Well worth checking out this link to a behind the scenes interview with Kelly about this years Paris – Nice.
Thanks to Rene van Dam of Visit Nenagh cycling team for recommending it.
Well worth checking out this link to a behind the scenes interview with Kelly about this years Paris – Nice.
Thanks to Rene van Dam of Visit Nenagh cycling team for recommending it.
Today the professional season kicked off with the first stage of the Santos Tour Down Under in Australia . After a couple of months suffering withdrawal symptoms cycling fans can now look forward to another great year of cycling coverage . Almost every professional race is televised nowadays , and with so many options it can be a complicated operation to sort through them all but maybe this might help ;
The number one place for cycling coverage on TV . They cover almost all of the top European races with the best commentators and plenty of live coverage along with highlight shows in the evening , although these can sometimes be a bit late for cyclists who need plenty of sleep and recovery time .
A basic SKY TV news and events package which includes 2 Eurosport channels costs a minimum of €23 per month.
A basic NTL or Chorus pack called Digital select extra includes the 2 Eurosport channels for €32 per month .
Eurosport also offer the Eurosport player for online access . It enables you to watch the TV coverage anywhere you have a broadband connection . At a cost of €4.90 per month it is a good option .
They also offer an Iphone player which costs just €2.99 per month . This will also allow you to watch it on an iTouch or ipad all for the same price .
Sky cover a few cycling races although not nearly as many as you would expect given that they sponsor one of the biggest budget teams in the Pro Tour . I guess Eurosport are doing a good job holding on to their exclusive coverage rights .
The main race that they cover is in fact the one taking place currently , The tour down Under . They are showing a 30 min highlights program each evening with some live coverage at the weekend . This is being shown on Sky Sports 2 which is part of the following packages ;
SKY News and events pack with Sky Sports 2 extra costs €42 per month .
NTL Digital Select Extra with a Sky sports pack which costs €65 per month
Sky also have an online service called SKY player . If you do not have the sky sports package on your TV subscription this costs €54 per month . It does include the 3 sky sports channels and the Eurosport channels .
They also have a Sky player app for the iPad which again costs €54 per month which , when compared to Eurosports’ €2.99 per month seems excessive .
The SKY player for the iPhone is €10 per month is you don’t have sky sports on your TV pack or €6 if you do .
ONLINE there are some great free resources to watch your cycling coverage .
The main one stop shop is cyclingfans.com . If any race is being covered live online this is where you will find the link to it .
Other websites such as cyclingnews.com offer live updates from many of the races too .
TWITTER can be another useful resource . Many cycling journalists now tweet whilst following the races as do some of the Team staff in the cars behind the peleton which can sometimes give a good glimpse into whats going on behind the scenes .
One disadvantage of the likes of Twitter and Facebook is that you cannot look at them if you are looking forward to watching the highlights when you get home from work . It would be impossible to avoid seeing the results and this can take away a little from the whole excitement of watching the action .
Happy viewing !
The past week has seen some real edge of your seat viewing for any cycling fan . Some stars have fallen whilst others have catapulted to the top of the GC .Even though Cadel Evans has the style of a donkey on a bike he has shown the heart of a lion all season and is probably one of the greatest World Champions to wear the rainbow bands ever , and now he is in yellow too !
Andy Schleck has lost his brother Frank to a crash on a day over the cobbles when he was expected to fail , but thanks to some fantastic team work by the strongest rider of his generation Fabian Cancellara , Schleck junior defied the odds to ride most of the pre race favourites off his wheel . His stage win today after an attack on a climb which Alberto Contador could not follow now marks him as the man to beat in this years Tour . His only achellies heal may be the Time Trial on the second last day . However, he has improved his riding over the cobbles to such an extent that I for one look forward to seeing what his team mate the World Time Trial champion Cancellara , may have drilled into him over the past few months . On paper he should lose three minutes to Contador but what if he has improved enough to half this deficit . That would really make for a spectacular final week .
Nicholas Roche has emulated his father and King Kelly by giving the general public in Ireland someone to cheer for who has a real chance of a top ten finish overall in Paris . Today he dropped from eight overall to sixteenth , but that is as far as I can see him falling . Over the next two weeks he looks determined and classy enough to make his way back into that elite arena of the top ten on GC and with the whole country behind him he may just pull it off .
Team Sky have put all of their eggs in the Wiggins basket . A seemingly unlimited budget may buy a space age team bus but the professional arm of the British cycling federation is now far removed from the controlled environment of the velodrome . Whilst maths formulas may produce gold medals on the track , there are a lot more uncontrollable variables on the road and especially at the tour . Armstrong may have made it seem otherwise , but just look at him this year . I think Bradley will do well if he manages to finish within the top ten in Paris . Given the huge amount of money Sky have invested will this be viewed as a success or a failure ?
Tom Boonen’s absence seems to have been a blessing for Quick step . Chavenel has won 2 stages and worn yellow on 2 separate days whilst Pineau is currently leading the King of the Mountains competition . The question now being asked on the team bus is Tom Who ?
Today Lance Armstrong was just not up to the task in hand and lost almost 10 minutes . Every multiple winner before Armstrong had a ‘day of collapse’ when they crumbled never to reach the dizzy heights of Tour success again . Today was Armstrong’s . When he retired after 7 wins and setting a record which will be almost impossible to equal , he retired at the top . I could not fathom why he came back last year as he was 95 % destined to end his career on a low , plus it was bound to ignite further questions around the whole issue of whether or not he was doped when he won . I’m sure he expected some journalistic investigation but the can of worms that has now been opened will forever tarnish his career , whatever the outcome . Will he finish out the Tour this year . AT 4 pm today I was convinced that he was about to pack , but now , as this is his last ever Tour I think that he probably will continue to Paris . He will try for one last stage win and act as a super domestique for Levi Leipheimmer . If he were to take the final stage in Paris i’m sure the atmosphere would be electric .
