Anguish of previous near-misses pushes Downey to clinch bronze
Mark Downey claimed a bronze medal for Ireland with a superb ride in the men's points race at the World Track Championships in Poland yesterday.
With 20 points on offer for lapping the field, as well as intermediate sprint points for the first four riders over the line on every 10th lap, 22-year-old Downey had his work cut out to stay within shouting distance of a medal throughout the 40km race.
A gutsy ride, however, saw the Dromore man lap the field a second time with 40 laps to go, cleverly holding off contact with the rear of the peloton to win an intermediate sprint and gain another five points in the process and bring himself up to fifth in the standings.
A calculated final surge with 14 laps to go saw Downey become one of only four riders to gain three laps on the field when he pulled clear in a small group to bring his tally up to 67 points, having also finished third in another sprint.
With Jan-Willem Van Schip of Holland and Sebastian Mora of Spain going into the final lap secure in the gold and silver medal positions, Downey was tied on points with home rider Wojciech Pszczolarski and needed to beat the Pole to the line to secure a medal.
Despite just gaining contact with he back of the peloton with nine laps to go, Downey pulled out all the stops to outsprint the Polish rider and snatch the first Irish medal at the world track championships since Martyn Irvine's victory in the scratch race in 2013.
"That result is just for all the staff at Cycling Ireland and all the people behind me, my family, all the support staff, everyone that's just got me up every morning, just kept me on the straight and narrow, " said a delighted Downey.
"I've had so many ups and downs the last year and a half of my career.
"I was always there or thereabouts in races, but I never really picked up that win. I was beaten by inches in the summer at the Tour de l'Avenir, had a crash on the track, finished fourth in the Commonwealth Games, fourth in the national championships.
"I've had that feeling of being fourth so many times in my career, I just got that urge with eight laps to go, and said: 'I can't feel like this again. This literally can't happen to me again'."
Downey adds yesterday's world championship bronze to silver medals and a bronze won at previous junior and U-23 European championships.
Downey will ride again at the track worlds tomorrow, joining Felix English in the men's madison race.
- World Track Championships, Live, Eurosport, 6.0