Dromore cyclist Mark Downey has a simple message to Europe’s top cyclists - bring it on.
He is hoping he can nail down another marker of progress this week as he continues his rise through the sport’s ranks.
The Banbridge CC man is in Athens with the Irish team to race in the U23 European Track Championships.
He returned home from the Europeans with a silver medal safely tucked in his pocket last year, but that was in the Junior category.
Now in his first year at U23 level, he’s keen to mark another step forward in his development.
With this being my first year in the U23 category I am going there with no pressure as I will be competiting with boys who will be at the Rio Olympics and are current world champions,” he said.
“However, I am really excited to see how I fare out against them to try and throw my name out there. Bring it on.”
Downey goes into the event as a man in form. He’s fresh off the back of a bronze medal in the U23 category at the Irish Championships. He could even have been on the senior podium but missed out by just 25 seconds.
In that third spot was former world champion Martyn Irvine and it’s the successes of the 30 year-old Ards man that the ambitious Downey is dreaming of emulating.
He said: “The overall goal that I have always dreamed about is to become world champion at a discipline on the track and participate in the Olympics.
“I know I’m on the right path and have seen a massive improvement from last year as a rider, I hope this continues to happen and that I can follow the dream the whole way to the top.”
This week though, his focus will be firmly fixed on the European Championships. Downey was last week training with his Ireland team-mates in Majorca in preparation for the tournament that begins tomorrow (Tuesday) and finishes on Sunday.
The local man will be competing alongside his team in the team pursuit competition. He will also be competing in his own favourite event, the points - in which he won his silver medal last year and will also be taking to the pedals in the Madison, which he calls ‘the craziest race you’ll see in a velodrome.’