And then there’s Cav . Mister I don’t give a f**k but actually I can’t even sleep at night I’m so hurt by what the papers are saying about me . His stock hit rock bottom at the recent Tour of Switzerland where he acted like a real scumbag , but one case of the wahwah’s on the podium and all is forgiven . George Hincapie says that this is the real Cav and who could disagree with him . It’s as though he had some sort of epiphany . He is now humble and contrite in interviews and seems to be wearing his heart on his sleeve . Chances are that someone as emotional and fiery as Cav will reoffend are high but perhaps that sort of emotion and lack of self control is what makes him the fastest man around . That and Mark Renshaw who would be a great ambassador for An Post he is so efficient at delivering his prized package to the exact required location at exactly the right time .
GAA fans have only one All Ireland hurling final each year , but cycling fans get three weeks of the tour which is like an All Ireland final every day . Every day that is except for the bloody rest days . Now if only Eurosport would do a 4 hour show from the team hotels and with the mechanics and soigneurs we would not have to suffer the withdrawal symptoms that a rest day with no coverage brings .
Actually one thing I will not miss on the rest day is ‘ Hi , I’m Tyler Farrer . Team sprinter of Team Garmin Transitions and I use ………..’ Between Tyler Farrar and Pippo the oily rake with the Sidi shoes I’ve missed a good few minutes of the Tour due to enforced channel flicking . Can we have some new ads please @spokesmen or cycling.eurosport.com . Padraig O’Cuin (our former Ras team manager ) is doing a great job on TG4 but my Irish just isn’t good enough to watch it all day . And I do like to support the local lad of the Kelly’s on Eurosport with his impossibly acurate reading of the race each day and the young lad of the Harmons knows his onions too !
Here is some action which may not have made it onto the TV coverage
Armstrong’s crash ;
Handbags after the finish ;
Robbie’s crash after the finish line ;
Enjoy the rest of the tour ,
There used to be a time , not so long ago , when making and receiving calls on a mobile phone was revolutionary . However time and technology move at a rapid pace and the mobile phones of today are basically mini laptops and could possible be called ‘handtops’ . Much talking was replaced by texting and now some of that has been usurped by tweeting .
The Apple iPhone is one of the leading smart phones and offers a huge range of applications or ‘apps’ for any cyclist . These are a few of the ones that I use ;
Runkeeper – A full gps based cycling computer that gives you info such as speed,distance ,pace , etc on the move along with a map of where you are . It also allows you to download your spin when you get home so that you can have all training and racing on file . Plus it uploads to twitter and facebook for all of your friends to see .
Bike gears – If you are considering changing to a compact chainset or trying to work out what cassette ratio to use for the hilly Des Hanlon race in Carlow or if you are under 16 and want to know what is the maximum gear that you can use , then this is the app for you . I use it regularly in the shop .
Eurosport - The original app is very handy to check all sports results , especially the cycling ones . Theres also a blog called ‘Blazin saddles ‘ which can be quite entertaining . Recently they also launched the Eurosport player app for the iphone . This allows you to watch the Eurosport channels live on your phone for about €3 per month . Great quality picture and a solution to all cycling/coronation street disputes .
Cycling Grub – A handy one stop shop for all cycling related news and views
iCols – A must for anyone looking at tackling the Eatape or Marmotte or even the Tour of Flanders . All the necessary facts on every major cycling climb in Europe .
Of course there’s also plenty of Twitter and Facebook apps. which are jam packed with cyclists of every level and plenty of cycling related news and views .
So now you know all the technical aspects of your ride and have seen live how the pro’s do it , all that you have to do is get out on the bike itself and just do it !
Last night as I sat down to watch the live coverage of the Amgen Tour of California on Eurosport I also switched on the twitter application tweetdeck on the laptop . I noticed @carltonreid ( all usernames on twitter begin with @ ) had ‘tweeted’ that both Eurosport commentators Brian Smith ( @cyclevox) and David Harmon ( @spokesmen ) were on twitter and I decided to check them out .
Everything on Twitter is fast and user friendly so within 3o seconds I was now following the tweets of both commentators . Just as the live coverage was due to begin and ski jumping was all that was to be seen @cyclevox posted that the coverage would be running late and would not begin until 11.00 pm . There was no mention on the TV itself but Twitter was keeping us up to date .
Then I noticed that tweets were coming from some of the journalists and team cars on the race itself . ( look up #atoc on twitter ) . @lancearmstrong ‘s manager @johanbruyneel was giving great info from the Astana team car . @bikeradar and @fredcast were giving fantastic live detailed coverage through out and @socalcycling was there towards the end of the stage .
When the TV coverage began weather conditions in California were too bad for the helicoptors to fly and both Brian Smith @cyclevox and David Harmon @spokesmen,did a great job to keep us entertained without any live shots to comment on . Then I noticed that some of their comments were being delivered shortly after similar tweets were being posted . They too were on twitter and using it to keep them informed .
Race radio ( a special broadcast to all team cars to keep them informed as to what is happening up front ) then commented that Armstrong had punctured but was back on the bike quickly . This was relayed by the journalists until @lizkreutz , who was travelling in the back of the Astana team car , posted a picture via twitter of the actual wheel with 2 broken spokes which can be seen here : http://twitpic.com/1ij15
Then with tv shots still unavailable @fredcast began to stream live video from a car in the cavalcade , which displayed just how bad the conditions at the time were .
