Northern Ireland

Chris Boardman tribute to Newtownards cyclist Martyn Irvine

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Media captionMartyn Irvine wins Ireland's first cycling gold in 117 years

One of the legends of track cycling has said that Newtownards cyclist Martyn Irvine's gold medal at the World Track Championships should lead to more investment in Irish cycling.

Former Olympic champion Chris Boardman watched Martyn's silver and gold medal rides in Minsk in Belarus on Thursday.

He said Martyn's victory was a very popular one with the crowd.

"I think he was people's champion on the track when he took that gold medal," he said.

"It really was something that delighted all the crowd, it was a real scrappy performance."

The 27-year-old became the first Irishman to win a gold medal at the championships for 117 years.

Irvine won his silver medal in the individual pursuit, which was won by reigning champion Michael Hepburn.

Less than an hour later, the Northern Irishman won the 15km men's scratch race.

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

Mr Boardman, who won an individual pursuit gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and broke the world hour record three times, said he hoped Martyn's victory would change that situation.

"Martin's in a similar situation to what I was 20 years ago when he just had to find a way to make it work," he said.

"Sometimes you have to put the cart before the horse, before people get behind you.

"Hopefully now he's proved that the Irish team is worthy of investment.

"He's now proved that he's at the moment the best rider in that discipline in the world, it shows that he's a force to be reckoned with.

"That should give him a lot of confidence and to people to back him with funding."

Mr Boardman said Martyn's performances would also provide a huge boost to Irish cycling.

Image caption Chris Boardman won the Olympic gold in 1992

"It was just a fantastic moment and that's what a country needs, they need their own marker of success," he said.

"It means that any other athlete that goes and trains with Martin, they've got a genuine gold medal yardstick next to them to measure everything that they do.

"So he could be the person that starts the gold rush for Ireland."

The Olympic gold medallist said that as well as being a popular winner with the crowd in Minsk, Martyn's victory had pleased a lot of people in the cycling world.

"He's a very attacking courageous rider, great fun, exactly what everybody wants in a bike race really is people who ride like Martin," Mr Boardman said.

"I think that's one of the reasons that people inside cycling really enjoyed him taking that gold yesterday.

"I think what I enjoy most is his courageous nature the fact that he'll just get stuck in, go and look for opportunities.

"He's a lovely unassuming fellow, I don't think he's going to have any problems with an expanding ego."

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