Lydia sprints to victory

Pictured: Lydia Boylan.

Pictured: Lydia Boylan.

With all the traffic buzzing around Ringsend these days, it’s a brave person who takes to the streets on two wheels.

But local athlete Lydia Boylan not only managed to manoeuvre her bike down Thorncastle Street, she kept going all the way to first place at the Irish Cycling Championships.

NewsFour eventually caught up with the fast-pedalling Boylan for a quick chat about her impressive journey from the cycle tracks of Dublin, to the velodrome tracks of the world.

“I grew up in O’Rahilly House, went to St. Patrick’s and then St. Mary’s. It wasn’t until after my first year at UCD that we moved to Grand Canal Dock and then eventually on to London.”

Boylan has fond memories of growing up in Dublin 4, engaging in local sports and especially summer Kit Kat tennis in the park. She first became involved in cycling by accident when her car broke down and she was forced to find alternative transport to work. “I generally don’t do things by half. All or nothing with me, so when I started cycling it was inevitable that I would start racing.”

Boylan has never looked back since. She became Irish track champion in 2012 at the sprint and scratch disciplines, and then to show her versatility, won back-to-back road race championships in 2015 and 2016. She currently competes for Ireland on the track cycling world cup circuit that takes riders to such exotic locations as Cali in Columbia, Los Angeles, and Glasgow. Yes, Glasgow can be exotic too!

Boylan and her Irish colleagues narrowly missed out for qualification at the Rio Olympics, but she’s not letting that stop her upward progress. “I knew it was always a long shot, but I’m extremely proud of the progress we made as a team over a short space of time. It would be absolutely amazing to represent Ireland at the Olympics in Tokyo, but I’ll take it one year at a time.”

Boylan qualifies to cycle for Northern Ireland through her mother, and that opens up other possibilities for competition and success. “The next big goal is to represent Northern Ireland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”

Currently based in Nottingham, where she combines racing for Team WNT with teaching architecture at the local university, Boylan originally qualified with a degree in civil engineering from UCD. She then went on to achieve her masters degree from Imperial College London in an unusual, if not groundbreaking discipline – earthquake engineering. “I’ve always been intrigued by the science of earthquakes and thought if I did a masters I should do it in something a little bit different.”

On the thorny subject of facilities for Irish athletes, or lack of them, Boylan has strong opinions: “A velodrome is massively necessary for the development of the sport. People need to see track cycling as a sport they can get involved in. Growing up, I didn’t even consider cycling as a competitive sport, it just wasn’t on my radar.” This points to the fact that there is no indoor velodrome in Ireland, and only one outdoor track in Dublin, which in itself is not exactly state-of-the-art.

“The guys at Sundrive in Crumlin are doing a great job, but an indoor track would do wonders for interest in the sport, not to mention bringing more high-level racing to Ireland. As for a comparison between facilities in the UK and Ireland, considering the UK has five 250m indoor tracks there is absolutely no comparison at all.”

This undoubtedly goes a long way to explain why Team GB regularly return victorious from the Olympics with a haul of cycling gold medals, while their Irish counterparts are left huddling for shelter under umbrellas in Crumlin. With all the travelling Boylan has to endure on the track circuit, we wondered if she ever got the chance to enjoy it.

“Yes and no. We don’t usually get to see a lot of the countries we visit but when we do it’s amazing. But the biggest aspect of travelling for an athlete is just how tiring it is and how much it upsets your training rhythm. It’s hard to get used to,” she explains.

As for life after the wheels stop turning, Boylan has a plan. “I’m not sure in what capacity but more than likely I’ll go back to structural engineering, if I can remember how to do it!” We at NewsFour certainly wish her success of seismic proportions, and hope she can at least earn a decent crust in her new profession.

By Paul O’Rourke