Both commentators were doing a fantastic job under the circumstances , as the tv shots that they were receiving were pretty bad but they still managed to convey the excitement of the final part of the stage . The twitterati in the cavalcade were also in full flow and I really felt as if I was there in the rain with Francesco Mancebo as he crossed the line to take the stage win .
Twitter really has surpassed other forms of live coverage such as www.cyclingnews.com ‘s live updates which are good , but come from just one journalist and require constant refreshing of your browser .
Yesterday also , @lancearmstrong ‘s bike was stolen along with 3 others and the first place he contacted was Twitter where he even offered a reward for it’s safe return . He has over 100,000 followers on twitter so that’s a lot of people immediatly on the case .
I have also been enjoying @willcarling , the former England rugby captain’s live tweet’s as he commented on England’s last two six nations games . How long before Keith Wood does the same for us ?
Twitter gets you straight to the heart of the action , or directly in contact with people you could never dream of communicating with before . I have facebook and bebo profiles but find them too time consuming , and just haven’t gotten into them , although they probably are worthwhile . @daraghdoyle put it well on today’s morning Ireland radio programme ‘ Bebo and Facebook connect you with those you used to know , Twitter connects you with those you want to get to know ‘
We are on there too . Follow @worldwidecycles to see what we are up to !
Much of my relaxation time each day , which usually isn’t a whole lot , is often spent in the company of ‘Dave’ . Now Dave is not my neighbour , or a good friend . It’s not Dave Harmon or David Duffield . Dave doesn’t even ride a bike . Dave is actually channel 111 on Sky digital . The home of the ‘Top Gear ‘ re-run .
After years of watching ‘Jezza’ , ‘The hamster ‘ and ‘Captain Slow’ , last Monday afternoon I found myself sitting in the driving seat of a Mercedes SL 55 AMG for one hour of advanced driving instruction and some nappa leather body wrapping during the rocket like accelerations .
The venue was Mercedes Benz world at Brooklands just outside of London . For £150 you get to drive an AMG more power-full than most Ferrari’s , Lamborghini’s or Aston Martins . Over 500 bhp under my right foot felt a good deal more exciting than the Dura ace spd-sl which I’d been pressing for three hours the day before .
On the plane home I began to wonder what a ‘Top Gear ‘ type programme on bikes would be like , and here’s what I came up with ;
The three hosts walk out into the stage in a converted Hay shed . Kelly , Harmon(d) and Duffield welcome the studio audience whilst standing next to a Specialized Roubaix , a Pinarello Prince and a black Mercian with a brooks saddle and downtube shifters .
Kelly goes first :
Hello and welcome to Top Gears . On tonight’s show I relive the glory days by road testing a Specialized Roubaix over the pave in the forest of Arrenberg , whilst Harmond takes Pinarello’s latest top of the range offering and his hair gel for a spin over the Wicklow gap and Duffers does a few laps of Sundrive road on a restored 1969 Mercian . Our test rider ‘The Stag’ will also take the Pinarello out around our car park for a power lap standing start 1k time trial . There’s also a race between the three of us with me on a bike and the other two using public transport to get from Dublin to Carrick .We’ll also have our ‘Star on a reasonably priced bike ‘ guest , taking out the Giant SCR 4.0 . So on with the show !
A wide camera angle shows a bleak cobble-stoned road within a grey forest . It zooms in on a puddle of muddied water with a constant drip of drizzly rain . This image is quickly replaced by another showing a small bunch of riders following a number of Peugeot lead cars and BMW motorbikes . It zooms in on a face covered in 10mm of caked on mud . Only the pink eyes and mouth make it recognisable as a human face . The camera zooms out just as a rider attacks and Phil Liggett shouts : Plankaert attacks again and Kelly reacts immediately . All of the belgians are trying their best to rid themselves of the Irishman who they fear if it comes down to a sprint finish , but he is just too strong . De-wolf counters on this the toughest section of road in all of cycling and once more Kelly is first to react . The Irishman is making the pave look like smooth tarmac . What a fantastic display by the worlds number one bike rider .
Next shot shows Kelly crossing the finish line in Roubaix , both arms aloft five bike lengths ahead of his nearest challenger .
The camera goes back to a cobblestone and rises up to show an approaching lone rider in the deserted forest . The man in An post green on a red, white and black Specialized stops in the deserted forest as he approaches the camera and says :
‘ It’s a few years now since I’ve ridden over these cobbles but they still look the same . This was always the deciding point in the race when I rode and you always had to be up at the front of the bunch fighting off those big Belgians on the approach . At the time I used to have a carbon and aluminium bike but neither were a patch on whats out there today . This Specialized just seems to soak up the cobbles . We used to go through here on a 52 x 14 , slogging away trying to keep the momentum going but today I can get over them comfortably in a 53 x 17 on this machine using a higher cadence . Even the Gel bar tape is a huge improvement on the Benotto plastic tape we used to have before . Out of ten I give it a nine , a really super bike .
Now it’s over to Harmond :
With a backdrop of Glendelough Harmond is pulled in at a viewing car park .
‘ I’m here in the Wicklow mountains test riding Pinarellos latest offering , The Prince . It has been revived and re-invented and some say that this is the best bike ever made . So lets give it a try .
He sprints off out of the saddle and between breaths explains that ‘the acceleration of this machine truly is phenomenal . It really does have to be experienced to appreciate just how responsive it is . Did you know ? , that Pinarello are over 54 years in the business of making bikes and that the technique has been passed form father to son . And another quite interesting fact is that they also now offer a my-way system of choosing the colour scheme for your bike which is fully user interactive on their website www.pinarello.com. I remember one day during the winter when I was out for a spin with V.C. London on Thames that one of the guys was actually riding one which he had chosen the colour scheme for and it looked quite smart . Back to the bike and what more can I say , It really is quite fantastic and probably one of the best bikes ever made !
