Ireland's Martyn Irvine left stunned by world gold medal in Minsk

Ireland's first gold in 117 years

Martyn Irvine has acknowledged his shock at becoming the first Irishman to win a World Track Championship cycling gold medal in 117 years.

"After the silver, I had everything to gain and nothing to lose," he said.

"But honestly at the start line (in the scratch race) I was thinking: 'I hope I finish this'. That was my thinking."

The Newtownards man added that his gold medal in Minsk "shows that dreams do come true".

"It's just unreal the way it has played out. A lot of things went my way in the race and it probably won't happen again any time soon," he said.

"Even I didn't give myself any chance of doing anything in the scratch race. I just went in thinking: 'Whatever happens, happens'. It's just a pure bonus.

"I had already got my medal. Maybe that helped. I can't believe I'm a world champion. It's just unreal."

Reflecting on his astonishing success as he prepared to return to Ireland on Friday evening, Irvine reflected on his "years chipping away under the radar".

"Nobody knew what I was doing and it's great to get something out of it."

Irvine only started seriously in the sport nine years ago when he decided to go out on spins with a number of work colleagues who were avid cyclists.

He said: "I was a car mechanic doing my trade. Those guys were mad into cycling and I just got bitten by the bug.

"Within a year, I was racing around Ireland and going to places like Belgium and it just snowballed so fast."

However, while Irvine did begin to make an impact on the Irish national scene, it is only in the last four years that he has become a regular competitor on the world circuit.

Irvine competed in his first Olympics in London last summer but only managed a finish of 13th in his sole event, the omnium.

The lack of any velodrome facility in Ireland means that he spends most of his year in Palma, Majorca which he admits is "the perfect place to train".

"It's got the track and Andy Sparks, my coach, has a house out there so the set-up is just ideal for me," he said.

Irvine's remarkable success came on the same day that it was announced that Belfast would stage the start of next year's Giro d'Italia with three days of action in the world-famous race following on both sides of the Irish border.

The county Down man has also competed in road events throughout his career and there has been inevitable speculation that he could be handed an entry to the Giro.

"You never know with the way my team (UnitedHealthcare) is going. It's a strong team and I'll never say never (about the Giro). That would make it an even better story, wouldn't it?"

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