not for thin-minded people

Monday, 12 March 2012

Meeting Sean Kelly 1985 - Seans bike & I

15:17 Posted by Gerard , No comments
I first met Sean Kelly in 1985 about the time I first got the cycling bug. Now I say met him, I doubt he remembers meeting me to be honest. And I didn't really meet him as such - but I did get to hold his bike. Life doesn't get any better than that at 14.

It was at that time that Channel 4 used to show a series of criteriums from around the UK on TV. Cycling was quite big in the UK back then and this was a one of the highlights. So a group of us from our cycling club travelled up to Birmingham to watch one of the events. To increase their attractiveness, the organisers used to bring over a big name continental star for each race - none were bigger than Sean Kelly. He was the worlds number one cyclist, a formidable sprinter and tough as old boots. He was (and always will be) my favourite pro cyclist - proper old school.

Now with hindsight I'm fairly sure that these events were organised a bit like the post-tour criterium or kermesse, in that the crowds had come to see the star rider, and therefore by some miracle the star rider always won. But at 14, no-one had told me this and what the hell, the racing was great whatever.

On this night, Sean was riding in his green points jersey, won during the Tour that summer. As the race got underway I was sure Sean would win. It was quite likely given what I'd subsequently discovered (see above). But one thing the organisers couldn't licence for was the rain. Down it came causing the road surface to be as slippery as hell. And then down came Sean.

In a way I was devastated as this was the last lap and now Sean couldn't win. But, on the upside it happened right in front of me. Soon enough everyone clambered over the barriers and so did I. In the middle of all this I suddenly found myself stood next to a now upright Sean Kelly being interviewed by Channel Four. Naturally someone needed to hold his bike for the interview and so I got hold of it, or at least the back section - I got to hold the saddle. It was a magnificent moment - a love of cycling was born.


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