And on to Duffers :
Standing next to a railing on a very slightly banked tarmac corner Duffers greets the camera :
Yes , well hello and welcome the , ahh Sundrive road race track . This track was built back towards the end of the last century and has recently undergone a substantial improvement . I’m here today to try out a renovated Mercian made from Reynolds 501 tubing which was a fantastic race machine back in the late sixties when I used to manage the T.I Raleigh team . To help with the test I’ve added a wicker basket to the handlebars into which I’ve placed some rather delicious Cashel Blue cheese and a nice bottle of Merlot . The cow who produced the milk for the cheese grew up on a farm just outside of Killusty and was milked by hand every day for six months . Her milk was then turned into this most delicious of cheeses which I really do recommend everyone should try .Cashel is also famous for the very well known castle which is known as ‘ The rock of Cashel ‘ . The wine is a nice fragrant Merlot which goes beautifully with the cheese and really has to be savoured . Oh yes , I almost forgot , the bike rides well and looks nice .
Next up comes the race , Kelly on the Specialized versus the other two on public transport .
The three are standing outside of Huston Station in Dublin ,
Kelly says ‘ I’m looking at roughly six hours or so with the wind how long do ye think it’ll take ye to get to Carrick ?
Duffers says ‘ Well Sean , I’ve been studying the timetables and we should manage it in just under five which should give us just enough time for a glass of Sauvinogn Blanc in Tony Kehoes before you arrive .
Kelly looks at them with a raised eyebrow and says ‘ we’ll see ‘ and off he goes .
The other two run into the train station and Harmond picks up the tickets which have already been pre-booked . They’re hoping to catch the 11.10 to Limerick junction and approach a man in an orange vest with a blue cap to enquire .
He informs them that the 11.10 for Limerick junction will be leaving from platform one at 12.25 sharp . They ask why the delay and are told that this is the normal time for the 11.10 to Limerick junction to depart , although it is usually from platform three .
Meanwhile Kelly has already reached Naas and has the head down . He’s really going for it .
At 1.45 the train for Limerick junction departs Houston Station without comment from any official regarding the delay . Duffers has had two hot dogs covered in Parmesan cheese and black pepper so seems quite content , whilst Harmond looks concerned about the age of the train when he notices ‘ M.Collins woz ere 1916 ‘ on the seat back infront of him .
Harmond raises Duffers from his slumber as they approach Ballybrophy where they have to change trains . They are told that the next train is due in 10 mins so are happy to stretch their legs whilst they wait .
Kelly is fast approaching Castlecomer and is actually passing a few cars on the winding road . He is really going for it and when Jimmy McGee pulls up alongside with ‘The heat is on’ blaring from his cassette player Kelly raises it another notch .
Back in Ballybrophy it has begun to rain and Duffers and Harmond have been huddled together under one of Duffers’ hats for the past hour and a half whilst they await their next train . Eventually it trundles along and they look none too impressed as they board the first of two carriages . Next stop Limerick Junction !
Kelly passes through Kilkenny , and the other two finally seem to be making a race of it . They managed to just catch the former Dart train which has been renamed the Limerick- Rosslare express in Limerick junction and are Carrick bound .
Kelly is dropping down Glenbower at over 100 kph as the train passes through Cahir . It’s going to be close .
Just as Kelly is approaching the railway bridge at the bottom of Sir Johns the train passes overhead . The finish is Tony Kehoes pub in Sean Kelly square . Kelly is out of the saddle sprinting up O’Mahoney avenue . Tony Ryan is standing at his gate under the two palm trees shouting words of encouragement . The poochers are out in force at the corner as Kelly flashes by the old ESB offices . He can now see the square which was named in his honour . He sprints into the square and raises both arms aloft , yet another victory .
Whilst all of this is happening Duffers and Harmond have been waiting for the train to slow as they prepare to disembark and leg it up to Kelly square . However the train keeps on moving at the same pace . What they did not realise was that this is an express train only stopping at Clonmel and Waterford so the race is lost , and now so are they .
Back in the studio there are giggles from the cheap seats but the show continues on .
Next up , The Stag test .
Some say he was born in a cave up in Mahon Falls with an Enervit gel in his hand , we only know that he is called ’The Stag ‘ and always wears a full face Giro Helmet .
The Stag sprints away from the start line in the car park and around the first corner in a 53 x 13 . He looks quick . Next up comes the chicane . He flicks the Pinarello left and right without losing any forward momentum . Then on over the speed bump and the yellow box and down into the hairpin bend . He navigates very smoothly around the bend without losing too much momentum and is quickly back on the pedals and out of the saddle sprinting up along the home straight . He crosses the line in a 53 x 11 at full tilt to conclude what was a very quick lap . But just how quick was it ? The previous lead time was a 1.06.16 on a cervelo r3 . The Stag did the power lap of 1 k from a standing start on the Pinarello Prince in a time of one ………….zero………….six…………point………….zero four !! a new lap record !
And finally we have our ‘Star on a reasonably priced bike’ section .
Tonight we are joined by one of Ireland’s top female television personalities – Grainne Seoige .
Kelly conducts the interview ;
‘ Welcoime to the show Grainne . Tell us a bit about your cycling history ‘
‘Thanks for having me Sean . Well myself and my sister Sile used to cycle to school once a year on sports day . But it was a long way , over half a mile so we didn’t bother for the rest of the year ‘
‘And do you know any cyclists Grainne?’
‘Well there’s Padhraic Quinn from Connemara who we often bump into . He does a bit of commentating himself on our favourite channel TG4 . ‘
‘Are you sure that it’s your favourite channel Grainne , seeing that RTE are paying you a few hundred grand a year ?’
