Martyn Irvine has capped a memorable day for Irish cycling by becoming the first rider from the island to win a world track title for 117 years with the scratch race at the UCI Track World Championships in Minsk. Great Britain’s women, meanwhile, continued their run of success in the team pursuit, in the final time that event will be run with three riders over 3 kilometres.
Just an hour before the scratch race got under way, Irvine had already made history by becoming the first Irishman in more than a century to win any kind of medal at a track world championship, finishing runner-up in the individual pursuit to Australia’s Michael Hepburn, successfully defending the title he won last year in Melbourne.
That alone was cause for celebration on a day when it was officially confirmed that Belfast, Armagh and Dublin would be hosting the start of the 2014 Giro d’Italia, with Irvine ‘s medal only the second ever by an Irish rider in the modern era following Caroline Ryan’s bronze in the women’s points race last year.
The 27-year-old from Newtownards – riders from Northern Ireland can elect to ride for Great Britain or Ireland, Irvine choosing the latter – sensationally went one better in the points race. He jumped off the front of the 15km race with 10 laps – 2.5km – to go and was strong enough to hold off a late challenge from Andrea Mueller of Austria and Australia’s Luke Davison. Great Britain’s Owain Doull was fifth.
Cycling Ireland said, “This is a monumental moment for the country that has no indoor Velodrome.” Brian Nugent, head coach, added: “It’s hard to find the words. Absolutely astounding! That was the most exciting race I have ever seen.
“Martyn attacked 10 laps out and just held on and on. Even when the Austrian caught him and tried to pass on the last lap, Martyn just wouldn’t give in and kicked one last time to win. A great day for Irish cycling.”
Irvine, who over the winter signed for US-based Professoinal Continental outfit United Healthcare, said: “"I honestly don't think it has hit me yet. I am exhausted. It's just awesome. Everything worked right.
"I have been chipping away for the last few years on a shoestring budget trying to get there. It's worth it now. It all paid off tonight."
This evening also saw Great Britain’s female team pursuit squad continue their domination of the event as the world and Olympic champions beat Australia in the final, coming from behind to dominate the second half of the race.
These championships are the last time the event will be held with teams of three women and a distance of 3km, as the format achieves parity with the male version with four riders over 4km.
Dani King and Laura Trott, world and Olympic champions last year, were joined by Elinor Barker, who came in for Joanna Rowsell. That quartet looks likely to form the squad going forward towards Rio in 2016.
In the other event decided today, a Great Britain missed out on the medals in the men’s team sprint with the trio of Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Kian Emadi, the 20-year-old who has stepped into the role vacated by Sir Chris Hoy, posting the sixth fastest time in qualifying.
Despite winning the last two Olympic titles, with Kenny featuring in Beijing five years ago and he and Hindes last summer in London, it is an event in which Great Britain tends to underachieve at the worlds – the last victory came at Los Angeles in 2005.
With this year very much about taking the first steps along the road to Rio with new blood being brought into the squad for the first time at this level, alarm bells won’t be ringing yet, but the wait for that elusive world title continues.
Today, Germany saw off New Zealand in the final to win, with France taking bronze.
Details of Friday’s programme, including times of TV and online coverage in the UK, appear below.
BBC coverage: 16:00-19:00 on Red Button and online, 16:15-18:00 GMT on BBC Two, 16:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Highlights on the Red Button from 22:00-07:00 GMT
W - Sprint t.t. (24) Qualifying
M - Keirin 1st round
W - Sprint 1/16 Final
M - Omnium Ⅰ Flying lap
M - Keirin Repechages
W - Sprint 1/8 Final
M - Omnium Ⅱ Points race 30 km
W - Sprint Rep. 1/8
W - Sprint 1/4 Final (1st )
W - Scratch 10 km Final
W - Sprint 1/4 Final (2nd)
M - Keirin 2nd round
W - Scratch 10 km Award ceremony
M - Points Race 40 km Final
W - Sprint 1/4 Final (3rd i.r.)
M - Points Race 40 km Award ceremony
M - Keirin Final places 7 to 12
M - Keirin Final 1-6
W - Sprint 5th to 8th places
M - Keirin Award ceremony
M - Omnium Ⅲ Elimination
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.