Belfast Telegraph

Our boy looks forward to more World title joy in year ahead

By Steven Beacom

When Martyn Irvine is long retired and sitting back reflecting on all he achieved in cycling, memories of 2013 will fill his mind.

From that year he'll recall becoming World champion in Belarus, breaking a hip in Taiwan, which put him out of action for six months, and returning to triumph at the World Cup in Manchester.

And there'll be the day he married the love of his life, Grace.

Surely 2014 can''t be anything like as eventful.

With Martyn you just never know. He's full of surprises.

Few for instance thought he would pull off victory in the World Championships in Minsk last year with one of the gutsiest performances you'll ever see from a Northern Ireland sportsman.

He hit the front of the 15km Scratch race with 10 of the 60 laps to go and, despite coming under intense pressure from more favoured riders behind him, held on to strike gold.

All this less than an hour after claiming a silver medal in the Individual Pursuit.

It's wonderful to see Irvine shine. He comes with no ego, underplaying his outstanding achievements in a way that Northern Ireland people do better than most.

He's just weeks away from defending his world title, yet there is no song and dance about it from the modest Newtownards native who, along with the rest of the Irish team, will soon set up camp in Cali, Colombia's third most populated city, for the 2014 World Championships which starts on February 26.

An injury sustained in Belgium late last year has hampered his plans for glory, but rest assured come competition time, Irvine will be giving it his all to succeed at the highest level once again.

He says: "I crashed in Ghent at the tail end of last year and separated a muscle from the bone in my hip. It was the same hip that I broke earlier in the year that kept me out of action for six months.

"Thankfully I was back on the bike pretty quickly and at present I'm training hard for the World Track Championships.

"I will be physically fit for the World Championships but, to be honest, I don't know if I'll be at peak race performance level.

"In terms of the events I will do I'm planning on competing in all of them, like the Individual Pursuit, Scratch and Points races.

"If I could win another world title that would be fantastic. I'll do everything I can, that's for sure."

Already in 2014 Martyn has been a winner, earning the George Best Breakthrough prize at the 2013 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year Awards, staged last month.

His good friend and physio from Sports Institute Northern Ireland (SINI) Chris McNicholl collected the trophy, with Martyn sending a video message from his base in Denver, having followed in the footsteps of previous winners such as footballers Jonny Evans and Steven Davis, golfer Rory McIlroy, rower Peter Chambers and boxer Michael Conlan.

"Given the past winners I was honoured to be in that company and obviously winning a prize with George Best's name attached to it is special for anyone from Northern Ireland, so I was delighted to receive the award," said Irvine.

It's unlikely to be his only prize in 2014.

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