Roche claims nephew Martin became Irish 'because it suited him'
Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche has made controversial comments about his nephew Dan Martin "becoming Irish to get on the Irish team".
Martin (27), whose mother is Roche's sister Maria, was born and grew up in Birmingham. However, he has represented Ireland since 2006 and is a contender in the Giro d'Italia, which begins in Ireland next month.
At an event to promote the Giro's Grande Partenza, or big start, which takes place in Belfast on May 9, Roche suggested his nephew had chosen Ireland rather than Great Britain to further his career.
"No disrespect to Dan, he basically became Irish to get on the Irish team to go to the national races," said Roche.
"Which is good. It goes to show you that without Ireland helping Dan, Dan wouldn't be where he is today. He wouldn't have got any exposure or any international races.
"But Dan was always British. Then he became Irish because it suited him."
Roche, who won the Giro in 1987, the same year he also triumphed at the Tour de France and the World Championships, made the remarks during a questions and answer session at a dinner for journalists and cycling fans in Carnlough, Co Antrim, this week.
The comments are unlikely to go down well with Martin, who has frequently spoken of his pride at representing Ireland.
In an interview last year, the rider said: "I've always felt Irish." He also said he loved being in Ireland and travelled a few times a year to visit relatives in Dundrum, Dublin.
Roche also revealed tensions existed between Martin's father Neil, a former rider, and himself.
These dated back over 30 years, when Roche gained a place with a leading French team. Neil Martin had also been riding with the team, but was let go, around the time Roche was recruited. Roche said he learnt later that this had caused friction and claimed that Neil Martin had "a chip on his shoulder".
Neil Martin has previously denied any bitterness over what happened, but has said he believed Roche could have done more to help his career.
Roche's son Nicolas (29) is also riding in the Giro. The race will be in Ireland for three days. Two stages will take place in Co Antrim, with a third seeing riders go from Armagh to Dublin.