Belfast Telegraph

Cycling world champion Irvine back and ready to take on world

By Steven Beacom

It's been a long road back for Northern Ireland's World Champion cycling star Martyn Irvine.

Four and a half months after a horror crash in Taiwan, the Newtownards rider is set to return to big time action.

He can't wait. Today's the day when he will line up and compete in the mountainous Tour of Portugal with his American-based United Healthcare team.

It'll be the latest high in a rollercoaster year.

In February he had stunned his sport by becoming the World Track champion in Minsk.

Winning a silver medal in the individual pursuit event was impressive but less than an hour later to go and claim gold in the 15km men's scratch race in Belarus was staggering.

Irvine raced clear of the pack and just as it looked like he would be overtaken in a gripping finale, the County Down man somehow found the strength to hold off his rivals and become champion of the world.

It was sensational stuff, more than making up for what the 28-year-old felt was a "disappointing" performance at the 2012 Olympics in London.

If victory in Minsk was easily the best moment of his career to date, the worst was to come a few weeks later when, having signed a professional contract with United Healthcare, he was just three days into his second race with the team when he collided with road bollards in a high speed crash at the Tour of Taiwan.

The result was that he broke the head of his femur.

Irvine had a metal rod inserted along his thigh and just a few days later was leaving hospital and heading towards the airport.

He recalls: "They just pinned my leg and gave me crutches and said 'away you go'.

"Getting off the bed and onto my feet was the worst part. It took 20 minutes and was agony.

"The team sorted me a flight but when I turned up at the airport the airline said I couldn't travel with a broken leg.

"I told them I'd pay anything if they just got me on a seat home.

"Guys from another team were begging the staff to let me on, saying that I just wanted home," he says.

"But there were no favours from anybody.

"The flight was closed when a Dutch pilot walked by and gave me a seat. It must have been a crew seat.

"He warned me I was flying at my own risk but if he hadn't said that I'd have been there for God knows how long."

An eight hour flight to Amsterdam followed, then came a shorter journey to Dublin airport, accompanied by love of his life Grace. Next it was a road trip to Belfast and the Royal Hospital.

"They X-rayed it and said it was as good as they would have done but my leg was twice the size when I got off the plane in Dublin.

"They thought there might be a blood clot in it from flying home so soon.

"I had to go back up to a hospital in Dungannon for an ultrasound and some stuff to thin my blood for a while in case it was a clot.

"They warned me that it could go to my heart and all this mad stuff!"

With that in his mind, it was depressing for Irvine to be confined to bed for the next few weeks, putting on weight and waiting for the bone to heal in order for the rehabilitation to begin at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland.

Had Irvine not broken his leg however, he would have competing around the globe and unable to marry Grace this summer so every cloud and all that....

Irvine is way ahead of schedule. He won a time trial in Wicklow last month and, as he savours his return to international competition on the road, aims to prove he is worth another year-long contract in his professional team.

With his character and attitude, expect the man from Ards to do just that.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph