Irvine digs deep to cap comeback with silver
Published 01/03/2014 | 02:30
Irish duo Martyn Irvine and Ryan Mullen put in storming rides at the Track World Championships in Colombia, Irvine netting a silver medal in the scratch race while Mullen narrowly missed out on bronze in the individual pursuit.
Having failed to qualify for the pursuit medal ride-offs just hours earlier, defending champion Irvine had a gruelling ride in the 60-lap scratch race, going clear numerous times in the early stages.
But having been part of a five-strong group that was reeled in approaching the halfway mark, a fatigued Irvine could only look on as first King Lok Cheung of Hong Kong and then Ivan Kovalev of Russia rode clear and lapped the field.
Unable to follow the duo, Irvine spent the next few laps in recovery mode before launching another attack with 26 laps to go.
But with his new escape group beginning to fade three laps later and knowing that he had to lap the field to have any chance of a medal, he continued on alone in the hope of catching the rear of the peloton.
Although he made contact with two back-markers with just 10 laps to go, an upsurge in the pace at the front meant that Irvine was forced to dig even deeper to catch the rest of the peloton and guarantee himself a medal, eventually doing so with just eight laps to go.
Although he knew he had to finish higher than Cheung and Kovalev in the final sprint to retain his world title, Irvine's legs were gone, but he fought doggedly to take a silver medal and cap a remarkable comeback from a broken femur sustained in a crash last March.
"Just when it looked as if Martyn was going to be caught, he forced the pace and moved on alone," said Cycling Ireland head coach Bryan Nugent.
"It was a brave move and he worked lap after lap, until he lapped the field. Nobody can sustain an effort the way Martyn can.
"With two others a lap up, it was too much to take the gold but we're thrilled with the silver medal. I'm delighted to see Martyn back on the podium here, after the year he has had."
Irvine's medal victory was followed quickly by another fine display by teenager Mullen, who narrowly missed out on a bronze medal when he finished fourth in the individual pursuit.
Mullen trailed early after the trademark fast start of Kiwi rival Marc Ryan in the early laps of the 4km event, but with just one kilometre to go the 19-year-old had closed the gap to a tenth of a second and looked set for a medal in his first senior Track Worlds before fatigue set in on the final lap.
"Ryan put in a superb performance at his first world championships," said Nugent. "He has worked really hard and has made huge progression. This is only the beginning for him."
Irvine is back in action today in the points race while Caroline Ryan, who agonisingly missed out on a medal in the women's scratch race – just getting caught with 100m to go after a long solo attack – finished sixth in the 3km individual pursuit qualifying last night, falling short of the fourth place required to make it into a medal race.
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