Tuesday 24 April 2018

Martyn Irvine open to offers for 'once-off' Rás comeback

‘The whole buzz of the race, it sucks you in and it’s got that legend behind it’: Martyn Irvine at Dublin Castle yesterday for the launch of the 2016 An Post Rás: INPHO/ Billy Strickland
‘The whole buzz of the race, it sucks you in and it’s got that legend behind it’: Martyn Irvine at Dublin Castle yesterday for the launch of the 2016 An Post Rás: INPHO/ Billy Strickland

Michael Verney

There's only one race that would tempt Martyn Irvine out of retirement, the An Post Rás, and the former world track champion is open to offers for a "once-off" comeback.

After retiring from competition just over a month ago, the Down cyclist has been doing "a lot of lying around" and hasn't even thought about picking up a bike again. His routine has changed drastically - gone is the punishing grind he endured on a daily basis.

Now he has a lot of time to think and he is enjoying foods that he refused for years. But after immersing his life in cycling, it's only natural that there should be some pangs for the sport.

He devoted his life to the bike, culminating in World Championship success in 2013, and needed a break mentally from its demands. The "buzz" of the Rás is unique, however, and it's the only race that he would even contemplate competing in again.

"Coming here a return of any kind was as far removed from my life but then you start talking to people and the 'what ifs' start going through your head," Irvine said yesterday at the announcement of the challenging route for the 2016 race.

"The whole buzz of the race, it sucks you in and it's got that legend behind it. It would be awesome to be a part of it. When I retired I wanted to be part of it in some way, just not on the bike, but never say never."

This year's edition of the Rás will roll out from Dublin Castle on Sunday, May 22 and includes stage finishes in Multyfarnham, Charleville, Dingle, Sneem, Clonakilty, Dungarvan and Baltinglass before the customary finale in Skerries on May 29.

The eight-day stage race features over 1,200 kilometres of hard racing and 25 climbs, including category one ascents of Conor Pass, Ballaghisheen Pass and Mount Leinster. If the right offer came, Irvine would take the call.

At just 30 years old he would be more than capable of mixing it with many of the leading contenders but that doesn't interest him. Giving back to the sport he loves and positively shaping the future of Ireland's next crop certainly does though.

"If I did it, it would probably be to help a young team or something. Get a group of young lads together and tell them what not to do, stuff I screwed up. So maybe that sort of role but definitely not in it to win it," he said.


"I made stupid mistakes like racing in parts of the road you shouldn't be and going too hard too soon, it's a long week you know. The first or second day you think you're Lance Armstrong and all of a sudden your legs fall off.

"There are small things like that which are not really obvious that would help. I'm standing here and I'm not a cyclist anymore. As I say, the Rás is unique, it's not as if I have to win this to get money. I'd do it for the fun of it.

"We'll see what happens. It's a blank slate now and I really don't know what I want to do but I think it's silly if I walk away totally because I spent 10 years learning what to do."

Irvine admits to "mentally signing out" of cycling over a year ago but he officially retired when his bid for Olympic redemption failed. He had unfinished business after finishing 13th in London but his "head was gone".

And the notion of athletes going to the Olympics for a "jolly" is something that irks him. "90pc of the athletes are going to the Olympics just to say they've been there I reckon," he said.

"It was my goal to go back and bury some demons but that didn't quite happen. A lot of people just go there for the jolly. A lot of people go there with good ambition but realistically they have no chance. A small crop of people seem to win everything.

"A lot of them do just go there for the tattoo. I didn't want to do that again, I wanted to be competitive so that was another thing that made me make up my mind to get out of it, I wasn't going to be competitive."

Irish Independent

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