‘Oops yea, forgot about that one . TG4 is actually my second favourite channel after all .’
‘Well getting back to the cycling , and how did your lap on our reasonably priced bike go?’
‘It went well , I think , Sean . The Stag gave me plenty of pointers and was very thorough in setting up my saddle position with me on the bike ‘
‘What was that Sean ?’
‘Oh , I was just saying , lets take a look at your lap then ‘
And she’ s off , sprinting away from the line in a 39 x 18 , moving her head and shoulders left to right and keeping the rest of her body and the bike perfectly still . Not exactly ideal . On through the first corner with a stiletto heel just clipping the ground . Here comes the chicane and , ohh she almost lost it there but somehow managed to hang on . Over the speed bump and her short dress gets even shorter . The Stag is now lying down beside the track , why I do not know . Around the hairpin bend and here comes the sprint up to the line , yes here it comes , any minute now , oh well I guess you could call that one a sprint , if you speed up the tape when you watch it back .
‘So Grainne , how do you think you did then ?’
‘Hopefully above that Anne Doyle anyway .’
‘That you did . Ann Doyle did it in 3.58.19 and probably has still yet to finish . Your time was three minutes ……………fifty…………………two point nine . You were faster than Ann Doyle . Grainne Seoige everyone .
And on that note , Thank you very much for reading , and good night !
My boss from my first job after leaving school was in the shop recently and whilst we were chatting I was reminded of something he told me shortly after I began working with him . One day I was in his office and he asked me if I knew why I got the job over quite a number of other aplicants . I replied that I must have done well in the interviews . He said that whilst that was the case the actual reason for my employment was the bike . He said that unlike most teenagers I had self discipline and an ability to apply myself to the task at hand or to put it more simply he knew that I didn’t have trouble getting out of bed in the morning . This was news to me but now looking back I guess he was right .
All of this put me thinking as to what the crossover between cycling and general life are and here’s what I came up with ;
Goal setting . Every cyclist has a goal wheather they realise it or not . It may be to become National champion or it may be to complete the 160 km Sean Kelly challenge . They are all goals which have to be focused upon and planned for . Most cyclists start from the end and then work their way back . If it is a particular race on the fifth of August a cyclist will plan the previous week to be a recovery week , preceeded by three weeks of increased intensity leading up to the recovery week and follow this formula back to the date on which the plan is being drawn up .
Similarly if the goal is to loose a 10 kg the bike is a great way to accomplish this . Starting from the desired weight and working back with the aim of loosing a half kilo per week which is quite possible if enough time is spent with the legs on the bike instead of under the kitchen table .
Having a goal gets you up out of bed and up on the bike even if the rain is falling and the wind is howling .
General life is also like this . If you have a clearly defined goal it is much easier to achieve something than just plodding along hoping to win the lotto .
Visualisation is also a big part of goal setting and every cyclist has been on their own riding along pretending that they are in a race with only a few km to go with an unasailable lead and we al know how good that feels . This is why some group training spins become so competitive . The Ballymac spin is a prime example of this . Being first man over the line into Carrick is like winning a world championship and he will be spoken about for the rest of the week . This is also why Powers the pot will often be seen as Alpe D’huez or another similar Alpine climb .
In everyday life this also works . I’ll bet that if you speak to a Merc or Bmw salesman they will confirm that very often someone who calls in and is driving a mediocre car but sits in and takes one for a test drive and gets the feel of one of these machines and who calls in a second and third time will eventually be back to make the purchase . This is visualisation in action . When they leave the showroom and sit back into their normal car it still feels like the merc or beemer to them and they keep picturing themselves driving their dream car and if you can dream it you can do it .
Persistence is another key attribute of all cyclists . We all have been hanging on for dear life at the back of a group feeling like letting the wheel in front go and just freewheeling . But if you just hang on for another ten or twenty seconds it wil very often ease up and you will get a chance to recover . The same is true when you push yourself to the limit on a tough climb . No matter how much you feel like getting off and walking if you keep telling yourself to do just one more pedal stroke eventually you will reach the top and feel a great sense of satisfaction .
Life is like this also . Sometimes things get hard wheather it be a job , a relationship or whatever but if you hang in there long enough eventually it will have all been worthwhile . Now this doesn’t mean that you should stay in a bad situation just hoping for the best but if it is something worth your time and effort then it is worth giving a proper shot . Too many people nowadays quit as soon as they reach a bump in the road and miss out on achieving what they are capable of because of this .
Helping others . Every cyclist has given a helping hand or been helped along at some stage or other . Wheather it be a shared water bottle towards the end of a tough stage of the Ras ( or even better a shared can of coke) a spare tube handed over or a gentle push towards the top of a climb we have all helped or been helped . Assistance like this is never made a big deal of or even spoken about . But actions like these are what create the comraderie and frendships that are all part of being a cyclist . Just stop for a second and name five friends of yours . Chances are they are mostly fellow cyclists and this is because of the mutual respect which has been created on the bike .
Take a look at those people in everyday life who are really sucessfull in all areas of their life and not just financially and you will find that these are people who may be involved in some form of charity work or volunteer organisation helping others . They will also have an open door to those who would ask for advice and will help others in any way they can . In the shop we have experienced this on a number of occasions when established business people willingly gave us valuable help and advice .
Finally enjoyment . The bike often brings out the child in people and often a guy in his forties or fifties will tell you that he feels like a teenager when he is out on the bike . There is always some form of slagging or a bit of craic going on in any group of cyclists . Also every sucessfull cyclist does it because they enjoy it and not vise versa .
