Reigning Irish sprint and keirin champion Orla Walsh confirms DerbyWheel switch

Current Irish women’s elite sprint and keirin champion Orla Walsh has confirmed that she is switching from UCI racing to DerbyWheel – and says she will ride her first race of the year in one month’s time, implying that she will be taking part in the Newport test event in late April.

Posting today on Instagram, where she has 237,000 followers, Walsh said she was ‘a little apprehensive but also excited’ about returning to competition in one month’s time, after a few months out.

Pressed for details in the comments, the eleven-time national champion confirmed that she had now ‘packed it in from UCI racing’. Instead, she announced that she would be joining ‘a brand new series of racing called DerbyWheelers (sic) coming from Japanese Keirin racing’.

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Walsh made her second appearance in the UCI Track Champions League in 2023, finishing a very creditable 14th after a late call-up. But she seemed to be on the brink of calling time on her track career, as her hopes faded of representing Ireland at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Posting in February, she declared that she was back in training, with plans to compete in a ‘brand new racing series’ – widely assumed to be DerbyWheel but not explicitly confirmed.

With no agreement in place between the UCI and DerbyWheel, Walsh’s decision to compete in the new keirin series could theoretically mean exclusion from UCI-managed racing, including the next Irish national championships in August. But having ‘packed it in’ from a UCI perspective, such a sanction seems not to concern her.

Walsh is not understood to have taken part in the induction sessions held during December and January. Posts on Instagram indicated that she was back home in Dublin on the weekend of the Manchester induction.