In 1989 Sean Kelly won one of the biggest races on the World cycling calendar , the Liege Bastogne Liege classic . Whilst the whole cycling world were congratulating him he made a call home and heard the news that a friend of his had also won a race that day .
Whilst others would have passed this off and continued basking in the glory of such a momentous victory , Kelly picked up the phone and made a call to his friend .
Within minutes of winning a huge professional race he was congratulating Vinnie Cronin on his first victory ever in a Vets race in Youghal Co. Cork and wanted to know all of the details about the race .
It’s hard to picture many of the current generation of top riders being that humble on a day that the entire global cycling community is admiring their triumph .
With sporting success comes a certain amount of public recognition . In Ireland a cyclist who competes on National teams representing their country will be recognised locally or sometimes further afield by those with an interest in cycling . A GAA star however , is recognised by every man , woman and child in their county . When they walk down the street they are greeted by a constant stream of acknowledgement . Men will nod their heads and say ‘Howaya’ , women will smile and say hello whilst children point and shout out at their hero .
When Sean Kelly walks down the street people say hello as if they know him well , and he replies and always has a relaxed word for everyone . It’s a great way to handle the situation .
When Tipp Hurler John Leahy was at his peak , walking down the street in Clonmel it was not unusual for mature grown men to shout out across the street ‘ Go on Leahy !
A recently retired Hurling star has a different way to manage the situation . Whenever he gets a wave or a hello from a stranger he gives a demure wave or polite hello . However when he meets someone he does know he makes both hands into the shape of two handguns and fires .
Hence , whenever anyone in county Waterford says that they met Dan the Man , the reply given is ‘ Did ya get the guns ? ‘
Seventy five-year old Tom ‘Chops’ Kiely was in the shop recently and as a lifelong cycling fan made a point to Ray that the World Champion cyclist isn’t really the World Champion . He said that a one day race isn’t any sort of way to decide who should wear the World Champions’ rainbow stripes for the following year .
Chops makes a very valid point . The Formula one World Champion is decided over a season long series of races as is the World Rally Championship and a number of other sporting titles .
A puncture , a crash , a bout of illness or any myriad of other misfortunes can happen to deny the best rider of any particular season the chance to wear the Rainbow Jersey when a one day race decides who gets crowned World Champion .
Sean Kelly never got to wear the rainbow jersey , but was the World Number 1 cyclist for 5 years in a row .
The following is a list of the riders who were crowned World Champion during that 5 year period ;
1984 – Claude Criquielion
1985 – Joop Zoetemelk
1986 – Moreno Argentin
1987 – Stephen Roche
1988 – Maurizio Fondriest
Whilst these were contemporaries of Kelly’s , none apart from Roche in ’87 could possibly have come within an asses roar of Kelly for consistency of victories in the Worlds top races throughout each season .
Is the current format a real World Championship or is it another Classic race at the end of the season ?
Today is budget day and the Joe Duffy/Eastenders/Prime time brigade are all depressed . I avoided all tv and radio coverage , went and bought a Christmas tree with my two small daughters and had a great afternoon decorating it whilst listening to Now that’s what I call Christmas volume 2 million and something . A while ago after the girls were well tucked up in bed I popped on to twitter and got a brief overview before going to the budget.gov.ie site and taking a look . We’re all going to be down some more money but we will all still get by .
The past few years has seen a huge growth in the number of cyclists on the road , many are cycling to work whilst many are also cycling because they have no work . Funny thing is , what I have noticed from behind the counter of a bike shop is that both groups are actually as happy as each other . The general population is now discovering what cyclists actually have known all along ;
Cycling is a great leveler . It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor or a ‘dolee’ on the bike , everyone is just a bike rider . Joe public have now just realised that they no longer have to look up to the bank manager , the solicitor or the priest . They are all just human and some are good guys or clean riders whilst others are cheaters juiced up to their eyeballs on epo .
Cyclists know how to suffer . Every cyclist knows that you have to train in the wind and rain , that way you really enjoy and appreciate the sunny day with the wind on your back . That’s what life is like too , some days , weeks or months are tough going but they make you appreciate the good times all the more .
Money doesn’t buy happiness , just ask anyone who spent 3 grand on a pair of Lightweights and still can’t finish in the top six of a race .
Any day you can go out and do 100k is a good day , no matter what’s going on around you . Cycling keeps you fit and healthy and out of those overcrowded hospitals .
There is no climb that doesn’t have a descent . The current economic crisis is like climbing Mont Ventoux . We have suffered on the lower slopes through the forest . Unlike Alpe D’Huez there are no hairpins to recover on and the heat is savage . However we are now approaching Challet Renard . There is still a long way to go in totally unfamiliar lunar like surroundings but the top is there and just over the other side is a fabulous descent where the view is spectacular and things do get better again .