All sucessfull business people also tend to be people who enjoy what they do and are not watching the clock all day wishing that they were somewhere else . They enjoy their work but also enjoy their down time . Life is short and every moment has to be made the most of . It is such a waste to see people who spend their bigest block of waking time doing something which they dislike ie ; their job . Luckily very few cyclists fall into this catagory .
Whilst all of the above may seem a little abstract here is an example of someone who has been successfull both on and off the bike ;
Sean Kelly . The fourth best cyclist of all time . A super organised businessman . An accomplished television comentator . Happily married to Linda with two very normal nice kids . Gives a huge amount of his time to charities such as the blazing saddles among many others . He has been on the local papers with four different events in the past four weeks . Will help and advise anyone from the casual charity cyclist to potential Tour winners , and will treat both equally . The biggest practical joker in the Ballymac group . I was once told that the measure of a man is not how he accepts criticism but how he accepts praise and Kelly is an example to all of how this should be done .
Each year throughout the cycling world and beyond millions of fans tune in their televisions each afternoon to view live events at the Tour de France . On the continent sidewalk cafes fill with enthusiastic supporters every day . Some people even plan their annual holidays in order to watch it live on T.V .
In the shop we tune in our portable with the rabbits ears to TG4 and listen to Padraig Quinn and his gaelgoer buddy for a while . Then when eurosport live commentary goes on air we log on to the eurosport.com website and turn up Kelly and Mike Smith on the PC whilst watching the pictures on TG4 . The only downside is the time delay of about ten seconds which causes a little frustration when an attack occurs and the wine or cheese is still being discussed .
It is not the most productive time of year work-wise but a very enjoyable time nonetheless . For the opening week it is enough to see the final 5k run into the finish but by week two we are checking in on the progress of the early breaks especially in the mountains . Then in the final week at the business end of the race we are addicted and calculations are constantly being made as to the time gaps necessary for a gc shakeup and styles and anguished looking faces are closely monitored for any sign of weakness . Tour fever takes over and very few escape its’ clutches .
A few years ago , whilst experiencing a bout of Tour fever myself at the beginning of week three I began to contemplate heading over to see the final two stages . Ryanair flights seemed reasonable so two days later I found myself on the 6.30 out of Shannon heading for Beauvais 50k north of Paris . I booked a room in a small hotel near the Gare Saint Lazare just behind the Gallery Lafayette department store .
Early the next morning I boarded a TGV in the direction of Nantes and my own Tour began in earnest . Within two hours we had travelled halfway across northern France. I disembarked but immediately noticed how dark the sky overhead looked . The ‘arrive’ or finish line was only 500m from the train station so wasn’t too hard to find . It would be another two hours before the first rider was due to depart the start house so I had a wander around the centre of the town . An hour later when I headed down to find a good spot to watch the riders come in , it was as if a fire alarm had gone off throughout the town and the finish area of that days stage of the tour was the assembly point . It also felt as if the sprinkler system had gone into overdrive as rainfall began to descend by the bucket load .
The crowds were ten deep and this was still an hour before the first rider was due to arrive . I knew that it was time to put on my thinking cap and come up with a plan if I was going to see anything . I had a look around and noticed that a lot of the press cars and team vehicles were behind a six foot railing . I also noticed that some of the photographers were wearing rain gear which was similar to what I happened to be wearing . A light bulb lit up and I had a plan . I strolled up to the barrier at the end of the finishing straight and saw two security guys checking passes for entry . After watching them for a minute or two I noticed that the guy on the left was the more friendly of the two towards those passing through . I hurriedly walked up and nodded towards him as I tried to walk past . He stopped me in my tracks and asked me for ‘ le pass ‘ . In my pigeon french I said that I had left it in my car over there as I pointed towards where the press cars were parked and that I was on my way to get it . He looked me up and down and asked what organisation I was with . I said ‘ South Tipp Today in Ireland’ which probably wasn’t the most recognisable title I could have suggested and for a moment I thought that I was on my way back to the ten deep crowds . However he was a nice guy , it was raining and there was a line beginning to form behind me so he nodded and off I went into the press area .
I walked up and down the almost empty barrier on this side and found the perfect spot to watch the riders as they came up the finishing straight . The spot was so good that there were official photographers around me . That’s when I realised that I had no camera and this was a really rare opportunity to get some terrific shots . I also realised that I was going to be here for a few hours and had no food with me . There was nothing for it but to take my chances and try to find a shop outside the secure area and try to get back in again .
I didn’t have to go far before I found a small supermarche which had disposable cameras and ready made ham and cheese baguettes . Now it was time to try and get back in to where I had previously been . The crowds were now enormous with people climbing on top of telephone kiosks and bus shelters in order to get a glimpse of the riders as they came up the finishing straight . There was no let up in the rain but nobody seemed to mind as the atmosphere was electric with huge cheers and beating of the barriers each time a rider passed by .
I really wanted to get back inside so I wandered around the six foot railing as there was no point in trying my earlier route which now had an additional six security personnel . It didn’t take long before I found a gap in the fence where press people were going in and out to their cars which were parked outside the secure area . I passed through and there I was back inside again . I headed back over to my original spot just past the finish line and watched some of the riders finish . Then I wandered down a bit further and found the perfect spot . About 500 metres from the line the riders came down a straight before veering left at a vee whilst the team cars veered right . There were only two others in the apex of this vee which also happened to be just across form the giant screen TV showing live pictures of what was happening out on the course .The riders would come towards us at full speed and at the last moment veer left . I snapped a few pictures with the disposable camera but would have loved a digital camera on the day.
We saw Ullrich crash whilst going round a roundabout on the big screen and then twenty minutes later he passed us in person . The noise rose to the level of a jet engine as the crowd roared him on up the finish straight which seemed loud until Armstrong came into view and it became almost deafening .
