Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Call to back cyclists with funding

Martyn Irvine has become the first Irishman to win a gold medal at the World Track Championships for 117 years
Martyn Irvine has become the first Irishman to win a gold medal at the World Track Championships for 117 years

More investment is needed to build upon the feat of Irish world champion cyclist Martyn Irvine, it has been claimed.

The sportsman, from Newtownards in Co Down, is the first Irishman to win a gold medal at the World Track Championships for 117 years.

SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt told the Northern Ireland Assembly he had succeeded on a shoestring budget.

"I would like us to do more than just honour him today, I would like us to invest in him, to make him as proud of us as we are undoubtedly proud of him," he said.

The budget for track cycling in Ireland is about £86,000, compared with the £8 million available per year for Great Britain over the new Olympic cycle.

Irvine, 27, earned a silver medal in the individual pursuit in Minsk, Belarus, on Thursday. Less than an hour later, the Northern Irishman won the 15km men's scratch race.

Mr McDevitt said: "It was an extraordinary achievement, the equivalent in athletics of a medal in the 400 metres at the Olympic Games followed an hour later by gold at the 3,000 metres and he has done it all on a shoestring.

"It is what they call pan y agua in cycling, bread and water. It means two things, you ride clean but you ride with very little resources."

Irvine only started seriously in the sport nine years ago when he decided to go out on spins with work colleagues who were avid cyclists. The lack of any velodrome facility in Ireland means he spends most of his year in Palma, Majorca.

He has won seven Irish titles on track and road. His latest success came on the same day it was announced the Giro d'Italia race would begin in Belfast, with three days of action on both sides of the Irish border scheduled for next year.

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