qualification, and with it berths in the madison and omnium events.

She has been in Zolder with the Irish track team over the last week ahead of the Europeans in the Netherlands, starting on Wednesday. Now aged out of the U23 ranks for the first time, Gillespie is also a real prospect in road racing.

She is tipped to excel in the pro peloton, alongside her track commitments, in the year ahead. She will once again race with UAE Development Team and should get a chance to step up to its World Tour sister team, UAE Team ADQ, as she did several times last year.

A combination of the pandemic, which forced the cancelation of many road races, and her period of illness and injury mean we have seen very little of Gillespie in international road race action. However, she still shone last year when she got the chance, including taking her first European road win.

She took 2nd in her very first race of the season with the team, the 1.2-ranked Poreč Trophy Ladies in March. Then in May she was 2nd in GP Eco-Struct-Thompson-Security Tools behind former world road race champion, Amalie Dideriksen (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team).

In June she took her first European road race win, in Schellebelle, as well as the national road race championships in Co Tyrone. The following month won U23 European titles in the points race and omnium.

Gillespie also stepped up to the UAE World Tour team in September and October for GP Oetingen, Tour de l’Ardeche and Chimay Binche pour Dames. She placed 12th in the latter before a very solid season-ending 25th in the U23 race at the European Road Championships in the Netherlands.

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