Glasgow can bring double celebration at Commonwealth Games
Published 01/02/2014 | 00:00
Two world champion cyclists will be riding for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.
Three-time World title winner Wendy Houvenaghel is on her way to Glasgow and Martyn Irvine, who became the best on the planet last year, is also lined up to compete.
The talent and determination of both offers hope of medals while their experience and generous nature will provide plenty of valuable advice for younger members of the squad.
Up until Martyn came along and enjoyed a spectacular year in 2013, winning a World Championship in Minsk and World Cup in Manchester, Houvenaghel was our big cycling star.
There's no envy from the Upperlands lady, just joy that the Newtownards man, now based in Denver, has had so much success.
"Martyn's achievements have been fantastic. I'm so pleased for him," she says.
"He works so hard and is now getting recognition he deserves.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he can continue to achieve at a high level and I'm sure he will do well at the Commonwealth Games. I'm looking forward to catching up with him in the near future and it'll be great being on the same team."
Both won medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Houvenaghel claimed silver in the Individual Pursuit while Irvine, along with Sean Downey, Philip Lavery and David McCann, took bronze in the Team Pursuit event.
For Wendy, the Indian adventure four years ago was fantastic.
"I had a great experience out in Delhi with the Northern Ireland team and I'm sure it'll be the same this time in Glasgow," says the 39-year-old.
"I'm looking forward to meeting other team members and getting to know them. I'm sure there will be young athletes in the team and if any of them want help or guidance, I would be only too glad to give it to them and use my experience in a positive way for the team."
Wendy adds that with the Games in Scotland, the support from the stands could be inspirational for Northern Ireland's stars.
"Glasgow is not far away so I'm sure we will all have lots of support. That can only be good for the team and will enhance our chances of winning medals.
"I'll have family members there cheering me on and having spent five years studying in Scotland for my degree in dentistry, I have a lot of friends who live over there. Glasgow is an area I'm quite familiar with and I'm very much looking forward to going back and doing well there."
Before the Commonwealth Games in July, Northern Ireland will go cycling crazy in May when the world famous Giro d'Italia comes to the province. It will start in Belfast on May 9 and will be here for three days before travelling on to its natural Italian home.
Irvine won't be competing in it but the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Tourist Board, responsible for bringing the Giro to our wee country, should be doing all they can to ensure that Martyn and Wendy are involved in the race in some way.
Wendy's verdict: "It's wonderful for us to host that event. It'll be excellent for cycling in Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland as a whole because it's such a huge race. It's a chance for us to show how great Northern Ireland really is."