Martyn Irvine out of retirement to join Ireland's first Professional Continental cycling team
Former world track champion Martyn Irvine has come out of retirement to sign for Ireland's first Professional Continental cycling team.
Irvine will compete for Aqua Blue Sport in 2017, along with team leader Lars Petter Nordhaug and fellow Irishmen Matt Brammeier and Conor Dunne.
Irvine, 31, retired from the sport after failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics but has had a change of heart.
"It took a really special offer to coax me out of retirement," said Irvine.
"But the opportunity to compete at this level with an Irish backed team is something I couldn't pass up.
"Very few Irish athletes get the experience to ride at this level so I feel very lucky to be getting this opportunity," added the County Down man.
Brammeier is a five-time Irish champion and Dunne a former Irish trial champion.
The remaining riders who will form the line-up for the 2017 season will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Aqua Blue Sport's goal is to eventually participate at a World Tour level and compete in the Tour de France, but for now sights are firmly set on the 2017 Professional Continental season which so far includes Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold and the Tour of Britain.
Irvine stars on the world stage
Irvine became the first Irish cyclist to win a world track title in 117 years with victory in the scratch race in Belarus in 2013.
The Northern Irishman also won a World Cup gold in Manchester in the same year.
It was a rollercoaster year for Irvine, who also won silver in the points race at the World Championships and a European bronze medal in addition to sustaining a couple of injuries.
A month after his Belarus triumph, Irvine suffered a leg fracture during the Tour of Taiwan road racing event later in 2013 sustained leg muscle injuries at a track event in Belgium.
However, Irvine finished 2013 as number one scratch rider in the 2013 UCI world rankings and claimed a scratch silver medal in the 2014 Track Cycling World Championships.
His achievements in 2013 led to him being named as the BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year.
After winning silver in the scratch race at the 2014 World Championships in Colombia, Irvine was regarded as a strong medal contender at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and improving on the team pursuit bronze that he won with Northern Ireland in Delhi in 2008.
However, Irvine produced disappointing performances in Glasgow and struggled to regain form thereafter, with a number of injuries not helping.