Former world scratch race champion Martyn Irvine has announced his retirement from cycling. The Irishman explained that he arrived at the decision after struggling to regain his best form over the past year.
“I’m a bit older these days and I’ve had a few bumps and knocks and broken a few things. And the last year, anyone who follows cycling will know that I have been under-performing,” Irvine told RTÉ Sport.
"Physically, I’m still there, I’m not any weaker and I can still do the job but honestly my head is just drifting off, and the way I used to race, it was tearing me apart and I don’t like doing that anymore. For the last six months, it’s been creeping into my mind and I think I just bit the bullet and just made the decision, and I’m happy about it. I’m not scared stiff; it just feels right."
A native of Newtownards in County Down, Irvine won the scratch race at the 2013 World Track Championships in Minsk on the same day he claimed silver in the individual pursuit. 2013 also saw Irvine claim a bronze medal in the omnium at the European Championships, and he added silver in the scratch race at the 2014 Worlds in Cali.
Irvine combined road and track duty for much of his career, and his teams included Giant-Kenda, UnitedHealthcare and Madison Genesis.
Irvine endured a spate of crashes and injuries in recent seasons, however, and with qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympics effectively beyond him, he opted to call time on his career at the age of 30.
"It’s not really that hard when you’re in my boots. If you’re not in a top tier professional team or in an Olympics discipline, it’s kind of a natural end,” said Irvine, who was modest in assessing his achievements. A latecomer to competitive cycling, Irvine first raced at the age of 19 and later went on to claim Ireland’s first track world title since 1896.
"Even in the races that I won, they weren’t shiny wins, they were horrible bloodbath races. I always said they took a few years off my life and maybe my career,” Irvine said.
In a blog post on his personal website explaining his decision to retire, Irvine refused to blame his spate of injuries for his travails over the past two years. “Okay, I’ve had a few crashes that have left metal inside me but I came back from them. I mean, I won a European medal 6 months after breaking my hip!” Irvine wrote. “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that it’s a mental thing.”
“Hopefully this isn't the last time you hear from me and just to let you know I’m not stopping cycling, I’m just stopping putting cycling first in my life,” Irvine added. “I’m retiring from International competition. I was trying my best to not use the word ‘retiring’ but it’s probably what's happening to me.”