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Martyn Irvine – “I’m a good roadman in my own right, not just a track rider who hangs on”

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The last time that VeloVeritas spoke to Irish trackman Martyn Irvine, the news was all good – he’d just won two silver medals in the Glasgow World Cup and signed a nice crisp contract with US Pro Continental squad, United Healthcare.

And life just keeps improving for the Irishman; it can’t really get much better than a world title – unless you’ve already just taken a World’s silver medal minutes before you grabbed the rainbow jersey, that is.

It’s more than a century since an Irishman was champion of the world – and especially sweet for Irvine given that he was extremely disappointed with his seventh place finish in the London Olympic omnium.

Martyn took time to talk to VeloVeritas as he prepared to fly out to the Tour of Taiwan to join his United Healthcare team.

Martyn Irvine
Martyn is justifiably proud of his results in Minsk.

Congratulations, Martyn – tell us about the party!

“Believe it or not there wasn’t much of a fuss; my fiancée and I just opened a bottle of bubbly and celebrated quietly.”

Has becoming World Champion changed your life?

“Usually when I come home after a competition I’m pretty much forgotten about. But this time there was press, radio, TV – I struggled to train for about a week, with everything that was happening.

“But I’ve just managed to put in a solid ten day block of training – I’m off to Taiwan today, so I’ll soon find out if the training worked!”

Martyn Irvine
Martyn has been kept busy with social engagements; here with Grace he enjoys a sports celebration evening at Belfast City Hall… Photo©Cormac McCann.
Martyn Irvine
…and spending time at the Irish Cycling Show with the B-Spoke lads.

Have the Media been positive, no daft Lance questions?

“A few of those but I brushed them aside, the Media reaction has been very positive, not only here in the south but in Northern Ireland, too.”

What did you do between the Glasgow World Cup and the Worlds?

“To tell you the truth, I can’t really remember what I did immediately after Glasgow but the thing about those performances was that they took the pressure of me – proved to me that I wasn’t wasting my time.

“I did two big blocks or road training with United Healthcare and even though there was no track riding, the Worlds were in my mind.

“I rode the Etoile des Besseges and then went to Mallorca to train for the Worlds.

“But I did all of that in a highly motivated state; the Glasgow performances were the boost that I needed, they gave me a mental edge.”

Martyn Irvine
Martyn prepares for his breakthrough pursuit ride in Glasgow. Photo©Martin Williamson

The first ride in the pursuit is crucial, isn’t it?

“The qualifying is my final, with no thought for the next ride, that’s how I treat it – my coach Andy Sparks sees it the same way.

“If you can’t deliver in round one then you might as well not turn up. To know that I was in the final was a great feeling.

“I don’t understand the guys who say; ‘I can’t do this time or that time’ and don’t turn up. You have to just go out and do your best.”

In the final, against Hepburn did you ‘cruise’ to save a little for the scratch?

“No, I actually geared up and went for it, you have to be in the frame of mind that anything can happen.

“Hepburn is World Champion and is scary fast but I went out against him with a fast first kilometre.

“I couldn’t hold that pace but there’s more to come, I’m sure of that – the pursuit is like being on a knife’s edge; that balance between being off the pace and blowing up.

“It’s taken me years to learn what’s possible and I now know I can improve upon 4:20.”

I believe there wasn’t much time between the pursuit final and the scratch race?

“It was about 45 minutes – I remember coming off the pursuit podium and saying to people that I didn’t have time to talk, I had to get on the rollers to warm down then get back up for the scratch.”

What was the game plan going in to the scratch?

“I went in cautiously, I usually like to ride an aggressive race but I held back from attacking and stayed in the wheels for the first 20 laps – I actually felt terrible.

“But as the race progressed I began to feel the benefit of all that omnium training and in the final 20 laps I felt like I was driving the race – I made one big effort and it paid off.

“Andreas Müller who was second was very active in the early part of the race but that came back to bite him at the end.”

When do you next get a chance to wear that nice rainbow jersey?

“I’m hoping to ride the Fiorenzuola summer Six Day in Italy – the organisers were happy with me last time and I think they’ll have me back.

“Because the UCi have changed the World Cup and Worlds qualifying criteria, I’ll have more chances to wear the jersey – at Revolutions, for example.”

Two bikes – pursuit and bunch…

“It’s a nightmare but I’m used to it from riding the omnium – you have two massive bike boxes to lug around.

“Fortunately I had a good mechanic in Sandy Gilchrist; with him you know that your handlebars aren’t going to come off – he makes life easier for me and was with me in Glasgow and at the Worlds.”

United Healthcare must be happy?

“Over the moon, they were delighted with the pursuit silver and didn’t expect me to take gold in the scratch.

“When I first saw the time table for the Worlds I thought; ‘it’s a write-off, there’s no way I can ride both!’

“But the gamble paid off.”

Martyn Irvine
Martyn with Philip Deignan at the recent team training camp. Photo©Wes Mallette.

How’s the programme, now?

“I’m off to Taiwan, today then I have six or seven weeks of racing in the USA – a lot of criteriums, including ‘Speed Week’ in Georgia and the Carolinas.

“I’d