Everybody was buzzing and when I saw a few photographers walking up the finish straight I joined in behind them and found myself just in front of the podium as Millar came out to take the glory for his stage win . I looked around and noticed that across the road behind the barriers the crowd seemed to resemble the view from the stage at a rock concert . They were all behind a barrier which was policed every six feet by the police . In front of the police was the tours’ own security staff . Then the photographers at the base of the podium . All of these photographers had their two foot Nikon lenses and huge cameras whilst I was in the middle of them with my disposable Kodak .
When the ceremonies were over I continued up along the finish straight in the direction of the train station and just as I was a approaching a US Postal Subaru out comes Armstrong from a Motor-home nearby and walks across with Sheryl Crowe and Robin Williams following on behind . They were only six feet away with a crowd of photographers crowding around . By the time I had the disposable wound on they were in the car and gone so another good photo was lost .
The next day in Paris was another fantastic spectacle , especially the parade of teams and riders when the stage is over . If I go back again there is one thing I would be sure to do . Bring a proper camera !
Back in the late eighties and early nineties the Irish cycling season began on the first Sunday in March with the Jack Woodcock Memorial race in the Phoenix park in Dublin . Riders the length and breadth of the country used to train obsessively throughout the winter months to ensure that they would arrive on the start-line of ‘the Woodcock’ in peak condition . The reason for this obsession was the well known fact that the winner of this race was guaranteed a place on all Irish teams up until the Ras and if they managed to get through that in one piece they than went on to remain on all teams for the rest of the season .
These were the heydays of Kelly and Roche thus ensuring enough UCI points to afford an Irish team entry into pretty much any amateur international event worldwide . And worldwide they went with teams going everywhere from Colombia to Malaysia and all places in between .
I remember riding it in 1990 when it was won by John Brady who was riding for the 7-eleven pro team at the time . This was the first occasion that an Irish Pro rode a normal domestic Sunday race , and there were more than a few unhappy home based riders when they saw their chances of international travel disappearing up the road in the last 200 metres . In their eyes this long blond curly haired plastic yank had some cheek to arrive home from sunny California and deprive some poor misfortunate Paddy who had spent all winter out in torrential rain and wind including the odd snow shower, of the chance to see a bit of the world . He won the race well but was soon on a plane back to California .
That was then and this is now .
The season now begins next Sunday , the last in February , with The Lacey cup in Tralee . Last years winner and this years favourite if he can close the eight minute handicap to Martin O’Loughlins vets group will be Paul Griffen . A pro with the Giant Asia squad . Maybe the fact of a pro winning the first race of the season is similar to before , however nowadays each and every Sunday their tends to be any number of Irish pro’s competing in domestic events . This can only be a good thing as it gives younger riders a recognisable goal to aspire to .
Most International travel is now either to the Kelly house in Belgium or to Lanzarote or Tennerife under ones own steam . This year a huge number of Irish riders will be lining up for the season opener with naturally tanned legs as opposed to the Ambre solaire tans of old .
Winter training seems to have gone up to another level with 6 and 7 hour spins being undertaken where before 4 would have sufficed . If it continues at this rate there will be a dawn till dusk group on the road within another few years .
And , whatever happened to John Brady . Well his main claim to fame as a pro was being assaulted by Roberto Gaggioli in the final lap of the Manhattan Grand Prix a few years back . In 2004 he was on the same Ofoto Lombardia team as David O’Loughlin and is currently to be found still competing in the Boston area . He also cut his hair .
John Brady then and now
After 21 years as a racing license holder Mehall ‘Fitzy ‘Fitzgearld has announced his retirement from competition . This is surely the end of an era as one of the most controversial figures in Irish cycling hangs up his wheels .
From a young age on his Lejeunes BMX he could be seen terrorising the old folks along the footpaths and lanes of Ardfinnan . He then progressed onto a Raleigh Winner ( an omen of things to come ) which was a bit on the big side , but got his road career underway . To get to grips with the larger bike he developed a habit of climbing all over the bike when out of the saddle , especially when sprinting .
This technique could be seen to full effect during his first television appearance on RTEs’ Sports Stadium . A 20 minute highlight of the 1992 Junior tour which he won overall, was the first glimpse that the general public got of this diamond in the rough . On one of the stage finishes a camera was placed head on to the bunch as they approached the line . With 400 metres to go Fitzy could be seen slightly boxed in on the far left of the screen . Then with 300 to go the whole bunch seemed to dive to the right with the impetus of a flock of swallows being chased by an eagle . Then with 150 to go a dark shadow darted back left and seemed to change up a gear to power ahead and win the stage by a number of bike lengths . This was to be the first of many times when young sons would complain to their fathers that they would have won if only fitzy hadn’t switched them in some form of Kamikaze move or other .
Previous to this he had won All Ireland titles at under 15 and under 16 levels but in 1995 at the tender age of 20 he showed that he had the brains aswell as the brawn and perhaps a ruthless streak to reach the higher echelons of International cycling .
That year had been a good year for the Cidona Carrick team with victories up and down the country each weekend . One of their most prolific riders at the time was the one known only as ‘ Big Red ‘ . Week in week out his six foot six slight frame could be seen attacking any time the road went up . He then had the power to continue on to the finish alone which tended to be the hallmark of most of his victories .
‘Big red ‘ was one of the main favourites to become national champion that year and had peaked to be in the form of his life on the day . Fitzy too , had his eye on the prize and had been honing his form with some very good performances in France . The big day came and as the arduous miles went by the leading break was being whittled down to the chosen few . Among these elite were the Cidona team-mates of Fitzy and Big Red . On the last climb of the day , true to form Big Red launched his bid for glory . Fitzy , showing wisdom beyond his then years had anticipated the move and was onto it straight away . The only one to do so, in fact .
