Caroline Ryan has gotten Ireland’s campaign at the UCI World Track Championships in Cali, Colombia, underway with a massive ride in the scratch race that saw her ushered from the podium within touching distance of the finish line.
The Kildare woman and World No 1 pursuiter rode a very clever race early on, minding herself well and always staying within striking distance of the action.
However, while she instigated the winning two-rider move with Belgian Kelly Druyts, she could not hold her place out front. And well inside the last two laps, or 500 metres, of the 10km race she faded and was caught, with the Belgian surviving out front to win the world title.
As the 40-lap race entered its final third, Ryan was showing the legs and smarts that saw her take a bronze medal in the points race at the Worlds in Melbourne two years ago; holding her position really impressively and planting herself right in the middle of the action at the head of the intact bunch.
With exactly 15 laps to go, Ryan could be seen loitering with intent close to the front of that bunch, leading on occasion by mostly happy to sit in the top half dozen riders and bide her time as attacks went and were brought back.
With 7 laps remaining she attacked on the inside from the front, apparently gently at the beginning but managing to pull clear with Belgian rider Druyts.
When the gap opened a little, the Irish rider absolutely buried herself on the front to pull out a bigger lead, sensing this was her big chance in the title race that began at 1am Irish time.
Immediately daylight appeared between the two leaders and the rest of the field as under the power of the Irish woman the gold and silver medals looked to be sailing off into the Colombian night with the crowd going wild in the stands.
But then slowly it became clear Ryan was paying for her efforts a little; being distanced by the Belgian by a half a length and then by several metres; but not blowing and still well ahead of the pack with three and four laps remaining.
Out front, Druyts put on the afterburners and pulled away from Ryan completely as she hit for home flat out inside three laps to go.
Behind, the pace ramped up as the group felt they could still get back on terms with the leaders, who were now each ploughing ahead exhausted on their own.
It was too late for the field to rescue the contest for gold, with Druyts just about holding off the pack to take the scratch race iconic rainbow bands
Ryan was agonisingly unable to do the same in the silver medal position, and just as the penultimate lap was turning to the final 250 metre loop, the charging bunch had her in their sights and she was quickly closed down and passed, her silver medal disappearing as it was literally about to be hung around her neck.
She was eventually swamped by the pack, fading into it and coming over the line with her head down looking absolutely exhausted in 14th place.
Her keenness to open the gap just after her attack had cost her the legs she needed to hold onto her breakaway companion and take at least silver.
While a fantastic ride by Ryan, she will rue being unable to hold the winner’s wheel for just the couple of hundred metres longer that she needed to medal.
Next up for the Irish is Ryan Mullen and Martyn Irvine who go in the individual pursuit at 5pm Irish time today, Thursday, in an event where Irvine took silver last year.
Then just seven hours later, at midnight Irish time, Irvine goes again in the 15km scratch race where he won the gold medal and world title last year.
Article courtesy of Stickybottle.com