Preview by Heather Boyle
Over the last couple of weeks the Eamonn Ceannt Track has been alive with the sound of women's cycling. This weekend record numbers are expected at the National Track Championships, especially in light of the recent focus on track cycling in the High Performance Programme.
Every Wednesday night the Track Commission have been running a women's only league in conjunction with their weekly Sundrive league - and this has seen the emergence of many new faces on the women's scene. Two weeks ago a selection omnium took place, from which a Junior Women's Team was selected to race in Meadowbanks in Edinburgh, and last weekend the Sneem Hotel International Track Day was a huge success, boosted by the presence of two Dutch women's teams.
Over the next three days the heat will be on, when athletes from all over Ireland will travel to Sundrive Road in Crumlin, to test themselves on the outdoor cycling track, which has recently been refurbished. The 2008 National Championships were dominated by UCD rider Louise Moriarty, who will be back again to defend her titles. However, the competition should be tighter this year. The Wednesday night leaguers will be on form, with Joanna Hickey (Usher) and Aideen Collard (Orwell Wheelers) looking to better their medal haul from last year. Kate Rudd (Wolftrapp) has always a sprint to fear, and Jennifer O'Reilly (Ravens) scored highly in last weeks omnium against the Dutch trackies. Ulster based Junior riders Rachael Withers (Fintona) and Rachel Mitchell will both be looking to be the top Junior - but will have Ailbhe Ivory (Bray Wheelers) to overcome first.
The Talent Transfer girls will no doubt be looking to demonstrate their form, and the regular roadies like Sarah Franzoni (Lakeside Wheelers) and Roisin Kennedy (Lucan) got a taste of track league racing in Newport and Manchester throughout the winter. In December and January the Women's Commission brought groups to the velodrome in Alkmaar, where they were coached by track expert Herman Schenk, so it will be good to see everyone out racing this weekend!
Races kick off on Friday evening with the Pursuit Qualifiers, The Finals will be on Saturday morning, followed by the sprints. Then Sunday starts with the 500m TT, and the scratch race will be on in the evening. So lots of medals up for grabs this weekend!