not for thin-minded people

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Meeting Sean Kelly 2012 - I finally get my moment.

14:52 Posted by Gerard , No comments
I've documented my history of Sean Kelly hero worship elsewhere on this site.  It's been a short 22 years since I saw him race (and crash) in Birmingham. He virtually rode past my house in 1986 and then I finally got his autograph at the Ronse worlds in 1987.

The problem was, I'd never really met him. Never looked in the eye and said "you're my bloody hero Sean". And I never thought I would. I'd stopped watching pro cycling pretty much around the time Sean finally hung up his cleated shoes. But then, a few years ago I discovered the joys of Eurosport, David Harmon and Sean Kelly. Yes, the same Sean Kelly famed whilst riding for answering questions in radio interviews with a nod. Now here he was back in my life, and now he couldn't stop talking. It brought back all the memories of his career, his hardness, his all year round brilliance and his old school approach. I couldn't get enough.

September 2012

We visited the Cycle Show at the NEC. Wandering around gazing at bikes I saw a face from the past. Not Sean, but a cycle adventurer I used to read about call Nick Sanders. Nick used to cycle round the world back in the 1980's on a Ti Raleigh pro bike with some front panniers, he travelled light and fast and was something of a pioneer of long-distance, fast touring. He was at the show promoting his book and I think he was genuinely pleased I remembered him so well.

After meeting Nick, I was thinking that the show had been well worth visiting. Then I glanced across a small staged area and saw Mr Dave Harmon himself. I couldn't believe it, and raced straight over to him exciteable as a small child. Chatting to Dave he dropped the bombshell into conversation - "Sean is here somewhere". WHAT, bye Dave - lets find Sean!!

Round and round the show we went, I couldn't think of anything but finally meeting him. Then, in a clearing in the crowd and the moment finally presented itself. I spotted him making his way through the crowd, the greatest cyclist at the show - virtually unrecognised. Not me though. I shouted "SEAN" and he stopped and looked at me. I dashed over and then froze, he wouldn't want to talk to me, would he. But out it came, the whole story - the crash in Birmingham, did he remember it? Of course he did! Then it was over, I'd told him he was a legend and I was happy. He looked at me and eventually walked off. It suddenly struck me, actually he had seemed happy to chat AND I stupidly ended it BEFORE it got going. Worse than that, I didn't even get a photo. Bugger.

I wasn't giving up though. Sean was due on stage in the next 20 minutes and I was going to get my photo!
Amazingly he reappeared a few minutes later, like the old pro he was he'd gone off to change his top (into a sponsors) for his time on stage. I dashed over and interrupted him again and got my photo. Then I left him alone.....again.

We moved away, I wanted to give him some space and respect. But I couldn't stop looking at him. Obviously he was older looking, but the piercing intensity in his eyes was incredible, he still looked in the same shape as his cycling days and as strong as an Ox. And he kept glancing over at me. I think he actually wanted to talk more about racing - he obviously bloody loves bike racing and talking about it. Before I could engage him for a third time though, someone else recognised him and started chatting to him - for about 15 minutes! I was MAJORLY jealous ( to steal one of Sean's favourite words) but what the heck, I got to meet him finally and got my photo. Maybe we'll meet again one day.


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