It was down to the wire . Two cidona team-mates together with only 4 miles to go . Big Red was most definitely the stronger at this stage of the race and as he began to pull away from Fitzy near the top of the final climb he heard a voice behind him say ‘ wait for me , I promise I won’t sprint !’
Now Big Red had a romantic vision of Hinault and Lemond crossing the line together on Alpe D’Huez . Romance , however is for Roses , and they were all in Tralee at this time of year . With 150 metres to go as he prepared for the adulation of the crowd , he noticed a green and red blur go by him on the outside . His screams could be heard over the roar of the crowd as they cheered Fitzy across the line and proclaimed him National Champion .
That was the last time we saw Big Red at a bike race in Ireland .
A number of years ago I was mechanic for the Irish team at a stage race in France . The team was made up of Mark Scanlon , David O’Loughlin , Brian Kenneally , Martin O’Loughlin,Stephen Gallagher and Paul Griffen , and was managed by Morgan Fox . Before the race we had a 4 hour drive across France to get to the start and the whole time was passed telling ‘Fitzy Stories ‘
There were stories of mini-bars and jet skies in Malaysia . An altercation with Jean Francois Bernard ( third in 1997 Tour de France ) where he felt the wrath of Fitzys’ right knuckles propelling him towards a dike in Northern France . A photo in an Asian newspaper where, during one of his frequent departures from the bike at over 30 mph Fitzy could be seen to be levitating over the bunch with no bike in sight .
However the one defining moment of Fitzys’ career was probably the the 1998 Ras . On the fifth stage he blew a gasket and wanted to quit the race and get into the car . But his manager was having none of it . He gave Fitzy a thermal jacket , a pump and a spare tube and told him to ride to the finish . He also warned the other teams not to pick Fitzy up . The following day out of sheer temper Fitzy won the stage into New Ross . This was followed by what was probably his best win of all .
At that time the Ras finished with a criterium around O’Connell street in Dublin . One of the only times of the year when the busiest street in Ireland was closed to traffic . A professional team from Belgium had targeted this stage and were enmasse at the front of the bunch with 500 metres to go . Fitzy was badly positioned and boxed in , but he could smell the win . At speeds approaching 40 mph and surrounded by riders at least 30 from the front in an amazing display of bike control he took both hands off the bars and pushed the two riders in front of him apart . He then launched himself through the gap with now less than 300 metres to go and with rocket like propulsion passed other riders as if they were stopped . It looked , though , that he had left it too late and wasn’t going to make it before the fast approaching line when he summoned an extra ounce of speed to get by the last Belgian with 5 metres to go . Fitzy being Fitzy , this gave him ample time to throw his arms aloft to celebrate another victory .
A photo of this may be seen on the back cover of Tom Dalys’ Ras book .
Times move on and he is now a happily married man with a Fitzy junior on the way , so I guess that the time is right for him to bow out and replace the handlebars for golf clubs and the pump for a rifle . Yes you read that right . Fitzy has taken up shooting , so the story still has plenty more to run .
Ray and myself would like to wish him well in his retirement and all the best for the future . But Irish cycling definitely won’t be the same without ‘ Fitzy’.
Many people in Irish cycling know Vinny Cronin . He is a good buddy of Sean Kellys’ and it can be easy to see why . He never looks comfortable on the bike but always hangs in no matter how hard it gets . He is as hard as nails and has covered thousands of tough miles throughout Ireland and France . The wetter the day and the stronger the wind the more he comes into his own . He was once seen serenading a pit bull terrier with an accordian and a baseball hat in a cafe in Roubaix at three in the morning .
Yesterday he told me that one day when he was really suffering at the back of the group and had decided that he had enough he said ‘ I’ll leave ye off lads and make my way own way home ‘ But one of the lads listening to this was his buddy Kelly . He said that Kelly dropped back beside him and quietly said ‘ Don’t ever , ever tell anyone that your giving up . Always try to hang in there as long as you can but never tell anyone that your giving up . The first person to hear that is yourself and that will finish you straight away .’
Kelly then went on to say that when racing he would always race the same way , no matter how he felt . If he felt strong he would go with any decent move , but also when he was suffering he would still go with all of the moves so that none of his competitors would ever know when he was going well or not . This often paid off when he got a second wind near the finish and was there to unleash his unstopable sprint . If he had not raced as if he was going well he would not have been there sprinting for the win .
As Cronin says ‘ To just watch and listen to a guy like Kelly you would learn more than any University course .’
There are many different characters in the world of Irish cycling . Some like to live a quiet and subdued lifestyle with little or no speedbumps along the way . There are others , however , who live on the edge . Those who always make an impact on those around them . They live life to the max and are always unpredictable . One of that rare breed is Captain Chaos .
This Jack and Jones poster boy is a member of the club of 32 . That is an Irish cyclist who either currently holds , or has previously held a professional license .
Doing nothing by halves , one of his first outings as a professional was the Belgian classic Liege-Bastogne-Liege . Before the start he was chatting with Sean Kelly who was comentating with Eurosport when along came David Duffield , Kelly’s co-comentator on the day .
Duffield asked Kelly if he had any advice for this new young professional . Kelly being well aware that a neo pro would do well to get to two thirds distance answered with a wry smile . Aaawww watch Taafi ( the favourite on the day ) . Duffield took that on board and everyone set off for their days work .
With 20 k to go in the race Taafi put in a blistering attack and Duffield asked live on air : Sean , Sean , where is Fox ? Kelly answered with a hint of amusement in his voice : Aaaww those young fellas , they never listen !